Messages about cost out and growth may seem contradictory. They’re really not – if the company and its leaders are extremely clear in communicating the direction and they see the link in freeing up resources from one area in the company in order to fund growth initiatives in others.
Communicate openly – employees deserve it…and they can handle it. The most successful leaders practice three simple and fundamental principles when it comes to engaging their employees around these priorities.
While these practices are always important, the complex and sometimes confusing dynamics operating within most organizations today make them downright indispensable. We find that while employees may not agree with all of a company’s decisions, particularly the ones that have a negative impact on them and their co-workers, they’re far more likely to respect their leaders and do what is asked if they understand the basis for the actions. Leaders often forget that employees are adults who in many cases run their own households. They understand the basics of revenues and expenses, and most are actively involved in addressing their own life challenges while balancing their household budgets.
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Companies that rank high for employee engagement are more profitable, more productive, have better customer ratings and fewer safety incidents (Gallup).
Here are five tips to help fire up employees engagement.
Before you take any of these steps, consider this a building exercise. In other words, these steps should be taken sequentially and over the course of a year or so, with each step building on the progress and momentum created by the ones before. This will protect from immediate rejection (too many new practices to absorb at once) and lead to a sustainable culture change.
1. Connect with employees. This starts with telling the story – this is the big picture vision of where the organization is going and why this particular company is uniquely able to get there. In addition, leaders should explain the roadmap – the plan for achieving their vision, including what it means for employees and their jobs. Establish an open communication environment by inviting, acknowledging and responding to employee questions, concerns and ideas. Importantly, leaders must keep the dialogue – and their visibility – going so that it becomes “the way we do business around here.”
2. Establish expectations. Set the workforce up for success by establishing behavioral expectations for managers and employees and providing the necessary resources and recognition to win. Objectives should include general business metrics (e.g., gross margin, productivity) as well as those reflecting key drivers of success, such as customer service levels and loyalty and recordable safety cases. Training in communicating and engaging employees can be provided to managers who wield the most influence over employees’ behavior.
3. Develop a Customer First mentality. Introduce the customer as the company’s “raison d’etre” (reason for being) by bringing them – and their ideas – into the company. Invite groups of employees to observe focus groups of customers and competitors’ customers discussing the pros and cons of the organization’s products or services. Hold follow-up meetings with the same employees to hear their reactions and brainstorm how the company can incorporate some of the new ideas. Ask these employees to go back into the workforce to assemble teams and see which team can come up with the most suggestions. Celebrate all of the suggestions by inviting all employees to a “Customer First” party.
4. Share best practices. Establish a mentoring program, matching high performers with those who are not as high performing (but don’t bill it this way publicly!). Ask the partners to identify and focus on two things that each partner can work on to improve, and ask them to commit to specific actions and monitor progress.
5. Make it personal. Engage employees in building a winning team by holding a “What’s the coolest part of working for ABC organization” contest. Submissions should be posted in a highly visible, high traffic area, such as the employee entrance or break room and employees can vote for winners in categories such as Most Creative, Most Practical, Most Customer Focused.