“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” – Sybil F. Stershic
There is a common belief that your best people need the least time and attention from the leadership. They are these highly motivated individuals who with some direction can move mountains and generate outsized returns for your business.
I wish that belief was true.
While I am sure we hear about the fabled stories of individual contributors who were able to come up with breakthroughs that changed the fate of the company, those are usually the exception and not the norm.
As someone who has built multiple companies from 1 to over 100+ employees, the successful ones have involved my taking an inordinate amount of time crafting the employee experience in great detail.
There isn’t a single magic bullet that I can give you which will help you get high engaged team members overnight. Here are a few tips on what has worked for us:
- Building a high trust environment: I have a personal principle that I call Trust First. By building an environment where the default stance is for you to be trusted rather than ‘earn’ the trust, everything moves faster. It helps build confidence for everyone on the team to stretch themselves and know that the company will do right by them if things don’t work out. Leaders keep promises and commitments and create a stable environment. Without this core tenet, I believe a business will struggle to nurture highly engaged employees.
- Empowerment with autonomy: Most businesses talk about empowering their team and then strangle them processes that slowly bleed them dry. Engaged employees need a defined wide space to operate in. Leadership needs to establish the parameters and then let them find their own path. Autonomy gives them the freedom to experiment and in a high trust environment, they thrive.
- Real-time coaching and building relationships: Hoping to send your staff on a retreat or installing a piece of software isn’t going to do the hard work of building relationships. Practices such as 1-1’s are a central component in creating a space where everyone in the company gets immediate feedback and coaching on how they are doing. People only take this seriously when they are treated as partners. When they understand the bigger picture and how they fit into that narrative.
- Values alignment: If two people have a singular goal but opposing value sets I believe it is going to be very difficult to create an engaged unit. Many companies pay lip service to have a set of values on their website. Very few of them integrate them into their core processes of recruiting, performance evaluations, recognition programs and their day to day communication. As a result, they build teams without a core that binds the team together. Values are an integral part of building a highly engaged workforce.
- Recognizing excellence: The world is filled with recognition tools and training that organizations can deploy to increase ‘engagement’. I call BS on most of these tools that are using the outdated carrot and sticks model for engagement. What may have worked for the industrial age doens’t work for knowledge workers. Recognizing excellence requires us to have a set of clearly defined values and behaviours that we know deliver results. More than just giving the person a badge we need to coach them, challenge them and continue to create a pathway for them to do great work.
Every CEO wants a highly engaged workforce. Yet, a large majority of leaders are not ready to put in the time and effort that is required to get to that level. It is either because they do not know where to start or have other short term objectives.
At Identifi we are looking to work with leaders who are serious about investing in building an organization that is filled with highly engaged employees. Reach out if you want to be part of our early beta program. We are looking to work with leaders who are managing teams/companies of at least 50 – 250 individuals.