Winning Employees’ Hearts and Minds
Employee engagement is easy to define, difficult to understand, and even harder to get right. At its core, employee engagement is the emotional and intellectual connection that employees have to their employers, their bosses, their co-workers, and their jobs.
The depth of that connection is what drives employees to put in the extra, discretionary effort it takes to do the job really well.
Notwithstanding our knowledge and understanding of the importance of employee engagement, we continue to build workplace environments where 8 out of 10 employees don’t like their jobs. Shockingly, 87 percent of employees aren’t engaged at work or — even worse — they’re actively disengaged.
That means they’ve gotten to the point of saying, “whatever.” Even in a small business, one disengaged employee can have a drastic impact on profitability.
The Gallup Organization studied the relationship between employee engagement and performance across 192 organizations and almost 50,000 business/work units, encompassing some 1.4 million employees. The business units that scored in the top half on employee engagement close to doubled the odds of their success rates compared to the units that scored in the bottom half.
When you consider the demands on the employee and customer experience, it’s no surprise that the primary concern identified by CEOs in the U.S. and a top concern for CEOs globally is human capital — the ability to attract and retain the very best, most capable people. Companies with engaged workforces outperform their competitors by 147 percent in earnings per share.
At the end of the day, it’s about winning employees’ hearts and minds. Winning over hearts and minds is done by building purposeful and meaningful workplace relationships. It’s the relationship that serves as the foundation for every behavior and action that drives engagement.
Corporate America has wasted time and money giving employees more “things” to entice them to be happier and more productive. True culture change is driven by building purposeful, meaningful workplace relationships that foster collaboration, innovation, and, ultimately, profitability. Establishing cultures based on respect and trust drives loyalty, and employees become the champions of their peers as they get promoted.
Importantly, toxic employees can’t survive for long in workplaces where relationships and how people treat each other matter. They have no choice but to give up their toxic ways. If they refuse, they find themselves isolated from their more connected teammates. They either self-select out of the organization, or leaders have no choice but to end the employment relationship so they can preserve the quality of the teams they have built.
The foundation of great workplace relationships is respect. While we often assume respecting one’s experience or knowledge is important, without the elements of personal respect, things like knowledge and experience are hollow.
Leaders can demonstrate personal respect by doing seemingly little things such as being on time, honoring their word, offering to help, managing their temper, and respecting employees’ privacy.
When we respect each other, we can begin to trust each other. Lack of trust is one of the biggest impediments to sustainable team success.
Unfortunately, trust is not something leaders can mandate. Trust is something leaders and employees alike must earn with every interaction they have with others. They do so by being sincere and demonstrating that they genuinely care about each other. They share information transparently for the good of the team rather than treating information like currency they cash in for their individual benefit. They follow through on their commitments and skillfully perform their job duties.
Once leaders have established respecting and trusting relationships, they have the ability to foster loyalty. Again, though, loyalty does not just appear; it grows over time.
First, employees find enjoyment and fulfillment in being associated with their leaders, their co-workers, and the company. They believe in the direction of the team and their leader’s ability to move them in that direction. And, importantly, they are proud of their work, individually and collectively. With these feelings in place, employees champion their teams, their leaders, and their organizations to people both inside and outside of the organization.
With respect, trust, and loyalty in place, organizations will see reduced absenteeism and turnover, growth of high-potential team members, strengthened intra-organizational relationships and collaboration, and enhanced knowledge management and transfer.
Building strong workplace relationships is what drives the emotional connection that employees need in order to be truly engaged at work.
So think about it. Think of how much time you and your team members spend developing the intellectual connection to work. Think of all the time spent at industry conferences and tradeshows, time spent in continuing education courses to maintain certifications or licenses, or time spent at networking events trying to develop new business.
Is your organization devoting just as much time to developing its heart? If not, it’s time to start. BW
Speaker and author Claudia Williams founded The Human Zone, an HR consulting firm, after serving as associate general counsel at The Hershey Company. She provides leadership mentoring and coaching, workplace training, and strategic human resources support. Visit www.humanzonebiz.com for more information.