Decades of research has proven that businesses with people who are ‘engaged’ e.g. happy in their job, will experience a whole heap of advantages versus businesses with disengaged (‘unhappy’ people). Don’t believe me? Here are a few statistics for you.
Businesses with high levels of engagement will experience:
- 5 x greater revenue growth than businesses with disengaged people.
- 2 x annual net income
- 24% higher employee advocacy
- 40% fewer leavers
Employee sense of purpose
A key part of developing an engaged workforce is your people understanding how their role and the part they play in the organisation, links to the business’s overall goals and success; why is their role important?
Your team likely understand their role, and you make sure that you talk about where the organisation is heading – but do they know how one connects to the other? Do they see how the tasks they do every day contribute to those wider company goals?
Connecting individual and company goals
Often, this is the gap that we don’t pay enough attention to. How can we really bring this to life for people so that they feel truly connected to the work they do and its contribution to the organisation’s success? This might be less challenging when you start up – as there is a sense of everyone being ‘in it together’. People will be used to having a good overview of company activity – however, this can become more challenging as you grow and you will need to pay some more deliberate attention here…
We know that now, more than ever, employees are focused on an organisation’s values and its commitment to making a difference. People, generally speaking, want to do meaningful work and make a difference – an employee sense of purpose. It is no longer all about pay and benefits – and anyway, we know that a company can only differentiate so much on pay… employees are much more alert now to what you stand for and commit to as an organisation. So you need to give some thought as to how you can make this really clear and give people the chance to engage.
Your business’ purpose
A good place to start is with your purpose. What is your organisation’s ‘why’? Why do you do what you do? What you do and how you do it will follow on from this . . .but it is your ‘why’ that really sets you apart and keeps you focused on what makes you unique. It also helps you to feel motivated and connected to the work that you do . . . and we need this in order to perform for a sustained period of time . . .
As Simon Sinek in his much-viewed Ted Talk says – your customers buy into a clear purpose that sets you apart from others. This goes for your people too. Increasingly, employees want to feel part of something bigger and worthwhile – and to understand how their individual contributions make a difference.
It’s good practice to ask yourself what you do as a leader to help people connect to the organisation’s big purpose… and this needs to be something that makes people want to get out of bed in the morning! And that leads me on nicely to talking about the importance of you, as a leader, feeling a connection to your own purpose. Understanding what motivates you and doing something about it. As Andy Cope talks about in his book Leadership – The Multiplier Effect, it is actually your job as a leader to ensure you yourself are motivated – and it’s not actually your job to motivate your team. It is not possible to make someone else motivated – motivation is intrinsic. What you can do, however, is to create an environment where people are able to connect to a wider purpose. If people can see that you are connected to a worthy cause, then they will be too. Be clear that as a leader, the messages you are putting out there matter – so you might want to give some thought to what those messages are!
Find out more about employee sense of purpose in our training and development programmes
As we always say, leaders don’t have to always have all of the answers – but, as a leader, you should make it a priority to build a team around you with different perspectives. Ones that challenge you, your thinking and, ultimately help the organisation to progress. A great leader does not only involve their team in reaching solutions but also takes the time to ask whether the right questions are being asked in the first place – and is not afraid to do so. Never assume as a leader that you have it all sorted – there will always be something that you are missing. The trick is to recognize this and stop it from having a negative impact.
Think about how you help your employees to feel valued so that they understand how their contribution has made a difference to the overall goal. Use all opportunities to do this. Make it part of what you do. Everything we are talking about here requires consistent effort – it is not a ‘once and done’. And there are always opportunities to get better at it!
I am a great believer in the importance of treating your employees as adults – and that means that you don’t always need to ‘shield’ them from tough business messages. Often, when you are able to share some of the context around decision-making, you help people understand the bigger picture – and, again, how their role can influence this. If delivered in an authentic way – with positive intent, this can feel very motivating for our people. To feel that they are trusted – and invited – to share their thoughts, opinions and ideas can only increase the level of connection someone feels with their work and organisation as a whole.
The difference a mission makes
The 2013 Emerging Workforce Study by Spherion found companies with clear missions were more likely to have satisfied employees. Companies with well-developed missions also had a 70 per cent rating for keeping current employees for the next five years — compared to 34 per cent for companies with no clear mission.
Ask yourself this – what could you share with your employees that could help them feel more connected to the work they do? What is stopping you from doing this?
And – what more could be possible if you asked people’s opinions? As leaders, we need to make it a priority to create this kind of environment – it gives us the best chance of increased engagement and ultimately, performance. And which one of us doesn’t want that?!
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