Ahhhh…employee engagement. One of my favorite subjects. So many folks are talking about it and singing its praises, and rightly so. A fair few of the business metrics that the CFOs and number crunching crowd are so excited about are directly or indirectly affected by employee engagement. While I’m used to being asked the business case for employee engagement, I find myself asking “What’s the business case AGAINST employee engagement?“
There are a couple of common objections, or pieces of resistance, to jumping in with both feet. The first of which is understanding the ROI on any money or effort spent to make sure it’s successful and a valid investment. While on a business level I can appreciate the logic (to a small degree), it is somewhat of a false distinction. There are over two decades worth of data that answers this relatively weak argument, so I’ll leave it there.
The other, and more accurate, concern is understanding what works and what doesn’t. Deep inside, leadership understands that every organization is quite different and has different needs. There is a difference in culture and leadership styles. Every place has it’s own “personality” and quirks to go along with it. One of the most common things I hear is how companies want to have engaged employees, but they’re not sure what’s important. We know what are the most common drivers of employee engagement and they should be considered when dealing with engagement.
There are, however, three principles that are easy to remember and provide a simple framework that can help guide you in your efforts in the area of employee engagement.
Make it easy for others to help. It’s eerily common for organizations, under the guise of making things measurable, to create processes and checklists that prohibit quality and efficient work for people. They switch off and so in order to “boost productivity”, more processes and checklists are added. Enough already! Quantify what is NECESSARY and simplify everything else. When you make things easy for people to help make your organization a success, you stand a much better chance of it actually happening…and much sooner than you might think. If you create a culture where people know that you are removing obstacles to expedite their success, they will consistently surprise you.
Don’t try to “fix” others. I don’t know about you, but I have my hands full just trying to sort myself out. I have plenty of my own problems and I need others to be gracious with me as I do that journey. Set some nice big goals and work towards those together with others in your organization. People love a good challenge, so give them something to work towards. Support others as they work on self development, in other words facilitate it, but don’t try and force it. Having a workplace where employees feel safe to be themselves, warts and all, is a powerful message and motivator.
Help others less fortunate. People gravitate to benevolence and like being associated with it. It’s the positive side of “guilt by association”. Those less fortunate could be people within your organization or others outside your organization. Those inside your organization could need coaching, support during a difficult emotional time or any other issue that life throws at us. Don’t make the misfortunes of life an inconvenience for your organization. No one likes to feel like a burden when they’ve been handed a raw deal in life. The people who work in your organization do life in their respective communities. Let them make some suggestions on how the organization can get involved in helping those less fortunate outside the organization. That kind of involvement will breed some fierce loyalty.
Simplifying things, letting people express their uniqueness and showing compassion is a great place to begin with your employee engagement efforts. Each of these things show one simple thing: You care. Employee engagement isn’t some clever and crafty strategy to make more money. It’s showing a group of people you give a rip about them and your actions show it. The result of that happens to be that you make money.
How have you seen organizations show they care about their people?