In the 21st century, the best companies will define themselves by how well they engage their employees to produce more innovative products and services.
Command-and-control style leadership will be replaced by systems that intelligently tap the collective wisdom of an entire organization. The catch: People within the organization have to care enough to actually create meaningful change.
Unfortunately, the term engagement has lost a lot of its meaning and become a corporate buzzword. Employee engagement means this: The team is willing to put in extra discretionary effort, the sort required to create positive change.
Company leaders need to bring the concept back to life and pay attention to it because according to Gallup's worldwide poll in 2011 to 2012, 87 percent of workers were “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. This means the vast majority of workers lacked an emotional connection to their jobs. And 24 percent are "actively disengaged," meaning they were unproductive and discontent and could share their negativity with other staffers.
One way to revive engagement is to stop mischaracterizing it. Let’s be clear, employee engagement is not any of the following:
Completing a survey: How many companies perform one employee survey once a year and call that an engagement strategy?
Attending a meeting: Meetings are part of the problem. Another meeting will not reignite someone’s passion for the job.
Appointing a committee: Something as important as getting people to care about their work shouldn’t be delegated. Reconnecting people to their job requires a culture change, emanating from the top.
Hiring a consultant: If you’re time poor and cash rich, go for hiring a consultant but be sure to arrive at the root cause of why your people don’t care and take the (sometimes painful) steps required to address this.
So how do you re-create the passion your employees had on the day they signed their offer letter?
1. Communicate a compelling company mission.
Author Simon Sinek put it best, start with why. Figure out why should people care. Make this absolutely clear to every employee through a mission statement: "The company exists to [fill in the blank]."
2. Fire command-and-control leaders.
Either let go of controlling managers or give them the opportunity to change. It’s 2015. Your business cannot tolerate managers who treat your most valuable asset (your employees) like children. Verbally abusive, angry and arrogant leaders quickly lead to a disenfranchised team.
3. Value staffers above all else.
Do you believe your team is more important than your product, customers and revenue? If not, rethink things because after all: Who creates your products, makes your customers happy and generates the company’s revenue? Without these people, the company's strategy is just words on a page.
4. Make working an enjoyable experience.
Ditch the 20th-century rules. Measure people’s output (tangible results) and focus less on input (hours worked). Let people work where and when they want (if possible). Allow them to purchase equipment and software that makes their job easier, instead of holding onto antiquated IT policies. Bring joy to the workplace.
5. Create a product that people want.
Think about the last product your company launched and why it was created. Was it developed to refresh the product line or because of a need to compete with company X? Instead make products that customers truly desire.
6. Capture and curate the team’s best thinking.
Watch what happens when members of the team feel like they can have a tangible impact at work. Have staffers give their input. Reward them for making the company better.
Investing to ensure employees care about their jobs is something that every company needs to do. But economic sense aside, employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work. Shouldn’t entrepreneurs strive to make that experience as positive as possible?