Here are lessons learned on tackling limiting beliefs (from both leaders and employees) about employee engagement. They are based on my eight years of helping lead a global Fortune 50 corporation’s employee engagement journey. These beliefs created non-productive behaviors and waste. Each had to be pro-actively tackled.
Here are some false limiting beliefs on engagement we had to address: Engagement was only:
1. Measurable in a survey. We taught leaders to stop, look, and listen for everyday things that could indicate if there was engagement or disengagement. For example, do team members consistently arrive right at shift start and leave as soon as the clock strikes quitting time? Are employees applying for jobs outside your team? Do employees physically attend meetings but mentally disconnect by not paying attention or participating?
2. About money. Both external research and our own internal research found that there were two major sets of factors for engagement. The first were rational – things like competitive wages and benefits, a safe place to work, tools, and basic training. These had to be done first. But, then it was critical to move on to the emotional elements which centered on caring, credibility, and trust. Leaders showed these attributes by: soliciting employee ideas; coaching for performance; participating in career discussions; and showing genuine interest in building a professional, positive relationship. Research by the Corporate Leadership Council summed it up best – “while competitive compensation and benefit packages are crucial to attract and retain talent, other drivers of engagement are far more effective in driving discretionary effort.”
3. Leaders’ responsibility. We constantly reinforced the fact that there can’t be any spectators in an engaged, high performing organization. Everyone (executives, leaders, and employees) had an important role to play. To assist this principle, we encouraged divisions, facilities, and teams to: a) clarity and set expectations on what engaged and disengaged behavior actually looked like; b) help employees understand what’s in it for them (WIIFT) when they were engaged and c) reinforce engaged behavior and pro-actively coach and address disengaged behaviors.
4. Adding more things to do. Initially many leaders complained they were already too busy to add more ‘on their plate’. We used a 1960’s Motown hit – ‘The Way You Do the Things You Do’ – to reinforce it was more about the ‘how’. For example: Leaders needed to communicate with their employees. So, rebalancing and doing a little more listening and less talking was engaging. It was also more engaging and productive to effectively delegate more and dump responsibilities less. Even a simple thing like walking from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in an office, factory, or distribution center was more engaging to look up, make eye contact, and acknowledge people than bury your head in a paper report or electronic screen.
What limiting beliefs about engagement are delaying your organization from maximizing performance? What choices need to be re-evaluated?
Tomorrow - Lessons learned on Measurement on An Employee Engagement Journey