We’re going to walk through how to improve employee engagement by discussing why values are so important, introducing a scenario and lessons learned, and finally, a summary.
Here is the simplest definition of employee engagement I’ve encountered:
“Employee engagement is when business values the employee and the employee values the business.”
– MacLeod & Clarke, Crown
Numerous studies show that organizations with an engaged workforce outperform their competitors; here are just three:
Why are Values so Important to Engagement?
The underlying element in getting your employees to value your business is to remind them that they made the right choice. You do this by reaffirming the values which attracted your employees in the first place – every day they come to work.
(Check out this excerpt from my keynotes on the importance of living your values)
Once an employee chooses a place of work, they’ve implicitly decided to support your values. Now, it is incumbent upon every member of the organization to support the culture they have chosen.
This is especially true for leaders.
At the beginning of my career, I desperately needed to get in the cockpit to gain flight experience. Perhaps more important, I needed to fix my weakness with navigation.
Finally, when I was on the flight schedule one Saturday morning, I returned from my pre-flight to learn that my crew chief smelled of alcohol.
Safety is paramount in Army aviation, but I was too new and simply had no idea what to do as the senior officer. Jon Welda, one of our aviation technical experts, advised me to take my soldier in for a drug & alcohol test.
This decision was especially hard for me. It was early morning, there were no senior leaders around, and I had been at this, my first assignment in the Republic of Korea, less than three months.
My crew chief had a wife and family, and he lived off base.
The responsibility of upholding the corporate values is never easy when you know that your decision could adversely impact another person’s career.
I liked the authority that came with my position, but I did not like the responsibility that was all mine that Saturday morning.
That event was a fork in the road decision for me very early in my career. It challenged whether or not I would be able to accept the responsibilities of my leadership role.
I decided it was best to heed Jon’s advice, but spent the rest of the weekend questioning my decision.
Early Monday morning, I learned the most important lesson of my career. Three different career professionals, a commissioned officer, a warrant officer, and a non-commissioned officer, all communicated two very important things.
If I was going to be a leader in their Army:
- I needed to live their
- I was going to have to fulfill my responsibilities and make some tough decisions, like uphold the culture that brought me, and so many others, to this same career.
When one spends more than 50% of their waking hours involved with work, they want to feel like they made the right choice. Everyone wants that!
Ideally, whether you are an employee or a manager, you chose your place of work because you believe that you found a place where you’ll be comfortable. You, and every member of your team, want to feel they have found a home where their personal and professional values align.
When you remind your team each day, that they came to the right place, you’ll validate to everyone that they are investing their most important resource, their time, wisely. By honoring their choice, you will show that business values the employee. In turn, employees will value your business.
Leaders have to set the example and live the corporate values.
So, if you’re looking for ideas of how to improve employee engagement, start by living your values!