Employee Engagement: Focus on the People

People make the difference.

It’s important to understand that each employee makes a decision to support or not support your company mission from the moment they become a member of your company. I believe a successful onboarding of a new team member begins with the culture. Do you have a culture built on trust? Do strong, respectful, safe relationships exist between the leaders of the organization and the team? If not, you have a long road ahead of you and your new team member might choose not to actively engage in your company, based on the culture you display.
I was taught a long time ago that if you want to understand how your culture is interpreted by employees, initiate an honest, comfortable discussion about it with the person who holds the lowest position on the organizational chart.

Employee satisfaction surveys also help benchmark a company. When you can provide a safe method for your team to answer some tough questions — questions that solicit answers you might not like — you’ll have the start of something you can build upon. You’ll gain an understanding of the positive elements within your company and the areas that might need improvements.

A few performance indicators always stand out as elements of a good culture in every survey I’ve ever seen or been a part of:

  1. People enjoy working with each other.
  2. A high degree of respect in the workplace between team members and leaders.
  3. Team willingness to do what it takes to make the company successful.
  4. Long-term plans to stay with the company.
  5. Employee pride in the company.

If you achieve high scores in these areas, you are certainly doing something right. So how do we get there?

Your company culture begins with leadership and the relationships those leaders build with the rest of the team. As with any relationship, trust is an essential ingredient in creating a meaningful relationship.

When I teach leadership courses, I always ask participants to tell me about the team they lead. I’m not looking for an answer that regurgitates the company organizational chart. I am looking for specific information about their teams that indicates they have meaningful, thoughtful conversations with their team members. Can they tell me what their hobbies are? What did they do last weekend? What are they passionate about? What are their hopes and dreams? The answers to these questions begin with a simple, five-minute conversation that focuses on the team member. When a leader is generous with his or her time to really get to know the team, they create a relationship that is meaningful and impactful for a lasting connection. Leaders who continue to have these conversations with their teams contribute to the culture and really promote the idea that it’s the people who make a difference.

Someone once said, “Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will.” I fully agree.

This article appeared in the February 2016 issue of Prairie Business Magazine