By Tanner Corbridge, partner for Partners In Leadership who works with business leaders to create greater workplace accountability and facilitates enterprise-wide culture change.
Whether your company is selling burritos or lifesaving medical devices, your ability to establish a cause will ultimately dictate the level of engagement of your employees--and the sky's the limit with employees working for a cause. And whatever your cause, engagement impacts it.
Employee engagement has been directly linked to powerful results:
Yet, employee engagement scores in the U.S. and international workforce are low and stagnant. Gallup regularly conducts research on employee engagement and found that in the U.S.:
- 33% of employees are "engaged" at work
- Nearly 51% of employees were "not engaged"
- The remainder were "actively disengaged"
And worldwide--a staggering 87% of employees are not engaged!
So how can we do better? While there are literally thousands of factors that impact employee engagement, there are two principles, when understood and applied, inherently elevate employee engagement.
1. Create Simple, Clear Results
Mission, Vision, Values, and Purpose Statements all clarify the organizational narrative, and each contributes to creating the cause.
These important messages must be paired with meaningful, memorable, and measurable key results that define the milestones for the next 12 months to see the progress happening toward those goals.
Simplicity is key to this working. Here is an example of 2016 key results of one Fortune 500 client I work with:
- Bottom Line Growth: 6%
- NPS Index: 8+ Points
- New Product Sales: 10% of Top Line
The leadership created a simple mantra around these key results to create alignment: 6 - 8 - 10. This is no date, but rather a numerical representation of the key goals that everyone in the company is accountable to deliver.
Sit in on meetings for a day inside that organization and you'll find that 6 - 8 - 10 is discussed in literally every meeting. It's on every agenda. It guides compensation planning, performance reviews, budget, and resource allocation. Nearly 30,000 employees can explain their connection to those three numbers.
Simplicity and consistency lead to alignment and cause--and it's powerful when the message reaches critical mass with the workforce. However, our own research suggests that 86% of executive teams fail when communicating what's most important. They fail because they don't fully appreciate the power of simplicity.
If you want alignment, consistency, purpose, vision, and cause--edit ruthlessly to ensure you're clearly communicating what's most important. Then use creative thinking to connect every agenda, strategic priority, job function, and job description to the key results. Most importantly, keep it simple!
2. Fan the Flames
Think about the sporting events you've attended. How often do you cheer at those events? You likely cheer at every positive moment and forward progress. A cheering crowd increases the energy of the players on the field, and ups the team's advantage.
Can you imagine attending a sporting event and only cheering at the end of the game, and only if your team wins? Yet, this happens all the time at work. We only celebrate the victories at the end.
Get everyone cheering more often at forward progress and you're more likely to win at work. Why?
Research around improving human performance over decades have led to many different conclusions. But one conclusion, reached time and time again is that the single greatest factor in retaining talent, creating loyalty, and being engaged at work is not compensation! It's recognition.
Employees being valued and recognized by others for their contribution are the factors that dominate all others. There is no lower hanging fruit than the simple yet powerful act of saying "thank you" or "good job" in a sincere and meaningful way.
In 30 years of studying the topic, we've found that peer-to-peer recognition is the most effective form of recognition. Top-down efforts to recognize tend to be infrequent, are viewed through political lenses, and can inherently create a sense of entitlement.
However, to overcome this perception, leaders must fuel peer-to-peer recognition by creating experiences of modeling and offering frequent, meaningful, and public recognition. This creates a workplace culture where recognition is celebrated and shared by all, not through political lenses.
If you want to unleash recognition within your organization, commit to a peer-to-peer framework, and create accountability for leaders to model these actions in every meeting. Adopt the belief that if it's worth having a meeting, it's worth offering recognition--and be sure to tie the recognition to your values and to your company's key results.
Lead and Engage
There are hundreds of levers you could pull to create greater engagement, yet few approaches will have greater impact on elevating engagement than creating simple, memorable results and fanning the flames. Commit to this method of leadership, and engagement around the cause will follow.