Nurturing Engagement and Empowerment in a Time of Extreme Volatility and Insecurity for Employees

By Jen Schultejenjune08 (3)

We know that great managers – those who are naturally talented and engaging, the ones with motivated employees and great results in any situation – consistently keep in contact with their people no matter what the situation.  They know them as individuals – what makes them tick, what is affecting them outside the workplace, what stresses them out.  They are clear and consistent communicators, even admitting when they don’t know or can’t share something.  They offer empathy and empowerment, while expecting a lot and staying honest when performance is not where it should be. These managers know that engagement is not about making people happy; it’s about being clear and fair, making sure everyone feels valued and respected and that it’s understood how they each contribute toward a larger goal.
To share an example – here is a “call to action” we recently published across the organization to remind everyone how important engagement is, particularly during turbulent times…and to ask everyone to connect now, not wait for the results of our upcoming engagement survey (will take place in September).

It is up to each and every associate to turn this goal into reality, by making engagement the way we approach our work every day. Each of us has the opportunity to impact engagement every day, during every conversation.

What can you do right now?
Now is the time to reconnect with our associates, not wait for the survey results to take action. High levels of engagement are within reach even during turbulent times if we focus on the basics and on meaningful conversations between managers and associates.

This is a turbulent time – there are many changes going on within our business as well as economic and other external pressures our associates are facing.  Now is the time to talk with each other, reflect back on what has been done to drive associate engagement over the past few months and recognize where we need to refocus.  It is important during times like these to recognize engagement as an opportunity to build trust and restore hope in the future.

Key things we can all do:

  • Managers, talk with each of your associates individually, find out what is working / not working for them in their work environment and what is most important to them
  • Communicate openly, be clear about what we know, and admit what we don’t know
  • As associates, take responsibility and share our issues or questions with our managers so we can work on resolution together
  • Do you have new associates on your team, or a new manager?  Make sure everyone is educated about Associate Engagement, use the available tools.
  • As a team, review our action plan – is it still relevant for everyone?  Have there been changes in the team’s objectives or within the organization that require a new look at the actions?
  • Focus on engagement in every team meeting
  • Recommit to following through on action plans from the last survey, or agree on new actions that are most meaningful today

Jen Schulte…Biography

Jen Schulte is the Global Engagement Director for Mars Incorporated.  She is responsible for all activities related to associate engagement at Mars, including administration of the employee engagement survey to over 60,000 associates, identifying key engagement strategies, effective communication planning and execution, best practice sharing across the organization, designing and delivering internal training programs and facilitating discussions with senior leadership.  Her work has been featured in the Gallup Management Journal.

Jen has been an associate with Mars, Incorporated for 8 years.  Prior to her Engagement role, Jen worked in learning & development and as a Finance Manager at Mars.  Prior to Mars, Jen spent 10 years in various financial management roles at other organizations including CIGNA, Sprint PCS, and commercial banking.

Jen holds an MBA in Finance from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and a Bachelor’s in Finance from Clarion University in Clarion, PA.  She currently resides in Easton PA with husband Kevin and daughters Grace (4 years) and Megan (6 months).

The main Mars corporate site at
An Employee Engagement external network I am an active member on at


10 thoughts on “Nurturing Engagement and Empowerment in a Time of Extreme Volatility and Insecurity for Employees

  1. Great article Jen! Clear and to the point. Little clips like this allow people to take a minute, away from their desk, and really become re-connected with what engagement is. And how easy it is!

  2. Well done – this is dot.mars material! Get people thinking about how easy it can, and should be – to stay engaged. It is all of our responsibilities – not just the manager’s. As you said – every converstaion is an opportunity to become more engaged/committed to a team/business. Really good stuff Jen.

  3. I think this blog post captures the essence of engagement: managers who “build trust and restore hope in the future.” Implicit in Jen’s observation is an ongoing conversation that great managers have with their direct reports about learning. This is an “alliance” that helps employees understand what they need to learn to help their teams and the company achieve its goals and then helps employees develop the competencies they need to feel and be successful. This will go a long way towards buidling trust and, in these tough economic times, hope for the future.

  4. Really nice job Jen! Very well put description of engagement. Were you a professional writer in a previous life? 🙂

    I also liked the bullet points of key actions we can all do TODAY to really drive improvements in this area.

  5. It captures the essence of engagement really well. I like the point about new associates. Its so easy to spend a lot of time just training them on their new role, so hard to capture that engagement feeling from the start. would love to see some expansion on that

  6. Jen-
    Thank you for posting your thoughts, as now is truly the time to engage with associates. Too often I hear, “I don’t have time, we are short-handed, we need to cut back on meetings, etc.” It’s times like these where as managers, we should communicate *more*. The tips you offer should help remind those that it can be done! I hope this is the first of many posts in advance of your book! Then we can say we “knew her back when she was blogging!”

  7. Thank you all for the great comments – and provocation about the learning that goes on. Other ideas to help answer Catherine’s point are welcome – truly engaging a new hire?

  8. Establishing the culture you want — we strongly believe creating a culture of appreciation is the foundation for engaging employees in any organization — is critical to company success. Sharing and beginning to establish that culture in the onboarding process is the first step. Actually, BEFORE the onboarding process — what’s the culture you’re projecting when a new employee walks into the office for the first time?

    Establishing your company culture with a new hire is critical to sustaining their engagement levels with your company. Company leaders need to honestly evaluate what a new hire perceives as the culture when they walk through the door – is it the culture you really want to have? It is more important now than ever to establish a company culture that will drive the employee productivity and company performance levels to carry you through the recession and prepare you for a solid start out of the blocks when the economy turns. We advocate a culture of appreciation in which employees are recognized for their efforts and they also understand why those efforts are critical to the company achieving its strategic objectives.

    I’ve blogged on this topic of onboarding, recognition and engagement at these links:

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