Recently I’ve been watching the TV show America’s Got Talent and while I think some of the acts are downright crazy (the roller skating dancer, really???), the magicians on the show fascinate me. I’m amazed at the sleight of hand tricks being done and like most people I scratch my head and wonder how they did it. Of course they want you to be kept in the dark and just enjoy the show, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to figure it out.
So what does my fascination with magic have to do with engagement in the workplace? I believe that creating a committed and passionate workforce is absolutely not rocket science. It really isn’t hard, but it does require that you go behind the curtain to understand what is needed to create the magic of full engagement. This is one of those times that the making of the ‘magic trick’ is actually more important than the trick itself.
Here are the five elements that I believe create the magic of engagement. If any one of the steps are missed or done incorrectly, the ultimate goal of attaining full engagement will be hard to reach. These elements are what your employees need (and want) from their organizations in order to be engaged on the job.
Employees today want to work for a company that has meaning. This is true particularly for Millennials and Gen Yers. Meaning is what helps to make that connection stick between the employee and the organization. There are a number of companies today that make it part of their mission to give back and one of my favorites is TOMS. For every pair of shoes that a customer buys they donate a pair to someone in need. For every bag of coffee a customer buys they donate one week of clean water to a person in need. So many organizations can learn from how they run their business and it shouldn’t be a surprise that they have an engaged workforce that many people would love to work for.
It’s really important for organizations today to share their vision, mission and strategy with their employees at all levels. The more people know about where you are going, the more willing they are to move along in an engaged manner.
Your employees want to work for a company that provides them with growth opportunities. That doesn’t always mean a promotion to the next level job (as the days of taking a straight shot up the proverbial ladder are long gone), but rather it’s about taking a zigzag route to the top. It means being given opportunities to learn a new skill and to add to your portfolio of experience.
Employees today relish the opportunity to be asked for their opinion. They want the chance to provide input on numerous things that they see (even perhaps more clearly than the top leaders). No one knows what your customers want better than the people who are the first line of contact such as customer service reps, retail sales associates or waiters for example. No one knows what their employees may need more than their front-line managers. Asking for input helps to get employees more connected (and aligned) with their organization.
All of us have either had children or at least remember our childhood. When a parent asks a child to do something, the first thing that usually comes out of their mouth is “Why?” They have a hard time doing what is asked until they understand the Why. It’s no different in the workplace. Setting context is one of the most important things a leader can (and must) do in order to ensure engagement. It’s so important to let people know why you are doing something. Think about a company announcing layoffs. If you say nothing about the reason behind the decision you will end up with people spending time trying to guess as to your rationale and then spreading fear about the future to their coworkers. If instead, a leader provides context about the reason for the decision and then lays out a roadmap for how they are going to go forward. It’s amazing how much of the chatter will stop and people will be more willing to move ahead in partnership with you.
Simply waving a magic wand will not work, but instead focusing on ensuring that all five of these steps are in place will absolutely lead an organization to that holy grail of high engagement.