Today, on 2nd July 2014, John Holland-Kaye has held the position of CEO of Heathrow for a total of two days. Despite his short tenure he’s already a prominent face in the media, all because of the baggage chaos that’s playing out at Terminal 5.
The chaos won’t have been what he wanted for his first few days in the job but it does have some advantages. Not only is he getting a big boost to his leadership profile (particularly if he’s seen to lead effectively and solve the problems promptly), he’s also getting a fresh look at how engaged his employees are when things are tough.
Holland-Kaye has been with Heathrow for five years, until yesterday holding the position of Development Director. Now he’s CEO he’ll have a much broader set of issues on his hands and on top of that a far greater sense of the buck stopping with him.
Two days in though and he’ll be forgiven for not taking full responsibility for the baggage problems. But if it happens again we’ll wonder what he learned. So now’s the time for Holland-Kaye to monitor the actions of those people around him, those who are responsible for the systems in place.
Which of them is getting things done, sorting things out, keeping things moving, hitting the deadlines and, amongst all that, keep cheery and polite? Which employees demonstrate a sense of the buck stopping with them?
There is, you see, growing opinion, that too much responsibility has been taken away from employees; that companies are putting lots in to grow engagement but employees need to work at maintaining their engagement as well.
An employee could, for example, be a self-starter about learning and development, not only finding courses they want to participate in but also finding ways to learn from colleagues or work on projects that bring specialisms together. They could, as well, volunteer to be a champion of a particular change or initiative or find new ways to share information across the organisation.
What’s interesting about this kind of thinking is the type of measurement it leads to – a survey of actions and behaviours across the employee base rather than of attitudes and opinions.
This could be a positive next step for those organisations that are managing to sustain high levels of engagement but fear doing the same things over again will mean it wanes. Employees will initially need some direction on the right kinds of actions but when self-engagement becomes part of the culture, encouraged and practiced by leaders, managers and HR, the exchange of ideas about how to get more out of your work should flow.
It’s a big next step for engagement but it could be the kind of fresh thinking required to make sure engagement as a philosophy and practice is sustained.