“Engagement” — the concept of employees connecting with their work in a purposeful way — has been the Holy Grail of successful performance. Yet new research shows that engagement alone isn’t enough. Corporate culture plays a significant role not only in supporting engagement, but also in supporting the people who drive the process.
That is the theme of “All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results,” a new book by best-selling authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. In collaboration with consulting firm Towers Watson, the authors examined some 30,000 personal employee surveys to determine the operative principles behind a firm’s culture.
“Everyone wants to be proud of where they work and feel good about how they are treated,” says Elton, an employee engagement consultant who has worked with companies such as American Express (AXP), Avis Budget Group (CAR), Pepsi (PEP), and Texas Roadhouse (TXRH). “I think good business is always commonsense — that is uncommonly practiced!”
The benefits of engagement are significant. Average revenues for high-engagement companies are 25 percent higher than less engaged firms, he notes. “We create very simple and workable models for our clients and readers. There is a road map to follow, and that is where really good things start to happen in organizations,” Elton says.
Putting this concept into practice requires analysis and practice, not to mention commitment. Among the steps to boost employee engagement are (as the management lingo puts it) “finding the burning platform,” or showing urgency to change; focusing on customers; stressing agility; and holding management and employees accountable for results, while also supporting them in their efforts.
What I appreciate about All In is its practicality. There is a self-diagnostic tool that readers can use to get a feel for the strength of engagement in their firm. There are also more than 52 lessons that managers can apply to create a more holistic and more engaged culture. Some of these key points include.
Get ideas out of their pockets. Create ways employees can contribute their ideas via a designated ombudsman.
Be a part-time lover. Value the front-line people who may not work full-time with you but work closely with your customers.
Don’t miss the “previews.” Engage your employees in regular coaching conversations. Do not wait until year-end performance reviews — keep the coaching going.
Make small commitments. Define a stretch-goal in a Monday staff meeting and hold yourself and teammates to deliver on it by week’s end.
Send a handwritten “thank you” note. The personal touch always means more. So take the time to personally pen “thank you” notes to people who make a positive difference to you.
While none these suggestions are earth-shattering in and of themselves, research shows they do build engagement. “Creating the right culture is not a ‘nice to have’ anymore,” Elton told me. “It is a ‘must have’ if you want to really break out of the pack and become a best-in-class organization. When the culture works, everything else works a lot better.”
The deeper and more supportive a company’s culture is, the more committed people are to their work. And that drives the bottom line upward.