I’m often asked, “what does it take to create a highly engaged workforce?” As you might expect from a psychologist, my typical answer is “it depends.” Then again, if I were forming a business today, there are three tenets I would follow to ensure stable footing for the enduring success of my enterprise:
Develop a business model and strategy that includes people as the foundation.
Incorporating a plan for talent at the beginning is essential to ensuring leaders initially “buy in” and then maintain that focus during execution. Disengaged organizations have a bad habit of prioritizing profit over people.
Success breeds success. High performers want to work with other high performers. ‘A’ managers tend to hire ‘A’ players. ‘B’ managers tend to hire ‘C’ players because they are threatened by higher performers. Once you get a poor manager in place, you essentially downgrade an entire business unit. Conversely, a healthy talent pipeline enhances succession planning.
Provide them with a great environment in which to work.
This is a 5-step plan that can be achieved by making these daily changes:
- Connect employees’ daily duties with the strategic goals of the company and keep it simple.
- Ensure their role utilizes their strengths AND allows for learning and development. When development is needed, provide them with training and coaching.
- Managers need to provide frequent, consistent feedback (both positive and negative) to employees. Once they make this a habit, reduce the focus on formal, annual performance appraisals.
- Implement programs (safety, wellness, flexibility) that demonstrate the company’s interest in their well-being, not just their productivity.
- Pay them fairly and provide benefits that cover their necessities.
These practices are easy to outline when starting a business. But don’t let your history, whether it be seven years or 70, serve as an obstacle to begin identifying and prioritizing your company’s needs. Change is possible, but it takes both commitment and patience. You cannot force people to be engaged or hope they’ll transform through the osmotic pressure created from completing a survey. Transformation requires leadership and action.