Engagement: The strategic way to win in business

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Canadian businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, but as more and more companies move offshore to remain competitive, those that remain face specific, ever-increasing challenges.
 
Without a doubt, one of the greatest of these challenges is the attraction and retention of talent. Intelligent, honest, hard-working employees are critical to an organization’s ongoing success, but now more than ever, good people are hard to find – and hold on to – and the most prominent influence on employee performance, loyalty (both employee and customer) and return on investment is engagement.
 
In a 2013 Gallup poll, it was revealed that around 70% of people feel disengaged at work, and most disengaged employees would change employers right now for as little as a 5% pay increase.
 
There is no denying that disengaged employees have a direct – and negative – impact on your business’s bottom line. Employee discontent doesn’t stop at the front lines of business, either. Customers sense and respond to unhappy employees. Excellent customer service drives repeat business and brand loyalty. An engaged employee creates new bonds with customers and fosters recurrent business. Their enthusiasm and pride in their work increases customer satisfaction.
 
At the other end of the scale, disengaged employees put themselves before the customer. They lack the desire to delight customers, and they often lack an understanding of the organization’s desired customer experience.
 
There are two fundamental requirements when building a thriving organization:
  1. 1 Quality leadership, engagement and culture, which I call the ‘heart’ of the organization
  2. 2 Quality systems, processes and game plans, which I call the ‘brain’ of the organization
 
It’s clear from the above data that your customers’ behaviours are driven by their hearts and by positive human interaction above all else. It’s also clear that they will only be satisfied to the point of referral when your people transact with them in a heartfelt way.
 
This won’t project onto your customers unless it is a critical part of your internal culture. The people in your organization should interact with each other in a heartfelt manner with all dealings. Everyone must live and breathe this ethos. Once you get that right, it will naturally flow to your customers.
 
So, how do we ensure employee engagement and a positive effect on our customers? It starts from the top. Poor leadership contributes heavily to employee disengagement, and it’s the number-one reason why employees leave a business and go elsewhere. It’s up to our leaders to turn their attention to their people, getting them actively engaged regularly through new, innovative and inclusive methods, thus creating shared vision and buy-in.
 
Show how much you care
To attract and retain the best and brightest, leaders need to embrace their people and take steps to ensure they feel they are their organization’s most valuable asset. Most leaders know less about their own people than their people know about them. Do you know what your employees are missing? Do you know what they need to feel engaged and happy?
 
What we feel is influenced by what we truly value, and we are all motivated differently. Take the time to learn more about your people’s wants and needs. Take the time to understand who they are and what drives them. By adjusting your approach accordingly, peak performance will follow.
 
Empower your people
The traditional hierarchical structure is not the most effective option for businesses these days. Instead, successful companies are moving to a more flexible organizational structure that empowers, allowing employees to make more of their own decisions and avoid the rigidity of traditional models.
 
Employees thrive when they are given a sense of ownership to accomplish their work with fewer approvals and checkpoints, and with a smaller degree of intervention. Challenge them to take on more responsibility, let them set their own key accountabilities, and hold them accountable for the results. Equality promotes unity and trust, encouraging your employees to share their honest opinions and ideas. A dictatorial approach is one of the most effective ways to drive an employee out.
 
Practice habitual leadership
Habitual leadership is ongoing, and it’s all about actions. Trustworthiness does not happen overnight. Leaders earn it over time based on their positive personal attitudes and behaviours towards others.
 
Leaders who are deserving of trust are dependable, reliable, forthright, truthful and ethical. They care for and recognize their people, exhibiting openness and transparency. Employees are drawn to leaders who are genuine and honourable. These managers are valued and admired. Conversely, employees flee when managers are unfair, lie, cheat, offend and deceive.
 
Introduce a collective engagement strategy
The first step toward ensuring collective engagement, group buy-in and a winning culture is to introduce a structured, all-action weekly program that focuses on the growth and development of the individual and the organization as a whole. It must incorporate activities that trigger the seven neurological motivators that are key when it comes to creating change and achieving rapid success:
  • Pain
  • Pleasure
  • Reward
  • Recognition
  • Self-improvement
  • Self-direction
  • Transcendent purpose
 
For an organization to accelerate ahead of its competitors, engagement must come first. In today’s competitive world, your people are your edge.
 
 
Richard Maloney is the author of The Minds of Winning Teams: Creating Team Success Through Engagement & Culture. He specializes in the development of high-performance teams, individuals and organizations.

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