Aligning Employee Engagement with Business Objectives with Malte Dammann

LS International

On this episode of the career success podcast we are joined by Malte Dammann. Malte has 27 years’ experience within large blue-chip multinationals such as Imperial Tobacco, ABinBev and Mars.  He is a truly international leader, bringing the best out of people regardless of the cultural and corporate context. He has a proven track record in steering organizational change to accelerate top and bottom-line growth and agility. For this reason, we have invited him here to discuss the importance of aligning employee engagement with business objectives.

We will discuss:

  • The fundamental driver for employee engagement
  • How to keep millennials engaged at work
  • Constant transformation and its effect on engagement

Lauren: Hi, I’m Lauren Stiebing and on this episode of the Career Success Podcast, we’re joined by Malte Dammann. Malte has 27 years experience within large blue- chip multinationals such as Imperial Tobacco, ABin Bev and Mars. He’s a truly international leader, bringing the best out of people regardless of the cultural and corporate context. He has a proven track record in steering, organizational change to accelerate top and bottom line growth and agility. For this reason, we have invited him here to discuss the importance of aligning employee engagement with business objectives. Welcome Malte.

Malte: Well, thank you for the invitation. I’m very happy to share some thoughts today, with you.

Lauren: Yeah, well employee engagement is a key priority for almost every company these days. So, I’d like to get your input on what you would highlight as the fundamentals to ensure employee engagement.

Malte: Yes, I’m happy to do that. And I think you framed it correctly in your question. There are fundamentals. I think we all have to have in place, as leaders, and I think there’s a second group of more, I would call it situational add ons which might have to be tailored to a specific corporate or business transformation context or specific employee target groups, like the millennials, which I would cover in a second part. Let me start with the fundamentals. I think that aligned business goals are essential to enhance employee engagement and company success. Smart objective setting aligned with a meaningful business mission, is more important than ever. We see that in science, we learned that from research, but also experience that every day in our leaders’ jobs. Just the definition, smart objectives, specific, measurable, available, relevant and time bond sounds very stiff, sounds very project work, but I believe aligned with a deeper purpose with a vision and mission or in other words, was the Why, the What and the How of these business gives direction and ultimately satisfaction to employees and align them on a common journey.
So, we know from research that a fundamental driver for employee’s engagement is clarity on what is expected from me. It is a fundamental, it sounds basic, still, 50% of leaders do not believe that this is necessary or do not highly agree to this statement.
A fundamental element to execute the strategy and align executional goals is through goal setting. It drives direction at the same time, it gives satisfaction when achieved and we all know the quote- “Strategy without execution through goals is hallucination.” There’s a sub point to this and knowing the goal definitely increases productivity and allows efficiency gains and we all know the pressures that we’re following today, declining margins through consolidation on the supplier, or on the retail side. So I think it would be a big miss if we don’t use the tool of smart objective setting in order to allow to generate also these efficiency that we need in order to protect all builds our bottom line. So these are the main thoughts that I would have around objective settings, directions… giving direction in order to then drive satisfaction and motivation.

Lauren: And just to go back to the first, one of the quotes, you said that, you know clarity on what’s expected for me and that in Gallup research, only 50% of managers agree to that statement. Why do you think that is?

Malte: It seems to be two fundamental and in a couple of businesses and that I worked for, the perception was like, it’s framing too much of not giving enough empowerment to employees. I think that’s the main reason behind it and it is in reality, absolutely fundamental. If the business purpose, the vision, the mission and the strategy and the execution of them is not aligned and the goals are not clear, what individuals play, what role they have to contribute to the bigger goal as individuals and that is a demotivating element because you’re basically doing it by trial and error instead of having it very clear- what is expected everyday in my role to contribute to the bigger goal.

Lauren: Okay. And yeah, obviously keeping millennials engaged at work is a challenge for a lot of people. Some people find it easy, but it’s also a challenge for many people and there’s a large debate around how to manage millennials. Can they be managed in the same way as someone who is 40 or older or should they be managed in a softer way, etc.? What do you believe?

Malte: So all of experience, and actually, I recommend to see on what Simon Sinex talked about, how to manage millennials and how to motivate millennials in the work environment. It’s very insightful and reconfirms, at least my experience in this area. So if we look at the millennials born around 1980, 1985 u[ to the change of the century, and we then look at what they are looking for in a business, in a working environment. There are two fundamentals, looking for a deeper purpose and trying to achieve an impact, doing something with a deeper purpose. They have normally four characteristics in common; a certain way how their parents educated them, which is different to the generations before. You can basically achieve everything you want very quickly. On the other side, technology allows immediate response, immediate recognition, also from friends on social platforms and an environment where you can strive, where you can really live your own personality. This is not necessarily always the same as what they will find in the first employment in incorporations, in businesses and all our businesses.
So keeping them engaged in work, I think we should apply some of these characteristics and really leveraged this and they’re the goals come in place. I don’t think they are not relevant. I don’t think goals; objectives frame too much of what is expected from you at work. It gives direction and if you have it with a higher frequency than the feedback loops, not only once per year, it gives an excellent tool to manage millennials better or in the same way as other employees. That’s at least what my experience suggests.

Lauren: Okay. And I know you had mentioned that their parents may be educated them in a different way. I think I’m lucky, a lucky example to say that my parents did actually make me feel that I could achieve anything. What do you think is the difference than how you know… let’s say, generation before educated their children then.

Malte: I do believe that the expectations of how much you are treated as an individual and how much dedication you will have by the leader, by the manager, by the line manager, and the expectation was lower. You would not expect to have all the time, that level of attention as you would have it in this environment where you want to be treated more as an individual with specific individual needs and desires at work to stay motivated. I think that’s basically the biggest difference that I’ve experienced.

Lauren: Okay. And for those listeners who are struggling with employee engagement now and don’t really know where to start, what would you suggest to them?

Malte: Yeah, as mentioned, I would … for younger employees, I would use it as a tool make it… basically a very important tool to create value, the goal setting, define and linkage to the deeper mission of vision and mission to the business, and then bury the frequency of how often do you give feedback in order to keep everybody motivated. I think that’s essential and will be my recommendation.

Lauren: Okay. Malte, thank you so much for joining us today on the career success podcast.

Malte: Thank you very much for having me.