Employee Engagement Has to be More Than a Tagline

Submitted by Jeff Galas on Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:06

Employee engagement is a priority that will never be finished.

I have seen just about every attempt you could think of to motivate employees. Employee Engagement is a cliche for some, a problem for some but the companies that get it right always seem to succeed.

There are many options on how to build employee engagement but for the most part I have seen one of two options.

First, company A used carrot and stick management. External motivation that allowed the employer to control.

I have learned is referred to as KITA – Kick in the Ass motivation. What this company thought was there are two ways to motivate employees.

Positive KITA – At the end of the line if you do good work there is a treat (AKA a bonus, a commission) for you. Rewards Rewards Reward.

Negative KITA – At the end of the line you are fired if you don’t do good work.

With a rewards based system measurement became everything. Employees were focused on the numbers and often used “hacks” to trick the numbers. Furthermore, employees spent much time focused on how they were measured and where they stood in comparison to the employee next to them that they didn’t have much time to improve the system.

The internal competition seemed to have created a spark. However, we quickly realized employees more reluctant to help those next to them. Less time was spent coaching each other and discussing possible ways to improve the results.

The results showed the effects. Management was frustrated as there seemed to be a lot of activity, the top players got better but the overall results did not change.

The second company implemented a different approach. Instead of focusing on a cookie cutter reward system they dug into what mattered to their employees:

1. Personal Mastery: This Company focused on what the employees wanted and where they needed to develop and how to develop them for their next step.

2. Unified Purpose/Vision: There was not employee in the company that couldn’t articulate how their work changed the lives of others either within the company or for the client directly. They focused on what was next for the company and created a shared vision for how this impacted the employees.

3. Autonomy: Giving employees power to improve their work and the support needed to do so. If the employee had an idea they had control to implement the idea using a Plan – Do – Check – Act method that allowed the company to learn. The employees were empowered to improve both the value to the customer, make decisions on how their work is done and just as importantly about their personal path in the company.

This company didn’t struggle with turnover instead it was understood and planned for. When the limited turnover happened it was due to that person being able to find a promotion outside of the company that was not available internally. This was a major benefit when it came time to recruit the next A player.

Failure was not punished but rather it presented an opportunity to learn and improve.

This approach proved to create an open atmosphere ending with employee lead improvement projects, communication across divisions and reduction of waste.

In the end the two companies couldn’t have looked any more different. The first company, managing people by KITA, struggled to create any growth and struggling to recruit the right team.

The second company grew considerable. Their business margins grew and their clients consistently returned asking for more. More importantly their employees found a way to always meet the demand.

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