Breaking The One-Way Mirror
By: Ashish Gambhir

The $500 billion question

How can we get hourly frontline workers to commit to our company?

Everyone seems to have a solution — or six, or ten. We’ve all seen the headlines: “5 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement.”

Can it be that easy?

Actually, it’s easier.

The flow of engagement

It comes down to something the MomentSnap team calls the Waterfall Effect. The theory says that engagement flows from the top down: the more that comes out at the mouth of the fall, the more that will tumble down to the pool at the bottom. In a national poll, Gallup found that when executive teams are highly engaged, managers are 39% more likely to be engaged, and when managers are highly engaged, employees are 59% more likely to be engaged.

The solution seems simple: more engagement at the top.

The problem is visibility. There’s no gravity to engagement: just because there is a concentration at the top doesn’t mean it will trickle down on its own. In order for the effect to take root, managers need to see the enthusiasm of executives, and hourly employees need to get a glimpse of engagement in their managers.

This leads to another problem: we call it the One-Way Mirror. Although executives are free to look down and observe the status of their entire enterprise, managers and frontline workers have little or no reciprocal transparency in the upwards direction.

Engagement might seem like an inherent solution: an engaged executive should naturally reach out to managers and the frontline, allowing the engagement to trickle down organically. Yet frequently such methods of outreach are non-existent. The corporate chain of communication tends to follow a predetermined hierarchy without opportunities for interaction with any management level outside of your immediate vicinity: frontline employees can get in touch with their direct manager, but rarely do they have access to a regional manager. Likewise, executives pass on commands to vice presidents, but scarcely interact with regional managers.

Communication becomes even more difficult the larger the gap — since most frontline employees don’t have an email address, an executive would find it virtually impossible to blast a message out to the sales force even if she wanted to.

Thinking beyond the one-way mirror

If corporate leaders are to reverse the engagement crisis, it is critical that we bridge this hierarchical chasm — shatter the One-Way Mirror and allow transparency to define the contemporary workspace. This will allow insight, data, recognition, and — crucially — engagement to begin flowing in both directions, empowering employees by handing them the keys to their own success.

Imagine a server arriving at work and checking in to a simple interface. On the main screen, there are three notifications: one says that a video message from the CEO of the restaurant corporation is available for viewing. One lists all of his customer reviews and ratings from the previous shift. One informs him that management is up selling a certain wine. Watching the video, achieving perfect service scores, and successfully selling wine accrues the server points — points that place him on a leaderboard with the other servers and earn him achievements.

The barrier is ruptured: data is no longer stuck in the management pipeline; messages can flow from all tiers of the organization; and the CEO’s verve is on display for all to see.

This is the MomentSnap vision. Join us in breaking the mirror.