For business owners, dollars invested in their human capital assets are significant. Attracting, motivating and retaining human capital requires good leaders, managed performance, and a positive work environment designed to energize the workforce. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, writes:
“You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you.”
Even if your company is not at a standstill, it’s not just you who needs to know where the company is headed and how to get there. Every employee should have a map of organizational goals and know how they can contribute to reaching the destination. How do you make sure your employees are on board and giving added fuel to power your business to great?
Start by making sure that any employee who is in a leadership role is perceived by employees as trusted. The best way to find out is to ask employees directly. Stephen M.R. Covey describes trust in organizations as either a dividend or a tax (Speed of Trust). Walking the shop and talking to employees at all levels should be a daily routine to keep your finger on the pulse of the workforce. If employees are not forthcoming about workplace problems, start to find out why they are holding back. Trust could be lower than perceived. Your company deserves the dividends of a high trust work environment.
Make sure employees understand their job duties and the measures used to evaluate their performance. Poorly defined and constantly changing jobs contribute to lost employee engagement. This is especially true when employees are committed to high quality outcomes but their ability to deliver quality is derailed regularly. Providing employees with a clear set of expectations around job duties, access to the technology or data they need to make decisions, and a reliable resource to seek advice can quickly turn chaos into calm. According to the Gallup Organization, “Employee engagement predicts financial performance more strongly than financial performance predicts employee engagement.” Clear job descriptions and performance expectations are a good start for achieving high engagement.
Provide praise and positive recognition continuously. Leaders may assume “no news is good news” when it comes to communicating with top performing employees. However, it turns out that all employees, even your top performers, like to hear good news about their performance. A simple thank you or other forms of authentic positive recognition once a week increase an employee’s voluntary performance contributions. And, providing corrective feedback to steer employees to better performance also fuels forward momentum. Regular feedback one-on-one with employees, sharing both good news and performance development guidance, inspires higher performance and increases employee competence and confidence.
Employees already know how to work smarter and faster when it comes to the work they do every day. You just have to ask them. Getting employee input about their ideas provides positive ROI. This is also a great way to discover hidden talents in your workforce – you may find the next great idea just waiting to be uncovered. Supervisors and managers can add employee ideas to meeting discussion topics. Or, create a different, but routine method for gathering employee suggestions. The key to success is to take every idea seriously and respond in a timely manner so that employees know the outcome of their ideas. To encourage the flow of employee ideas, listen well and hold back initial judgments.
Resisting change is a normal behavior. We all do it. Among other things, we find it inconvenient and uncomfortable to change – it slows us down, can makes us feel incompetent, and we use extra energy to shift from old ways while adopting the new ways. Managers and supervisors are usually several steps ahead of employees in change acceptance. That’s because they are almost always the ones calling for it. Don’t be caught by surprise when employees hesitate to jump on board. Instead, develop a plan of action to help people accept the change by using lots of routine communications clarifying the change plan and actively listening to and acknowledging the presence of employee concerns. Even after change is accepted, employees can easily slide back to the tried and true methods. Keeping the routine communications flowing while actively listening, helps to prevent a change effort from becoming derailed.
Although the U.S. edged slightly ahead of most of the 120 countries surveyed when it comes to having an engaged workforce, the Gallup 2010 and 2011 studies reflect that over half of the U.S. workforce is “not engaged.” Worse yet, nearly one in five employees are “actively disengaged.” Positioning to reap the productivity and profitability rewards of high employee engagement starts by shifting as many of the “not engaged” employees to a state of full engagement. Trupp HR’s employee engagement programs enable clients to quickly translate increased employee engagement and performance into increased customer satisfaction and profit dollars.