What Can Management Do…Consider Revisiting MBWA!

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

From time-to-time, I’m asked to facilitate “lunch and learn” sessions at companies that list us (Caring Concierge) as a benefit resource to their employees. These are excellent sessions for employees to learn how to get prepared for ‘what’s coming’ with respect to adult caregiving or to ask questions about what they are currently trying to manage with regard to eldercare for an aging loved one.

Recently during one of these sessions, I had a senior manager ask me a great question. To paraphrase, he said, “in light of the reluctance of many employees to reveal that they are having adult caregiving issues that are distracting them from their work, how can management help their employees with eldercare issues”. He specifically referenced my comments that many employees are reluctant to share these issues with their employers. I asked him to consider the following.

EMPLOYEE BENEFIT INTRANET — It may seem like a ‘no-brainer’, but some companies do not place benefit resources in the most convenient locations for employees to reference them. Some of the ‘best practices’ I’ve seen include using an internal intranet that employees can reference. It must be kept up to date, and the company intranet must not be allowed to be a ‘passive resource’. Companies have to continue to make sure that it is up current, and that their employees are notified of new opportunities which they might avail themselves. So many employees forget to look internally, at company provided resources, when a crisis arises simply because they haven’t seen these resources since their “New Employee Orientation” session!

iStock_Lunch&LearnSession_PMCompanies should regularly create opportunities such as ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, to keep their employees aware of the assistance resources that are available for them to leverage when necessary. So many companies have benefit resources available for their employees, but spend very little effort in making sure their employees are aware of their existence along with how, why, and when to use them. I believe employers can reduce employee lost productivity by keeping available resources fresh in the minds of their employees.

MBO and MBWA — In management theory and practice, there are a number of methodologies used to task employees and evaluate their outcomes with respect to company goals. Management by Objectives (MBO) remains one of the most prevalent; it is both personally and organizationally focused. However, I believe the best managers still employ a form of an older, less direct method that we used to call “Management by Walking Around” (MBWA). With MBWA, managers kept abreast of work progress by regularly interacting with their direct reports at their assigned work locations. It’s value was not only in knowing the progress of work assignments but it also gave managers the perfect opportunity to interact with the employee in a less formal manner. It was during these ‘walking around’ sessions that sometimes personal issues would come to light. In other words, MBWA often facilitated a ‘deeper’ manager-employee relationship whereby personal issues or crises in the lives of employees would emerge. This was management’s window into reminding employees of benefits that are available to help.

My point is that in our current down-sized/right-sized-high efficiency work environments, by and large, MBWA has gone by the way-side. Nevertheless, incorporating some method of indirect communication with employees is a great way for management to know what’s going on and to remind them of resources that your company might already have available. Together, these are great approaches to reducing lost productivity in the workplace. This includes the+ $33 billion per year that employers in the United States lose directly resulting from employees addressing adult caregiving issues.

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