Employees are a key differentiator, a potential competitive advantage for every business. Individual companies, and therefore the economy overall, can grow hinges on being able to genuinely engage workers. This is sorely needed to unlock greater innovation, creativity and productivity.
Most employees are neither engaged nor disengaged. Engaging just a small number of these employees could result in a remarkable transformation.
So what can companies do to better enable their workforce to flourish; to encourage people to go those extra yards and achieve business goals?
1. Get the basics right
You must first better understand your employees and find out what motivates them and gets them out of bed every day. What makes employees tick, what causes them to put in discretionary effort or engenders loyalty? Create a blueprint of what an engaged employee looks like in your organisation (an employee survey is often a good start).
2. Ensure everyone’s on the same page
Employees want to clearly understand how their role contributes to wider business goals. With this clarity and purpose, they’re more likely to go beyond what’s asked of them to play their part and to share in any success.
What can be equally important for employees is knowing the expectations of their line manager and the business culture. In some businesses, achieving success is championed only if long-term interests are adhered to, while in others it’s all about ‘quick wins’. Managers must communicate clearly what they expect to ensure individuals understand the explicit and implicit expectations for them and their role.
Companies should also:
- Create a written role profile for every employee, which clearly defines the purpose of a particular job function and its roles and responsibilities
- Support line managers to ensure key behaviours are communicated such as appropriate ways to seek career progression
- Make objective-setting transparent by ‘cascading’ manager’s and director’s objectives to teams.
3. Develop strong leaders
Leaders are, perhaps unsurprisingly, fundamentally important when seeking to get employees to go the extra yards. If employees don’t trust or respect a business leader, it stands to reason that this will undermine their motivation and commitment to the cause. Honesty is a key trait employees look for in leaders.
In order to give their best and be fully engaged with an organisation’s mission, employees also need to have confidence in their leader; likeability is an added bonus.
This need for confidence extends from the leaders themselves to the plans and strategies that they communicate. A well-founded and well-communicated strategy will inspire employees to play their part in achieving it. The best leaders instil a sense of mission in employees where the benefits to the business and the individual are clear, defined and attainable.
Great leaders will also:
- Ensure that every employee knows the company mission and vision and what the strategy is to achieve objectives
- Make an effort to be visible within the company, mixing with their employees in a natural and informal way
- Be adept at communicating in a straightforward and compelling manner.
4. Create compelling (two-way) communications
Effective two-way communication is something that characterises elite businesses where employee engagement levels are high and employees are prepared to put the extra yards in.
At an organisational level, these businesses regularly ask employees for their views and act on what they learn. As employees are on the front line, they have excellent visibility of what works well and not so well and are an excellent resource to draw on for insight and ideas to improve processes and customer service.
And at a local level, managers are encouraged to meet regularly with their teams and direct reports. This is a tremendously simple yet effective way of discovering issues quickly and better understanding how to motivate people.
To improve the effectiveness of communications in your organisation:
- Aim to create ongoing and two-way dialogue between employees and managers
- Encourage upward feedback from employees and provide forums and means to do so formally and less formally
- Don’t forget to tell employees what business changes you make that are as a result of their feedback (so called, ‘you said, we did’ communication).
Going the extra yards essentially comes down to doing more without being asked. This is one of the key behaviours of ‘engaged’ employees. Employees that are willing to go beyond the job description, to take personal accountability and be a force for positive change can be truly transformational to business fortunes.
Simon Chapman is a consultant specialising in digital communications strategies at UK-based HR consultancy and bespoke technology firm ETS.