“Engaged employees are in the game for the sake of the game; they believe in the cause of the organization.” – Paul Marciano
Why do we need to Spark Employee Engagement?
Getting employees to engage in company initiatives has become a crucial challenge. With employee engagement just above 30%, employees seem to have corporate program fatigue. This is challenging for managers who strive to implement programs for their employees.
I spent twenty years managing hundreds of employees in many different capacities. My employees ranged from office to factory workers. While each group was unique, most had little faith in any company program. “Not another stupid program. I can’t wait to see this one fail.” Hearing these comments only sabotaged the programs, and became self-fulfilling prophecies.
Companies need to make progress despite the challenges, and continue to put these programs in place. They need to bridge the lost confidence and trust between themselves and their employees.
Jump starting employee engagement, while by no means easy, isn’t that complicated. Here are four ways to drum-up employee engagement:
(1) Involve Them In The Process
The top-down approach doesn’t work anymore. Strategic plans may look good on paper, but success relies on engaging employees early in the process.
Companies can’t placate employees with a brainstorming session that will have no impact on the final plan. They need to provide a framework upon which to build plans that serve themselves, their employees, and shareholders alike. Employees are no longer lemmings. They can see through programs that compromise their ability to have a positive impact in the workplace.
Employees are also seeking meaning from their work. They want to feel fulfilled by their choice of vocation. A surefire way to provide this meaning is to involve them in decisions that will drive the future of the organization.
- Provide an inclusive framework for strategic goals. Follow this with a platform that allows employees to give the input needed to achieve higher-level goals
- Make a commitment to executing employees ideas because, yes, they will have great ideas
- Celebrate the ideas that employees provide. Consider compensating the employees that provide transformational ideas
(2) Make Progress Fun
Most organizations get lazy and lack creativity. Any company can drum up a strategy that stands the test of a spreadsheet. That’s not hard.
The true creativity in developing organization goals is finding a way for these goals to exist in a culture of fun.
Not all companies can offer what some tech companies (e.g., Facebook) provide. But all companies can foster a more enjoyable work environment.
Western culture has a paradigm that associates success, with long hours, and burned out employees. These limiting beliefs have reached the end of their tenure. Only attrition will end this way of thinking unless companies are proactive. The new generation understands that obtaining excellent results isn’t correlated to pain.
Enjoying what we do can be the foundation for solid and sustainable results. When employees enjoy what they do, results will exceed what they thought possible.
- Add some life to brainstorming by providing opportunities to think of crazy ideas unbound by convention. Google took this one step further. In 2004, an IPO letter encouraged employees to spend 20% of their time working on any- thing they thought would benefit Google
- Coach senior leaders on the ‘soft-skills’, such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and listening
- Adopt a culture of play. Embrace fun as a way of working
(3) Attach Your Company’s Goals to a Greater Purpose
Your purpose can’t simply be to increase shareholder value. If your organization is incapable of finding its deeper purpose, you will find yourself extinct.
There is an awakening happening. The scarcity mentality (i.e., needing to take from someone else to further yourself) is coming to an end. How do you expect employees to engage in groundbreaking ideas when they could be working themselves out of a job?
Shareholder value can work in concert with a greater purpose. Cost-cutting and squeezing out every last dollar has a shelf-life. Growth does not. If you find your company’s purpose, your employees will rally around this purpose. Much like lightning, when we focus energy on a common goal, the results are powerful.
Seven Generation has leveraged their purpose to become a top employer of millennials. Seven Generations purpose is “to inspire a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations”.
- If you don’t already have a strong purpose, organize focus groups to better understand your business. Find the true service your company is providing for the greater good. Bring in other resources to help lead these ideation and messaging sessions. Often times it’s hard to see the ‘forest for the trees’ when you have been viewing your business a certain way for decades
(4) Be A Positive Influence In Their Well-Being
One doesn’t need to look far to see stats about our impending wellness apocalypse. Whether it be stress, obesity, the typical Western diet, or our sedentary lifestyles, all signs point to ‘doom’. It doesn’t need to be this way.
Getting bogged down with the ROI required to justify a wellness program implies that we don’t need it. The cost of an effective wellness program will dwarf any costs associated with its implementation.
Wellness programs that work include the following components:
- Virtual coaching
- Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (e.g., gamification)
- The ability for employees to choose their own focus
- Company challenges
- Community connectedness
- Make wellness a part of your company culture. All levels need to embrace employee wellness as a strategic imperative
- Seek out software-based options that leverage virtual coaching to drive habit change
Employee engagement has nowhere to go but up. Now is the time to get creative and engage with your employees, so they will engage with you.
Check out another engaging article by Gary LeBlanc on understanding culture.