Column Management

Engagement, Accountability Produce Results

Klaus M. Blache | April 1, 2023

Implementing the latest technology won’t pay off unless people are empowered and engaged.

I’m not focusing this article on any specific technology, but rather roadblocks/challenges that all technologies are facing today to be successful.

In the time during and now following the pandemic, many workers have changed how they think about work, have reflected on what they really want to do. Some shifted to better work-life balance and others completely changed career direction. There were layoffs, job realignments, decreases in organizational trust, and even many who went back to work had already started a side-hustle toward a self-owned business they could migrate to when ready. 

“More than half of employed adults in the U.S. have considered leaving their current jobs to work for themselves, with 44% saying they considered it within the past year.” This is based on a newly released report conducted by business tools provider HoneyBook ( in partnership with The Harris Poll. The current economic and employment uncertainties were cited as the causes for this shift in the attitudes of working Americans. The report also found that 43% of self-employed people started their business as a side hustle. (1 in 5 Americans Have Considered Quitting, Working for Themselves,

Articles have been headlined as the great reshuffle, the big quit, striketober, the great resignation, and many related terms. Now, in a state of confusion, and even chaos, companies must navigate through high turnover; manufacturing, service, productivity, and quality issues; and logistics shortages/delays; and still figure out how to recruit and retain talent. 

Key statistics from Pew Research include:

• Some 53% of employed U.S. adults who quit their job in 2021 changed their occupation or field of work at some point in 2022.

• Younger workers were more prone to make the leap. Of employed adults ages 18 to 29 who said they quit a job in 2021, 61% shifted their field of work or occupation, compared to 45% of those ages 30 and older.

Select facts from a collection of information in 25 Astonishing Employee Engagement Statistics for 2023 ( include:

• Only about 34% of the U.S. workforce feel engaged.
• Nearly 66% of all employees are disengaged.
• Only 37% of employees consider recognition most important.
• Those teams who score in the top 20% in engagement experience 59% less turnover.
• A Gallup employee engagement statistics poll reveals that 53% of workers in the U.S. are non-engaged.
One in five employees is not confident that their manager will provide regular, constructive feedback on their work.
Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their place of work.
61% of American employees are reportedly burned out in their jobs. (Source: Forbes)
Globally, only 15% of employees are engaged in their work.
Engaged companies report a 41% decrease in absenteeism.
Companies with a thriving culture experience a revenue boost of 4X. (Source: Smarp)
81% of employees say that they are considering quitting their current job. (Source: Smarp)
Plant floor absenteeism has a direct correlation/relationship to product quality. (Dr. K. Blache studies)

Even though most of these employees are not looking for a job at the moment, they would consider quitting their current position if the right offer came along. 

These improvement tools, used by companies that have attained notable reliability and maintenance savings, have a very high (green) or high (blue) impact on continuous improvement.

These statistics should be very concerning for those trying to staff and maintain an organization full of engaged employees. But if you get it right, along with the already stated benefits, the opportunities in continuous improvement, problem solving, and productivity increases are huge. My studies and data show that:

• If you properly engage the workforce, you are seven times more likely to be successful in that initiative.

• Multiple studies have shown that companies that have good organizational health (culture) do 20% to 30% better on the bottom line. From what I’ve observed, it’s closer to 40%.

• Plant-floor, small team continuous improvement has been shown to improve throughput by at least 30% and as much as 100% in one extreme case.

• The best operating teams (making product) have more than 35% more productivity when allowed to take more control of their work area and related decision making.

• Better collaboration/engagement between operations and maintenance has shown cost improvements of more than 50%.

People with a sense of purpose and meaningful work (understanding the value of their role) are more likely to stay.

Another issue I’ve observed more recently is “people not being held accountable” to perform standardized work (plant floor and engineering processes) and how it’s affecting quality in all industries. Some of this can be explained by so many new employees (often with less experience/knowledge) filling open roles. 

“All companies have a culture, some companies have discipline, but few companies have a culture of discipline. 

• When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy.
• When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy.
• When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls.
With a culture of discipline, where people know what to do and are capable of and willing to do it, great performance is a natural outcome,” (Jim Collins, Good to Great (Harper Business, New York, 2001). This also means holding individuals accountable to properly perform their job. In a culture of discipline, engaged plant-floor teams will help to hold individual team members accountable.

Much of the reliability and maintainability savings is coming from the simpler tools used by many. Several of the tools are also within the larger efforts, but the main reason for improvement was specifically given to root-cause analysis, 5 whys, visual controls, plan-do-check-act improvement, and reliability-centered maintenance and failure-mode-and-effects analysis to investigate issues and improve.

Organizations with the understanding and willingness to instill an engagement strategy and implement a human-centric approach to technologies and daily practices will be the upcoming winners. Yes, implement the technologies, but make sure that they help humans make better decisions in a timely manner, use their ingenuity, and be the center of the process. EP

Based in Knoxville, Dr. Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at



Klaus M. Blache

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