MSMP 77: Tonya Sowles on Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a secret weapon of fast-growing businesses, and today’s guest for the Mads Singers Management Podcast, Tonya Sowles, is someone deeply passionate about making sure team members are engaged, not just counting hours until they clock out.  She’s a general business consultant specializing in HR.  While she is a Senior Certified Professional for the Society of Human Resource Management, she’s also got an MBA and over 20 years of business experience.  She loves helping owners maximize their people in order to maximize productivity and profitability.

That’s precisely where we started our conversation.  Tonya shared the shocking statistic that worldwide only 15% of employees are engaged with their work.  “Engaged” means:
Tonya said that even the best companies sometimes only have a 20% engagement rate, which means in a company of 10, there are 8 employees who might not care.  
 
In my experience part of how you get employees to care is to invest in them.  A famous quote that guides me in this area is an exchange between two executives:

“What if we invest in them and they leave?”
“What if we don’t, and they stay?”
 
Tonya champions the idea of weekly time blocks to talk with the team in general and agreed with my oft-repeated advice to meet 1-to-1 with your direct reports each week.  She also had some harsh words for “employee evaluations” as they often are currently used.  She prefers instead more frequent “check-ins” which are borne from the open communication she seeks in having weekly time with her team members.  It’s in these check-ins that we can discover personal and professional goals and see how their work-life is aligning with those goals.
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In those check-ins, you can get to know your team better (something that DISC can help accelerate in the beginning).  The better you know your team and show them that you care about their advancement, the likelier they are to be engaged and not be part of that large percentage that are just clock-watchers.
 
Tonya’s passion for engagement comes through in this episode.  You’ll enjoy it!
 
Key Learning Points:
1. Tonya talks about the importance of employee engagement - 3:30
2. Tonya, like Mads, encourages weekly time blocks to chat with staff - 7:05
3. Tonya shares why she doesn’t care for “employee evaluations” - 8:57
4. Mads discusses his single biggest management ROI - 11:18
5. Tonya warns against the dangers of training your team to “wait for permission” - 16:07
6. Mads emphasizes having a diverse set of skills (and personalities) among your team - 20:23
7. Mads shares the joy of telling his team he’ll be gone for a while and will be unreachable - 24:05
8. Tonya notes the problems with “shoebox accounting” - 27:33
9. Tonya discusses employees who are left to fend for themselves - 28:10
10. Tonya explains why having employees is much more than having enough money to pay employees - 38:35
 
Connect with Tonya Sowles