According to 2016 Gallup research, there’s a worldwide employee engagement crisis. Engagement levels are at 13%, which, in 2015, cost the U.S. economy between $319 billion to $398 billion in lost business. Yet in spite of companies spending hundreds of millions of dollars on leadership development, the numbers remain consistent. Now there are good reasons why companies keep spending this money. Engaged employees generate 20% more in sales, 21% more in profitability and are 50% less likely to leave than their disengaged colleagues. So it’s win-win-win.
And yet so much of it is wasted.
Having worked for over 25 years in operational performance improvement, creating engaged teams has been crucial to our initiatives’ success. During those years, I have learned that if you take care of these five things, it will help you to create highly engaged teams that will exceed expectations.
Create A Sense Of Purpose
It’s good to earn a paycheck, but it’s great to go home thinking that you did something worthwhile and that you made a difference. When you’re setting your companies goals and visions, try to make it more than just about profit and loss or shareholder value. Most employees, and especially millennials, are looking for more than that in a job. They want to make an impact. During my time on one of the best projects I ever worked on, we were looking to improve on-time delivery. The business leader told us that the project was important because there was no Santa Claus and it was our job to make sure that kids got their Christmas and birthday presents on time. She gave us a sense of purpose. She made the job more than about money. She aligned it with our aspirations which automatically fired up our engagement.
When you set the goals and targets, try to give them a higher purpose — the more meaningful you can make it, the more engaged your team will be.
No Involvement No Commitment
You’d think that most managers with any leadership training would know the phrase, “no involvement no commitment.” Yet, when I work with companies this is one of the first things that we need to address. Senior management often spends months working on a strategy only to issue instructions, often with little communication (let alone involvement) and then they wonder why their initiatives failed.
You don’t need to involve your teams in the goal-setting process, but you can definitely look to have them involved in how those goals will be met. Ask for their input. You don’t need to act on it all. But, just by asking, you increase involvement, which in turn increases commitment. And you might just learn something valuable.
Complexity Kills Engagement
It doesn’t matter how engaged your teams are if you overcomplicate things. People are not afraid of hard work. They are afraid of failure. And when they cannot see how they will be successful, then they are more likely to quit. The simpler we can make things, the easier they are to understand and the more likely people are to do them. You need to make sure that not only do you do things simply but that you communicate them simply. When I chose to run my first marathon at 52 years old, my two best friends told me I was crazy and that it was impossible. Yet when I explained to them that I would start by running 15 minutes a day and then increase my Sunday run by 10 minutes per week and in 26 weeks that would mean I’d be running for four and a half hours, they both wanted to join. They could see how by just running 10 minutes more per week that over time we would be able to accomplish our goal.
Simple plans create belief and belief keeps teams engaged.
Empowerment Leads To Ownership
When you’re doing a job, what’s your preference — to be told how to do it or to be left to do it the way that you know best? I’m guessing it’s the latter, and that’s the case with most people, especially if they are experienced in doing their job. If you want to get the most of your teams, don’t tell them how to do things. Simply tell them the outcome you are looking for and ensure that they have everything they need to be successful. Your teams will feel empowered and they will take ownership of their projects. If anything starts to go wrong, they will look to correct them. Whereas if you tell them in detail how to do things, when it starts to fail they might not do anything to prevent it. They might simply continue to follow the instructions because they don’t feel empowered to make a change.
Tell your teams the outcomes you are looking for, but give them some freedom in how they can achieve it.
What Gets Recognized Gets Repeated
Even the most engaged of teams, if they never receive any recognition or positive feedback for the work that they will do, will quickly become frustrated, demotivated and disengaged. Feeling a sense of achievements is, according to psychologist Abraham Maslow, one of our most basic needs, and you can feed that need by giving people praise. Praise will not only make them feel good about the job that they have done, but it will encourage them to do it again.
The more your recognize people the more they will seek out ways to get recognized. Become the Chief Recognition Officer, give praise whenever you see people doing a good job, make it specific, be genuine and enthusiastic and make sure it’s genuine, as this will help convert your team from engaged to highly engaged.
If you take these five steps, which cost very little, you can create a team that will double their productivity, increasing both your customer’s loyalty and the team’s own loyalty.