skip to main content
Materials and Equipment: How They Drive Employee Engagement

Materials and Equipment: How They Drive Employee Engagement

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Episode 24
  • Learn about the relational component in having the right materials and equipment, and its workplace benefits in this Q12 for Coaches podcast on item Q02.

On this special edition of Called to Coach, we will spend time investigating the experiential, emotional and empirical aspects of each element of Gallup's Q12 engagement instrument and learning how it increases the power of our coaching as a primary driver of success. This series will be hosted by Dr. Mike McDonald, Senior Workplace Consultant at Gallup, who started at Gallup in 1990 as a manager/team leader and has had a variety of roles but has always led a team. One of his primary concerns for managers is one that he's experienced himself: How many well-intentioned team leaders are there who are working really hard but don't have any coaching or context about engagement and how do they lead to engagement through their strengths?

In this session, Mike talks about Q02 -- "I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right." Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.

Jim Collison: Mike, welcome to another Called to Coach.

Guest host Mike McDonald: Here we are again, Jim, Q02.

JC: We are going to talk about Q02. It's important because it lives in the base of the workplace expectations.

MM: This is about materials and equipment. We want to make you aware of the resources we're integrating into our conversation, and that you can use once the conversation is done. The first is First, Break All the Rules. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 93 weeks.

JC: It was kind of a groundbreaking book.

MM: Yes, and make sure you buy/use the newest edition of the book (from 2016). And remember two things: There is a CliftonStrengths code embedded in that book; and then there is a code for a team of up to 10 people to take the Q12, which produces a nice report with a lot of content and insight on that team's engagement.

Some other things: Another book Gallup has put out is 12: The Elements of Great Managing, which contains case studies regarding each of the Q12 elements. Also, our State of the American Workplace report came out in 2017, and that has a specific emphasis on remote teams and matrixed teams. We'll talk about our Millennials report, and then Performance Management -- what does it mean to be developed as a person and in your performance and productivity.

JC: The reports are linked at the Coaches Blog, click on the Resources tab and scroll to the Reports anchor (and click it). That will have everything in the area of reports. I do need to add the Re-Engineering Performance Management report, which may not be available immediately but will be eventually. If you don't find it at the Reports link, Google Re-Engineering Performance Management.

MM: Let's dive in. We're trying to bring to the surface the three touchpoints of the empirical, the emotional, and the experiential at your disposal as you coach. Q02 has a lot of similarity to Q01. Neither is quite as straightforward as it might seem on the surface. And we assume that once we've answered them once, we can move on to other things. But we want to break through that myth, that "mirage."

A movie from 20 years ago was based on the "Dilbert" comic series. One of the characters, Milton, is fixated on a particular stapler. He was given a different brand of stapler, but was so attached to his original red stapler, that he kept it and said, "If they take my stapler, I'm going to set the building on fire." That gives us a hint that this item is not as straightforward as it seems.

JC: In onboarding, I find that often individuals have differing perceptions of their need of materials and equipment. And we try to standardize things. Individualization is expensive. Can you address that? It's not standardization vs. individualization.

MM: There's sanity and intelligence about being efficient and streamlined in our processes. But we can't skip the conversation about these "transactional" elements of engagement, particularly Q01 and Q02.

JC: In a lot of organizations, materials and equipment mean having everything I need to do my job. But sometimes you rely on others to have the materials available for you. That is a team conversation; and it's more of a productivity question than an item (specific items you need) question.

MM: The range for that item is as infinite as the number of people answering it, so it brings our coaching to the center; we have to have the right conversations. And the core emotion and motivation is represented in a request to be freed from unnecessary stress. If expectations are met (Q01), but not the materials and equipment component falls short, that gap produces disruptive emotions. The two items go together.

Right now, for context, only three in 10 employees can say they strongly agree with Q02. So it seems like an easy item, but we're missing it. If we're not doing Q02 well, what's at stake is higher customer engagement, productivity, performance, and even safety (if we have to worry about things like bandages and bailing wire, that takes us away from impact and value). And that frustration (on Q02) has a strong correlation with turnover as well.

JC: I remember that we increase safety by 41% in organizations that are more engaged. That's a big number. Safety plays a big role in Q02. If people don't have the right materials, they either walk away or they engage in an activity knowing they can cause harm, which produces stress. This item goes beyond onboarding, but let's talk about onboarding in relation to Q02.

MM: The high point of engagement in a typical career is when people start a job. And I think there's a call to action on that for leaders and coaches. If engagement only goes down from there, what happened? Materials and equipment is part of that.

