WHEN Gabe Fasolino was hired as a plant manager at a $7 million manufacturing company, he heard rumours that there were problems with drug and alcohol use among the workers.Clearly, this was a sensitive situation. A heavy-handed approach to cracking down on the abuse could easily put Fasolino into an adversarial relationship with his employees. Wisely recognising this, he turned to the company’s safety team, made up of hourly production workers, for ideas. They came up with what he describes as “the fairest, simplest, easiest-to-administer substance policy I have ever seen”.That experience took place in the late 1990s, but it taught Fasolino, now a business consultant, an important lesson: Engaged employees are a powerful asset.He’s since turned to workers for ideas on everything from pay scales to profit-sharing plans.“In every case, turnover dropped, while profits and morale soared,” he says.At a $10 million manufacturing firm that had lost $2.4 million over three years, Fasolino tapped employees’ ideas and generated a 25 per cent sales increase in nine months.Offering employees a say in the decisions that affect them is one of the best tools for engaging their hearts, minds and souls so they are motivated to give their all—and to make better choices as a company. However, many business leaders have let employee engagement fall by the wayside while trying to navigate the post-recession economy - and inadvertently made it harder to achieve the results they want.A Towers Watson survey of 32,000 employees around the world in 2012 found that only one-third are highly engaged - excited about company goals, energised while they’re at the office and free of obstacles to getting their work done.Another global survey by the consultancy AON Hewitt in 2010 found that engagement was at an all-time low, with employees fatigued by prolonged uncertainty, stress and confusion.High engagement = high operating margins
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