Show Me Low Employee Engagement & I Will Show You a Gap Between Values & Reality
Many corporations are spending millions on activities to measure employee engagement followed by all sorts of motivational activities. What is being overlooked is the essence of why people care; why they will give discretionary effort. Here are four things that you can do to tap into the emotions of your employees and spend less while greatly improving employee engagement.
1. Focus on The Leaders Legacy
When you speak to many executives about values and culture they roll their eyes and want to know when you will stop talking. However, change the semantics and they are fully engaged. If you wish to get their attention, you need to begin the discussion by focusing on their own legacy; what do they wish to be known for after they leave. At a recent Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting Warren Buffett, focused in on the importance of culture to a company. He spoke about how imbedded culture is at his own company. He said the value of the culture will be seen in how it does after he’s gone. He affirmed his belief that culture impacts the top and bottom lines of an organization.
Yet most organizations do not understand the direct link between the employees embracing the culture and their willingness to give discretionary effort. Reflect for a moment on the places you have worked. Think about which organizations you felt more comfortable and more aligned to the way people, customers, suppliers, everyone, was treated. When you feel emotionally, not intellectually, an affinity to the values you feel better. When you feel better you do better and also give greater effort. Conversely when you are not aligned and watch the digital clock on you smartphone, you do the opposite.
When companies make every business decision, large or small, in alignment with the values the leaders do not have to hide behind PR or communications rationalizing things away. They stand proud and the employees are standing with them.
3. Do Not State Aspirational Values – Celebrate What is Real
If you are looking to improve your employee engagement scores look no further then the foundation of your company culture, your values. Make certain you are using the values that are lived. Make sure that you are not articulating values about which the employees are cynical because they are stated but not real. Celebrate those values with every stakeholder: employees, suppliers, customers and hold one another to living the values. I speculate that effort will far better serve you in improving employee engagement than any formal program that you put in place to address your scores. Celebrate those who live the values and hold those that don’t accountable. It is as simple as that.
4. Hold People Accountable, Even if They Are Getting Great Results
If you are still uncertain ask yourself these questions: How did you feel when you were working in an organization where your values and the values of the company were alive and well? Conversely how did you feel when you were out of sync with the company values? What was your own level of engagement in each situation? You might have been highly productive and successful but that doesn’t mean you were truly engaged. Don't be afraid to let the employee who is getting great results but violating the values go. Letting that person go will have a very powerful positive impact on your employees.
Organizations spend too much money on improving employee engagement when the answer is much less complicated. It is simple, if your leaders don’t live the values then your employees will remain cynical. Despite your best activity to boost engagement scores, the engagement level will not improve if leaders are not authentic in living the values. If any employee at any level or location of the organization acts in alignment with the values, people will know what to expect. It is a safe place to work, a place where you will willingly give your best efforts.