A year of employee engagement advice – summarized and exemplified
Employee engagement matters. 2014 sent us a whack of “5 ways to Boost Employee Engagement” and “7 Things Great Leaders Do” posts. Many of them have some good nuggets of advice. We get it. You get it. There have been more studies showing that most employees aren’t engaged and those that are drive a remarkable profit. Their customers are happier and so are their bottom lines.
So what do you do about it? Inspiring posters are not the answer. And neither are parties, awards or platitudes. Does anything work? Yes.
Four things that do engage employees.
Respect. If you want people to be enthusiastic about putting their hearts and souls into your work and your organization, you must respect them and what they are doing. No make believe. No platitudes, but honest, heartfelt respect that the team you have assembled has the right stuff. If you can’t work up this level of respect – do something about it. Change your attitude, your team or your job.
Faith. People need to have faith in their company, its purpose, its leaders and each other. The greatest motivator in the world is when someone turns to you and says, with true earnestness, “I know you can do this”. Do not attempt to fake this. People are very sensitive insincerity detectors. Build faith in one another.
Humility – humility allows you to appreciate what others have to offer. It allows you to be vulnerable and respect the vulnerability others will (hopefully) show you in their quest to do their best. Without this you cannot appreciate the gift someone gives you when they say – “we’re stuck” or “Here’s 5 or 50 very good ideas – will any of them work? Can you help me get to a better one?” It gives you the ability to walk away from good ideas to get to great ones, and it relieves you of the burden and inflexibility of always being right.
Communication. Constant meaningful communications. At every level. Communication to the company as a whole about what’s going on, what matters, what’s on the horizon. Honest assessments of the challenges and enthusiastic celebration of every little win and achievement. Clarity on priorities and how that translates into decision-making. Clarity on who’s doing what.
The Success Story.
So what do you do if this doesn’t sound like you or your organization? First you have to decide how badly you want it. Does it matter – really? Either your organization and your people are constantly striving to improve in each of these dimensions, or they aren’t. Whatever your culture may be, these values can be a tangible part of it.
I can share one remarkable turnaround story from a UK housing agency. They blew it. Management troubles lead to a financial crisis lead to a toxic environment of employee mistrust and disengagement. They didn’t want to give up, so they dug in. They knew the first thing they needed to do was to win back their people. It took a great deal of courage to do what they did – but it worked.
The first thing they did was declare “No rules!” They said they would not censor content. “They are grownups, we trust them,” they decided and they stated simply that everyone had the “Right of Reply.”
Now, “Right of Reply” may not seem like a radical strategy. It’s a small step. It’s one that simply and powerfully demonstrates trust and respect. And it worked.
They were tested –if you watch the full video (below), you’ll see some courage and humor in the face of some tricky challenges.
In under a year, the regulators had reinstated the company’s high ratings. They had turned things around. They had to make some unpleasant and unpopular moves to do it – but they did it with their team in tact, engaged and on their side.
You can watch them tell their story here.
I’ve noticed a trend amongst our most successful clients. They have usually spent some time thinking about their values, and then doing something about them. They don’t just declare these values, they look for ways to demonstrate commitment to them.
If you have decided to change or emphasize your company values, communicating them is a good start, but not enough. In what way can you clearly demonstrate your new commitment? With an intranet? With a new approach to teamwork? With new policies around customer service?
If, in fact, you do care about employee engagement (enough), and you have the guts to go for it, consider that the most impactful thing you can do might also be one of the simplest. Find one way that leadership can prove their commitment. What change can you make – large or small – that demonstrates that you’re serious?