Perky...but maybe because they're engaged employees
Annual reports and press releases are flush with assertions from companies proclaiming their employees to be their “greatest asset.” Much like the hangover-sufferer who vows to never drink again, we all know that these assertions don’t always hold up to closer scrutiny, even when they’re made with the best of intentions.
Instructive are the exceptions to the rule; those organizations whose words and actions are guided by a true desire to educate, motivate and engage employees for the greater good of the entire company.
What are the main differences between companies that put employees first, versus those that merely claim to? Here are Five Signs Your Company Is Committed to Engaging Employees:
1. Your senior management is committed to communicating. Commitment to communication – be it to employees, customers, legislators or any other constituency – emanates from the top of the company. Regardless of who has daily responsibility for communication, the CEO sets the tone and establishes the priority – and other managers follow the lead.
2. Your communications are frequent and two-way. Companies committed to employee communication engage their employees in an ongoing conversation that takes various shapes. Input is actively solicited, and employee feedback tangibly shapes future communication. The organization periodically surveys or otherwise queries employees to gauge the effectiveness of its communications, and whether the messages are taking hold. Companies relying solely on memos and newsletters, on the other hand, may only think they’re committed to a dialogue.
3. You reinforce, recognize and reward positive behavior. I have one client that wanted to demonstrate its commitment to employees while creating a framework for securing their input on the critical challenges facing the company. Among other actions, we implemented a series of lunch and learn sessions with senior management, twice yearly town hall meetings and numerous awards programs that recognize employees who best advance company goals. The company has also modified managers’ performance goals to require active engagement with non-managers.
The result: employee satisfaction has soared, as evidenced by a series of independent surveys. Surveys also indicated this client needs to do a better job at skills training, which the company is now addressing. One word of caution: most companies should use the “big meeting” idea sparingly. It’s the daily, more personalized interactions that tend to be most effective.
4. You establish priorities. Employee engagement goes hand-in-hand with understanding: priority must be given to ensuring employees understand the company’s mission, business goals, target audiences, definitions of success and their role in achieving success. Successful companies use these as the foundation for both their short- and long-term communications. Jack Welch at GE was legendary at doing this. More recently, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Jet Blue’s David Neeleman and Cisco’s John Chambers – among many others – are acknowledged leaders at this.
5. You empower employees. The word “empower” is overused, but the concept is important here: do you give your employees opportunities to make certain levels of decisions without having to check with a litany of managers? This is especially important in service businesses. Who’s likely to be a more satisfied customer: one whose problem is resolved on the spot, or weeks later by a faceless, nameless manager? More to the point, which employee is more likely to be satisfied: one given the power to produce a solution, or one who always has to defer to a “higher authority”…and probably incur the customer’s wrath in the meantime?
We could easily expand this list, and most of the characteristics listed here could be modified to address engagement with customers and other constituencies. This list lets you immediately gauge your own company’s employee communications. Ask yourself: do these practices reflect our organization…or another company where my current and prospective employees might prefer to work?!
In future columns, we’ll review the behaviors of companies that clearly are not committed to engagement, and the financial ramifications of having satisfied employees.