In our State of the American Workplace report, only 12% of employees say their organization does a great job of onboarding. And when engagement drops during the first six months, the item that drops the most is Q02.

JC: It's easy to get onboarding right early on, but you have to come back to that. You often see roles changing within the first six months. The other thing is elements out of our control; info security, cybersecurity, and being locked out of something you need in order to do your job. It can be frustrating. But matrixed teams, this is important. What are the pressures there and how does this fit in?

MM: How does it feel for a person to step into a work situation and have it be shoddy or haphazard (based on something the previous shift/work team has done or not done)? For matrixed teams, the increasing sophistication of the workplace, coming together, finding solutions, and then disbanding, and a key takeaway from our State of the American Workplace report is that these teams spend an inordinate amount of time chasing down information, accessing the right resources. And so they spend less time working and focusing on priorities than non-matrixed teams. We should be able to answer that question better, which would give us much more optimal performance.

JC: The systematic approach allows people to say something.

MM: If we don't treat that question well, we can mass-produce victims. "I don't have what I need, and am not making progress in that. I'm disconnected. So what else I can disconnect from? The rest of my effort in doing my job well."

It's true that there may be "delayed gratification" for some items because of budgets and timing. But the best leaders draw a line on the middle of a piece of paper, writing "local" on one side (what things can we locally influence as a team and what can we creatively do on that) and "leadership" on the other (something senior leadership needs to pay attention to). There is more credibility because of the list, which they will revisit periodically.

JC: What are some insights we've learned about Q02 for the team leader?

MM: First, there is a "hardware" aspect to it (e.g., "I want a bigger hammer"). But even though access to hardware may be uniform, there is a relational component to this item too. Managers should be having individualized conversations on this item.

A second aspect is "software," which is more than just technology. It has to do with efficiency about processes, particularly regarding access to information, and barriers to that access. Waiting can siphon the momentum and energy out of a team. Again, this is individualized.

The third piece is human resources or staffing. The "listen-for" here is "We feel overworked and understaffed." Again, having an organized conversation that focuses and prioritizes is important.

JC: I think the "overworked" dynamic is sometimes a direct result of lack of control. As a manager, I am part of the "humanware" experience. Does my staff have enough access to me? I need to learn to let them set that frequency with me. "Book that time with me with a frequency that works for you." Different people will want different frequencies of meeting.

MM: That's a really smart point. The Re-Engineering Performance Management report that we put out recently has five points that contribute to optimized performance development. The one that explains engagement the most is the "quick connect," a 5- to 10-minute manager-employee discussion that happens at least weekly. So access to manager is such a key part of Q02, and easy to deliver on if we pay attention to it.

JC: We've got some best practices. What do the best do?

MM: The best have these conversations proactively. Another thing is team leaders become advocates as a result of those conversations. They know the list represents untapped performance, untapped motivation, so it is a list that matters. And they are very transparent with their teams, especially if the answer (to the materials and equipment request) is a "No." For employees who are asking for materials and equipment, it is important to think about the outcome on the other side of the request, and seek to align it with performance. It can help us realize what's most important vs. what's just preferential.

JC: The ownership happens when we give the entire team some "say" in what happens. The other mechanism that helps in this is a regular interval. That regular, consistent assessment really matters.

MM: Yeah, it speaks to the psychological safety of asking the questions (in 2009, Gallup administered the Q12 four times during difficult economic circumstances). It helped us feel safer.

JC: During some of those critical times, when people fear for their jobs, is when they'll communicate the least because they don't want to make waves. So the safety of the anonymity of the Q12 can give us more feedback than we'd get directly. We have to get Q01 and Q02 right; they're not #1 and #2 by mistake. Mike, we have some additional resources for folks. So let's talk about that.

MM: A couple of things about Q02 -- regarding physical safety, people want to be able to go home to their family after a shift without a scratch; and they want to come to work without having to worry about a lack of equipment -- this pulls performance forward.

This second element is a prerequisite to a connection with an organization's mission; people need resources to connect to the mission.

Two courses we want to put in front of you as coaches:

  • Engagement Champions -- It's a 2-day course that puts you in the position of subject-matter mastery, and helps you integrate engagement in your coaching.
  • Leading High-Performance Teams -- It's a 2-day course dealing with strengths, how leaders lead through their team's collective strengths; the science behind engagement; the application of engagement to performance expectations; and knowing and applying the five performance conversations I mentioned earlier.

There is a variety of resources on

In our next conversation, we'll talk about Q03: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. I'm excited about that.

Mike McDonald's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Input, Learner, Achiever and Focus.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030