How can entrepreneurs keep their employees engaged for the long haul, when the excitement of the seed funding, product launch or IPO wears off? It isn't easy. Indeed, Gallup reports that 70 percent of today’s employees are disengaged.
One solution is to view your company as an entity intended simply for the betterment and enrichment of the human race, rather than the other way around. You can do this by creating a culture of consequence: a culture imbued with a sense of personal significance and meaning in the work and workplace. Fulfillment derived from such a culture engenders intense meaning that sustains.
A culture of consequence goes beyond your vision statement and your foosball table. It’s about deep connections: up, down and across the organization. Such a culture provides the foundation for a rich community that creates a sustainable competitive advantage and delivers superior performance through highly motivated employees.
Here are six tips that can help build the foundation of a culture of significance from the ground up:
1. Give recognition the right way.
Make it personal by listening to your employees and understanding how they like to be recognized. Ensure the recognition is meaningful by creating a rhythm of frequent, but not frivolous, recognition. Have it be motivational by celebrating the first downs and the touch downs. Make it communal by enabling peers to get in on the action. And finally, make it specific so that employees genuinely feel appreciated and understood.
2. Show respect.
Demonstrate respect through day-to-day recognition of each employee, a practice I call “respectcognition.” Say hello to everyone. Communicate that you are approachable, understanding and open to ideas. Be considerate by recognizing a person’s state of mind and sense of humor. Acknowledge their time and effort by being on time and present in meetings.
3. Promote work-life harmony.
In the frenetic world of a new business, promoting work-life harmony can be difficult, so focus on your strengths. Many new companies can provide flexibility to employees with schedules or working remotely. Use the opportunity of being new to create simple processes or eliminate extraneous meetings.
4. Care for their personal well-being.
In a 2012 Towers Watson Global Workforce study the company found that only 42 percent of senior leaders are viewed as supportive of policies that promote employee well-being. Put effort into showing you care in approachable, low-touch ways. Ask an employee how he’s doing on matters related to outside of work. Role model your own healthy behaviors by leaving work on time and taking vacation. Promote healthy activities by encouraging her to start the yoga class she mentioned.
5. Be authentic.
Authenticity means not only being true to yourself but also being able to share your true self with others. Role model what it looks like by bringing your true self to work every day. Believe in the power of each employee bringing his whole self to work.
6. Promote teamwork and interdependence.
Draft a “Declaration of Interdependence” that communicates a team-first mentality with clear role definitions, behavioral expectations and expected deliverables. Show each employee how she fits into the team, and reward and recognize positive team work when you spot it.
Building your culture on the elements listed above will create a foundation of meaning, fulfillment and elevated performance that will feel collegial, not calculated. You can create a sense of “we’re all in this together” that will benefit your company today and for years to come.