Thirteen percent of people worldwide are engaged at work! Thirteen percent is quite low, to say the least. They show up and are physically there, but they’re not really engaged. Often managers can’t describe their companies’ strategic vision or how their work fits in to it, yet they are they expected to engage their teams.
I’ve asked hundreds of managers, “What does it look like when your employees are engaged?” And every single time, the response comes down to, “They’ll go the extra mile. They’ll support each other.” It sounds simple, but it’s just not happening. If you are a manager, and your people are on board, your work life can be very rewarding – even fun – because your team is supporting each other and not holding back.
So, how does this happen? How does a company or group learn how to open the floodgates of possibility and dissolve barriers that hold people back?
Traditionally, companies hire employees and expect they will show up, do their job and be satisfied.
But more and more people want to feel that what they do makes some small difference in their world. This isn’t to say all employees want to save the world. Personally, I think it’s because our companies don’t give us a lifetime of secure work, and the Internet has forever changed the way we view our work. It means they want to feel recognized as a part of something bigger than themselves because this job isn’t necessarily their life’s work.
Barry Schwartz, in his new book Why We Work, shows it’s more likely that receiving recognition and the resources to do what we need to accomplish each day is often what drives us to do our best work, not incentivized labor.
If an organization leads with this concept of recognition and resources, your employees will understand where they fit in. Problems expose how this could play out:
John owns and leads a manufacturing company that employs over a hundred people. It’s a loud and busy place where employees work three shifts, round-the-clock. They receive health insurance and benefits that include a bonus based upon the company’s profit. Safety is a big issue.
John’s office, on one end of building, is clean, quiet and comfortable, but he’s not removed from the operation. He has a small staff of four that manages the different aspects of the business and meets with them weekly to review and update each other. John makes a point of walking through the facility during each shift a number of times a week.
He meets with his top managers each month, and works hard to build trust by challenging them to brainstorm and problem-solve on the company’s behalf. This creates a strong team foundation of trust for all of them, and they regularly reciprocate with their own concerns.
It’s the practice of bringing and solving problems together that breaks down the barriers. No one can conceal their insecurities. They are each recognized as leading the company. It lands everyone in the same boat, demonstrates nobody’s perfect, and builds collaboration and forward progress across the business because the team is checked in, not checked out and hiding.
It starts at the top, and allows for the expansion of excellence. John wants to be sure his staff and employees are engaged and understand the business. But it’s hard to pull people away from their work and maintain the pace, quality and output they need. His team has developed small training workshops that include the development of skills like listening, communication, collaboration, and delegation.
The goal being that when employees are faced with problems, they are empowered to practice all aspects of their training and anticipate how a solution will play out. It allows for experimenting with best practices that have become a standard for the company. But, most importantly, it creates an environment of support based upon the same processes the company leadership is employing, where resources and recognition become a daily staple. Fun!!
If leadership can take this step, managers will gain confidence in their autonomy to support and lead their teams. They know what is expected and work with their own teams to achieve the company’s goals, dissolving the barriers and energizing innovation. Bring on the problems!