Do you know what sets your company apart from the rest for job seekers? Is it your recent accomplishments? How about your Fitness Fridays or Casual Mondays? Or is it the opportunities you provide for employees to grow throughout your firm and take their careers to the next level?
The chances are it’s all of these things, which collaboratively come together to build up your culture. Today, culture is what sells your company above, as innovation is no longer a reliable way to set yourself apart from your competition. What makes for a great culture is great people, engaged in their company.
So how can you get ahead and stay ahead in this current market? How, exactly, do you build up your culture so employees stay more engaged?
Rusty Lindquist, VP of human capital management strategy for BambooHR, recently spearheaded a panel at the virtual HR conference Elevate 2016. His presentation focused on 16 components that are key improving employee engagement efforts. He said when your current workforce is engaged, they’ll be the ones who help sell the company to others and help it grow.
Lindquist’s breakdown to getting your employees more engaged included these steps:
- Objective – knowing where you’re going and why you should care about it.
People need to know where they’re going. Otherwise, they’ll be aimless and lack motivation to keep going forward, simply spinning their wheels in place. Rusty explained that if you were just set at the top of a mountain and left to roam, you would accomplish far less than the person who’s put at the base and has the summit pointed out to them as the goal. Make sure managers are sharing what the company’s mission and objectives are with their teams, to keep everyone working toward that summit.
- Alignment – capability to do work and succeed at it.
Managers need to find the sweet spot between the three factors that make up an employee’s alignment: competency, opportunity, and passion. In other words, an employee needs to actually be able to do what’s set before them, have the chance to move forward afterward, and enjoy what she’s doing. If something is off with these three factors, chances are the employee will be under-performing.
- Plan – knowing what the next step is or how to move forward on your career path.
People need to know what to do next and have a clear visualization of a path they can follow. They can be sold on their objective and feel comfortable in the company, but managers need to make sure there’s no confusion on how to achieve that objective. Break down future goals into achievable steps.
- Space – having what you need to move forward.
Get out of employees’ way so they can create and accomplish personal goals. Space can mean having autonomy, ownership, permission, trust, influence, or just the right tools.
- Contribution – getting things done and feeling like you’re making a difference.
People need to feel that what they’re doing is making a difference. The moment someone feels that they don’t matter, they begin to under-perform. If someone isn’t contributing, it’s a good time to evaluate the other engagement elements to see if something is out of alignment.
- Score – keeping score of your contributive value.
Progress and impact need to be measured in some way. If a sense of progress is removed, people tend to contribute less value overall. Rusty compared it to playing a game with yourself. There’s no sense of accomplishment or context if you’re just racking up points by yourself.
- Momentum – having a sense of moving forward and inevitability.
Momentum may drop when a project is completed or canceled. Before a new project starts up to take the old’s place, there’s a window where there’s no momentum. While periodic breaks are good, make sure managers are keeping employees focused on the overall summit.
- Investment – feeling like you have skin in the game.
This is a factor you can notice outside of the workplace. For example, consider a stamp incentive program at coffee shops. Each time you visit, you’re given a stamp and when you achieve a certain number you’re given a reward. These types of programs instill in you a sense of investment, that you’ve potentially lost out on if you quit now. This is the same sort of feeling employees need to feel from their managers.
- Growth – feeling like you’re gaining mastery, progressing personally or professionally.
Everyone likes the idea that they’re getting better at what they do. When careers stagnate, people begin to stall and lose interest in moving forward. Have managers challenge employees so they feel like they’re growing by providing them opportunities to improve personally and professionally.
- Meaning – finding fulfillment and purpose in what you do.
Connect people to the work they’re doing through a story. This isn’t necessarily done through the company’s objective or mission statement, and it should be more personal. Managers need to identify what matters to their team, and then connect that meaning to their work through a narrative or story.
- Value – feeling appreciated and adequately rewarded for your efforts.
Value isn’t completely tied up in compensation, since more compensation doesn’t always directly improve someone’s engagement. It also relies on rewards and recognition. Managers need to find ways to give people all three.
- Identity – knowing who you are, what you’re capable of, and believing in yourself.
This building block relies on the theory of functional fixedness, the idea that people rely on their past successes to inform their next actions. If something has worked in the past, why not continue doing it? Managers need to push employees to think outside the box, consistently innovating new solutions to old problems.
- Leadership – having someone who believes in, challenges, and shows you the way.
Every workplace, in some fashion, has a leader who is capable of showing people the way. Most times, these leaders are the ones who can self-diagnose and critique themselves. These employees aren’t necessarily managers or in executive-level positions, but they are the ones people lean on when they need a guiding light. Give these people a platform.
- Relationship – having connections with people you care about.
When people are invested in each other, they have a sense that they don’t want to let their team down. Even when things with the company are bad, people will tough it out because they want to stay for the people they’ve built up relationships with. Foster those relationships.
- Environment – having surroundings that support and enable your efforts.
If people are living in a bad environment, their behaviors will reflect their surrounding negativity. This was evident in New York’s broken windows theory. The city had high amounts of crime. Some people wanted to bolster the criminal and justice system, and crack down on that crime. A new mayor instead invested in beautifying the environment, cleaning up the city and fixing broken windows. Amazingly, the crime was reduced in those areas. Be aware of your company’s environment and how it impacts employees.
- Renewal – finding restoration through balance and moderation.
Finally, this block of engagement is important for every employee. There may be a time when a great worker becomes disengaged and feels burned out. A short break or new challenging project may be in order to rouse spirits once more.