A few years ago, my wife and I applied to adopt a child from another country. The pile of forms, approvals, recommendations, studies, and fingerprints had proven enough for both the United States and Philippines governments to grant their blessing on our adoption. We were officially approved to adopt a child. Our next step was to wait.
While waiting for our child, we decided to adopt a cat from the local animal shelter. Again we filled out the forms and waited. Then came their response – we were NOT approved to adopt a cat. What? Two national governments had endorsed us to bring a human child into our home, but this animal shelter denied us from adopting a cat. Can you believe it?
We learned a surprising lesson that day: you can’t adopt a cat just because you can adopt a kid. But some organizations are making the same mistake with employee engagement.
They want to improve employee engagement, so they offer cushy benefits and bonuses. They pay for gym memberships and serve breakfast and install a climbing wall. By lavishing luxuries on their employees, they hope to make them happy.
But according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, “The most meaningful [benefits] aren’t rock climbing walls and unlimited beverages. The benefits and perks that employees truly care about are those that offer them greater flexibility, autonomy, and the ability to lead a better life.” Thus extraordinary benefits don’t guarantee employee engagement.
When I interview candidates for new jobs in our company, I tell them we commit three things to our employees:
We’ll make expectations clear.
According to Gallup, the foundation of engagement is having clear expectations. If employees cannot strongly agree with the statement, “I know what is expected of me,” then they won’t be as engaged as they can be. Our company makes expectations clear by establishing a role and outcome statement for each employee, which is accessible to everyone in the company. In regular check-in meetings, managers review expectations and clarify what may be missing.
We’ll help you discover and use your strengths.
Although management expert Peter Drucker said that by the age of 25, people should have a clear view of their strengths, many people do not. Your strengths are your means of making inspired contributions to the world. Organizations that do not help employees know their strengths nor use them every day are ignoring their workers’ chief means of providing value, and are ignoring them at their peril. Great performance comes from using your strengths, says Drucker.
We’ll help you grow in meaningful ways.
More and more, employees expect to be growing in their workplaces. Gallup says, “The desire to learn and grow is a natural human need and one that is required to keep employees motivated and progressing.” This is evidenced by the shift away from manager as boss to manager as coach in many organizations. Employees are looking to be coached by their managers, other leaders, or external coaches. When employees can point to a growth plan, they report higher levels of engagement.
After nine months of focusing on these three, we improved engagement by 26%. Our results confirm Gallup: “If employees don’t have great managers, if they don’t know what’s expected of them or if they are not in roles that match their talents, then the longest possible list of perks is not going to be a cure-all.”
So take it from us. If you want to improve employee engagement, start by clarifying expectations, operating in strengths, and planning meaningful growth. You can’t adopt a cat by adopting a kid.
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