You may be funny, smart, and easy to dance with, but if you are not engaging employees on an ongoing basis, all of your work in developing a strategic plan will be for naught. In my last two blogs, we talked about informing and inspiring employees during implementation of the strategic plan. The last piece of the puzzle involves engaging people so that they fully commit continuously to achieving the plan.
When we inform people by clearly communicating the company’s destination, they develop a sense of direction and focus. When we inspire people by explaining why the destination is important, they develop the motivation and determination to see the race through. When we engage them in reaching that destination, they become more willing to make decisions, take appropriate risks, and act in the best interests of the organization.
To engage your employees:
Clearly define what winning looks like.
It seems like I mention this principle in almost every blog I write. Probably because nothing is more important that creating a picture of what winning looks like for your organization, your team, and yourself. Everything flows from this critical starting point. Without a clear destination, who knows where you’ll end up?
Measure what matters AND what people can relate to.
Many strategic plans focus solely on financial metrics. However, many employees don’t connect on a day to day basis with metrics like operating margins, net profit, and EBITDA. They don’t see how making a decision about how to handle a customer leads to achieving a desired profit margin. And on those rare occasions when employees actually get to see the company financials, the gap between when their performance occurred and the numbers is far too great to have any real meaning.
What kinds of metrics help people feel engaged? Things like improving customer satisfaction and/or retention, speeding up response or delivery times, reducing scrap, developing a new product or service — just about anything that ties directly to the tasks and activities people perform on a daily basis. When employees can see what winning looks in ways they can relate to, they make better decisions in support of the plan.
Set your employees up for success.
This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many organizations neglect this key point. Especially during tough times when resources get stretched and the demands on everyone’s time continue to increase. To set your people up for success, make sure they have:
- Clarity on what they are expected to produce/accomplish
- The appropriate equipment and resources (tools, money, people, etc.)
- The information needed to master their position
- The skills, knowledge, and aptitudes to get the job done
- A good fit between their personality/style and how you expect them to get the job done
- The internal motivation, desire, and drive to complete the task
- Training/coaching to leverage strengths, minimize or eliminate deficiencies, and enhance professional development
Give plenty of feedback and recognition.
As leaders, we all know we should do this on a regular basis. Unfortunately, this “important but not urgent” activity often gets lost in the day-to-day pressures of getting the product out the door. Yet few things do more to engage employees than providing feedback on their performance and acknowledging their efforts. To ensure this activity doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, schedule monthly one-to-ones with your direct reports regularly. These meetings should cover the employee’s progress toward the goals, any performance issues they may be experiencing, identification of additional information, support or resources they need to get the job done, and any issues they need to bring up with you. And don’t forget plenty of “thank you’s” for a job well done.
Build an atmosphere of trust.
To build trust, start by defining the organizational values that determine how you will behave with each other. Then live those values on a daily basis. Your behavior as a leader or manager speaks much louder than your words. Communicate constantly with employees, not just about the decisions being made but why they are being made. Encourage people to express their ideas and opinions, and listen when they do. Hold people accountable for adhering to the organizational values and for performing at a high level. Nothing erodes trust and a sense of engagement like tolerating poor performance and/or behavior that violates organizational norms.
Companies that get the most out of their people don’t take employee engagement for granted. They plan it, monitor it, and manage it so that people feel connected to and aligned with the company’s vision of winning. When you get everyone in the organization running in the same direction with passion and purpose, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!