As an employee of the company that you’re in, I want you to ask yourself: Are you just a number or an individual?
And if you’re leading a company or a team, I’d like you to think about what the answer to the question above may mean for the success of your organization.
Your employees hold the key to your success
For most companies, it might seem more logical to think about what the customer wants, or what the stakeholders want. And while this is important, the truth is that now, more than ever, it’s the employees who decide if your company succeeds or fails.
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, only 15 percent of employees are engaged in the workplace. This means that the majority of workforce around the world are either viewing their workplace negatively or only doing the bare minimum to make it through the day, with little to no emotional attachment.
The low engagement level is not just an ugly number. This number turns into a financial loss and costs companies billions of dollars every year. It drives your ‘star’ employees to search for other options, it makes your offices full of people that would rather sit at their desks and daydream than get charged up to accomplish something. And lastly, it leaves a bad impression on your customers and business partners.
And on the other hand, engaged employees are willing to put in more productive hours, they smile at your clients, they go the extra mile, and they won’t quit. This means you won’t need to spend on hiring and training new talent every year. All of this information matters so much more now that unemployment numbers are down and everyone has more options when it comes to choosing where they work.
The buck stops with you
It is so important that leaders genuinely care about their direct reports and others they work with within their organization. When people fall prey to apathy (and it happens to the best of us, believe me!), it almost always impacts the quality and productivity of their work. A culture of caring begins with open conversation that is genuine, candid and mutually respectful. As a leader, it is imperative that you invest more time in talking to your employees, and hearing what they have to say. Gone are the days when you can leave conversation to a quarterly performance review, or a one-off focus group. Faceless engagement surveys are no substitute for a personal conversation.
And along with this, managers and leaders need to practice more effective listening. Listen to what people are saying, and what they aren’t. Listen to conversations in groups and one on one. Pay attention to the formal conversations, and the informal chats. The backbone of a successful, collaborative culture is found in an ongoing dialog of shared perspectives and insights. Pay attention to what the employee’s perspective may be, what problems they foresee, and what is going on in their lives.
And then, once you’ve gathered all your information, it’s time to prove that you genuinely care about them – even more than you care about success. Modify your plans so they work better for your people. Remember, if a leader does not genuinely care about their team, I can almost guarantee that the employees will not care about the leader, the team or the organization.
So, here are some practical tips to help you connect with your employees:
1. Be present.
Actively listen to what your employees think, feel and assess what support they need from you. Many managers assume that they know the answers to the questions they ask their employees, so they simply stop asking questions. But by asking questions, you have the opportunity to demonstrate that you care, and that people matter.
2. Work against a culture of fear.
The more fear that employees have, for example, if they fear a restructure, or losing a job, or managing a heavy workload with additional stress at home – this will hamper their ability to give their best in a work environment. Fear paralyzes people, it keeps them from seeing a situation productively. Get rid of fear, and you have a workforce that is freed up to do their best work. They can be creative, solve problems, be open and honest, and ALL of those things will be better for your customers and better for your business.
When you are with your team, whether it is to attend a meeting or a team lunch, or a fun gathering, be engaged. This tells people that you’re interested in what they have to say and they’re important.
4. Support the work-life balance.
Compassionate leaders know that every employee has commitments, and a life beyond the 9-5. Usually, when an employee does not have a good work-life balance, it almost always has a negative impact on the job. If your employee has a personal situation, such as a birth or death in the family; an illness, a birthday, an accomplishment, etc., there is no better way to show you care than to acknowledge the situation and ask the employee if there is anything you can do to support them.
5. Show gratitude.
There is perhaps no better way for a leader to demonstrate care and appreciation than simply by expressing it. Thanking your employees and team members for their contributions and telling them how grateful you are for the success they bring to the team will go a long way in helping people strive to do better, become more confident and take on challenges more fearlessly.
As we look to the future, we must ask ourselves what really matters to us. Are we chasing short-term gains and overlooking long-term success? Boosting employee engagement is no longer an option, for a business to grow and keep growing, it is imperative that they invest in their most valuable assets.