Every company I know is working towards improving employee engagement, yet engagement is at an all time low. Why? Because employee engagement programs don’t work. You cannot buy your way into engagement, although many companies try. Nor can you bully people into getting on board the engagement train. Engagement must grow organically, from the inside out—One employee at a time. Here’s where to begin.
Hire happy people. We all know people, who quite frankly are miserable. No matter what happens, they still retain their victim mentality. Usually we wind up looking for ways to distance ourselves from them. Easier said than done, especially if they reside in our workplace. Even worse, if they live in a cubicle that is positioned next to ours.
A company cannot turn an unhappy person into a happy productive worker, unless they are willing to spend tons of time and money on therapy. And even in these situation, there are no guarantees. I remember being on the phone with a CEO who had to abruptly end our call. You see, he was running late for a therapy session with one of his employees. I kid you not. He actually thought he could save one of his employees by attending what turned out to be marriage counseling sessions. I suspect this relationship ended in divorce, although I don’t know this for sure.
Hire people who are willing to do the work. Everyone comes to the workplace with baggage. However, few are willing to throw the baggage overboard so they can travel lightly. I see tons of employees walking around with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Some are martyrs, while others simply haven’t found the locker storage room where they can temporarily or permanently unload their luggage.
Employee engagement comes from within. It happens when an employee is willing to take responsibility for how he or she shows up every day. This takes a willingness to look inside oneself and to be truthful. Something that seems difficult for many. For example, asking yourself if the job you spent years preparing for is really making you happy can be quite frightening. What if the answer is no and you still have years left to pay off your student loans? Or worse yet, what if you have to tell a loved one that you can no longer go to work every day pretending to be fully present at work?
Make it okay for your people to come to you for a reassignment. Clear the way so they can be with you because they want to be. Not because they have no other choice.
Begin engagement with action; not more surveys. Companies are spending billions conducting additional employee engagement surveys to hear what they already know. Do not send out another survey until you have taken action (or communicated to your people that you won’t be making changes) on every item that scored a “needs improvement.” Instead, funnel this money into fixing what needs to be repaired. Do this now.
Grow engagement from the bottom; not from the top. Right now, scores of executives and their teams are spending countless hours plotting on how to best engage those who are closest to the customer. Yet few bother to ask these people for suggestions on what can be done to increase employee commitment and productivity. Years ago, I spearheaded the design and implementation of a Gain-Sharing program where employees at all levels of the organization were asked to participate and make recommendations for changes in the business that would lead to growth. They then shared in the financial gains that resulted for their ideas. Some of the best suggestions came from the least formally educated people in the organizations. These ideas were quickly embraced, since they came from the very people who were responsible for implementation.
People aren’t engaged by programs. They are engaged by people. Yes, it’s that simple. Now go out there and start working on becoming an inspirational leader and start connecting with your people.