Earlier this week, my colleague Kay blogged about low employee morale at the Department of Homeland Security.Recent news pieces have shed light on how DHS stands in the eyes of its employees and why it is viewed in such a negative manner right now. While there were many factors mentioned—lack of diversity, unclear job responsibilities, and promotions not based on merit—the majority of the issues stem from one main problem: lack of quality leadership.
This is certainly not the first discussion of the connection between leadership and employee engagement. Dozens of studies have shown that poor leadership is a major component of low employee morale and engagement and, conversely, good leadership boosts engagement, regardless of the type of organization.
So how did DHS get into this pickle and, more importantly, how do they get themselves back on the right track? It likely began with government-wide budget cuts several years ago and continued downhill with poor training and lack of communication. Over time, staff felt less valued, leading to lower engagement and higher turnover. DHS is now working on a plan to remedy the issues they are facing with a focus on becoming “one DHS,” including an effort to diversify.
But I wager it is their plan to bolster management leadership that will see the greatest shift in employee engagement. Despite organizational shifts toward more lateral authority formats (instead of traditional top-down), government agencies still have a more hierarchical arrangement; as a result, strong leadership is not just a nice idea, it is imperative to the functionality and success of the organization.
If DHS is smart and wants to see a change for the better, they will invest in hiring savvy leaders and training current ones to communicate with their staff and utilize their talents. As retired USCG AdmiralThad Allen so aptly stated, high morale environments have a commonality: “an enduring commitment by senior leaders to the concept that mission performance starts and ends with people.”
If the focus remains on the mission and the people, the organization is bound to succeed.
Is poor leadership the biggest contributor to low levels of engagement? Do you agree—are an organization’s people just as important as its mission?