I typically start conversations with leaders asking the question, “What are your goals?” The leader may share goals for the week, month, or year but themes typically emerge! Currently the most common and consistent theme is EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT!
Leaders are asking the question, “How can I get my employees more excited about their job, and the company?” Their goal is to extend tenure, impact service and culture, and ultimately profit.
Great question! First consider investing in your people in a tangible way. When you assess compensation and benefits, identify if are you rewarding employees fairly and equitably? Review your pay. Is it competitive with similar companies in the market and your industry? Are you offering incentives for achieving results and a job well done? Are you offering benefits and time away that promotes wellness and supports balance? Are you surveying your employees to confirm if they agree that their compensation and benefits are competitive? If the answer is no or “not so much,” take steps to improve. Incremental steps indicate to your employees that you care about their security and well-being. If the answer is yes, pay and benefits have been updated to reflect today’s needs. BRAVO, you have done the heavy lifting!
OK, what next? Now consider investing in intangible offerings, those that make a big difference in the employee experience but may have a longer path to results.
Let’s start with culture! Every company has a culture, the question is whether it is intentional or accidental? Intentional culture is purposeful. The company identifies what they value, and how this is exhibited in the workplace. These values are typically woven through your communication in recruiting, onboarding, training, performance management, policies, etc. Potential employees consider values when selecting a company to work for. If you state financial excellence as a value and priority but do not mention service, you may be communicating that people are second to profit. If that is intended, go forth. If that is not the intention, you could miss out on a great candidate or employee as a result. If your company does not communicate a value for diversity and inclusion, your employees may choose to go to a company that is more welcoming of their preferences.
Accidental culture is more casual, you “get what you get.” Employees lacking cultural leadership will put in place their own values and make up their own rules when these are not defined by the company.
Now is a good time to review your company values. They may have been developed years ago and over time, things change! Do you need to restate or modify the descriptions or “talking points” to ensure they represent who the company is today? For example, in today’s remote work environment a value of teamwork now has a different context.
When reviewing values, think about the “what ifs?” Just imagine your company embraces the value of integrity and treating people with respect. You include these values in your handbook, new hire orientation, day-to-day conversations, etc. What would you do if one of your “best managers” took a “short cut” that impacted the business? Or sent an inappropriate text to an employee? How would you handle these situations?
If you give the manager a slap on the hand or say, “they were just having a bad day,” you are condoning bad behavior that is not aligned with the intentional culture and values of the company. People who are aware of the situation may now believe that the values and principles are optional thus. This impacts employee engagement, future behavior, and legal compliance. You may be thinking “If I give this great manager a written warning, they will quit!” Perhaps, but if you coach the manager, you are holding them accountable, keeping your intentional culture intact, and helping ensure the behavior will likely never happen again. By proactively anticipating the “what if’s,” you can more effectively communicate and train to expectations.
Next. consider how leadership and your behavior impact employee engagement. Do leaders represent the values of the company, and “walk the talk?” Let’s be honest, some days can be challenging, and your “evil twin” may show up in the office and respond to situations that occur. When your employees see, hear, and observe atypical behavior it can cause a cultural disconnect. Here is an example.
A senior leader who is experienced, bright, and well-spoken was faced with a small situation that sent him into a downward spiral and an emotional rant. This leader typically views problems as opportunities to learn, consider, and execute changes. In this situation, problem solving did not occur. Instead, there was judgement and blame communicated to others. To diffuse the situation, I presented data, alternatives, solutions, and potential next steps until the leader became calm and resembled his “former” self. The behavior was so out of character I wondered “What was going on?” Did the leader have a family issue, a health issue, or a business issue? Was this an unusual one-time outburst or typical behavior that was managed and kept in check? If employees witnessed or heard about this situation, they may wonder about the authenticity of the leader, the stability of the company, and the security of their job. Now the employees have a new model for appropriate workplace behavior. They may think it is OK to react with judgement and blame when faced with a challenging situation. Imagine the affect this could have on service and profit.
Ultimately, to impact engagement connect with your employees. Talk to them. Identify what lights them up, and what burns them out? Ask the question “How are you?” and listen to the answer. Understand that “shift happens!” Real things are taking place on the worldwide stage, in the economy, in our communities, and with our families. Everyone is touched in some way.
Be the leader who lives the culture, walks the talks, connects, and shows people you care.
A leader is one who know the way, goes the way, and shows the way. John Maxwell