How do you engage and motivate an inexperienced, untrained, and unskilled workforce to produce 300,000 Airplanes in less than five years?

The answer is good First-Line Leadership. In World War II, American industry produced 300,000 airplanes for the Armed Forces. Not only did they produce this unimaginable number of planes but they did this in less than five years with a workforce who were inexperienced, unskilled and unaccustomed to industrial work. And they did this in a business environment of speed, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. A secret to their success was, rather than trying to train and develop the entire workforce, they developed their First-Line Leadership who then trained, developed and led this workforce to produce these unbelievable results.

But the one real secret behind their success is they taught those First-Line Leaders how to engage and motivate the workforce. They taught them how to get work done through people. They taught them to value people. They taught them the importance of their on-the-job relationships with their workers. They taught them to treat workers as individuals. And, they taught those First-Line Leaders how to handle people problems in a logical, fair and consistent manner. This brilliant approach of focusing on First-Line Leadership to get the workforce motivated and engaged, in all likelihood, helped determine the outcome of World War II.

Organizations are not battling a world war today but they are operating in an environment of speed, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. And, with a multigenerational and culturally diverse workforce who brings to the workplace a broad spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds, customs, values, attitudes, educational credentials, work skills, and life experiences that an organization has to align and engage with their business.

But today the top concern and priority of many organizations is employee engagement and retention. It’s reported the issue of employee engagement and retention is the number two priority in the minds of business leaders, second only to the challenge of building global leadership. In this environment the need for good First-Line Leadership has never been greater. In fact, the challenge to improve employee engagement and retention makes First-Line Leaders the key Leadership role in today’s organization.

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