Few business owners knowingly hire people who really don’t give a damn about the type of work they’ll be doing or the type of business they will be working for. In fact, most new employee/employer relationships enjoy what is commonly termed a “honeymoon” period at the outset, where each enthusiastically enjoys getting to know the other better. But once the honeymoon is over, just like in interpersonal relationships, it’s just as easy for each to take the other for granted, starting a slow (or not-so-slow) decline toward indifference or even dislike.
And just as with romantic relationships or friendships, the key to keeping the other party interested and feeling enthusiastically engaged in the employer/employee relationship comes down to this awareness and consequent investments made on the part of both to do so.
Nearly every romance expert on the planet suggests that one of the keys to maintaining interest within a relationship is to maintain a sense of mystery – the idea that there is more to get to know about the other party, and that these heretofore unexplored areas are intriguing, interesting and of real value. And ultimately, this principle carries the idea these areas of mystery wouldn’t just be interesting to the other party within the relationship, but would be attractive to others as well – in other words, if you don’t pursue your relationship, someone else probably will.
So what does this have to do with employee engagement?
If you are an employer, you need to understand that when it comes to employee engagement, less than 1/3 of employees probably feel “engaged” with their job (or your company) on average. Most of your employees probably do not identify themselves with the brand of your business. When hired, they agreed to perform certain tasks in exchange for paychecks and this doesn’t always translate into employee engagement.
While it would be wonderful if it were the case, many business owners fall victim to the idea that all of their employees should love their business as much as they do and should act accordingly in the best interests of the business. But in many cases, business owners regularly experience the opposite, and are left scratching their heads trying to figure out why:
- Employees won’t follow procedures or support campaigns in pursuit of business goals
- Employees don’t even know where the mission statement of the company is hung, let alone what it is or how their job relates to it
- Employees show up late, leave early, call in sick often and count down the days to vacation
- Employees are indifferent, rude or downright hostile to customers who express problems or ask questions
- Employees make customers wait, don’t seem to see people waiting for help and otherwise contaminate the customer experience
- Employees aren’t empathetic to customer needs, can’t readily answer their questions and don’t go out of their way to do so
- Employees bicker among themselves, or gossip among themselves, or even stand around speaking to one another in the aisles or at the checkout while customers wait or have to navigate between or around them
- Managers seem more concerned about protecting their own butts or carving out power centers than in growing the company
If any of these negative symptoms describe your business, you need to take action in order to create employee engagement or you may even need to admit that you have some people in the wrong positions, and work to create the kind of employee culture conducive to employee engagement through more strategic hiring and training. Ask yourself:
- Is the lack of employee engagement demonstrated at my business present because employees don’t know enough (about the history, mission and vision, goals, etc.) of the company or because they know and don’t care?
- How can I transfer the passion that I have for my business, its customers and the industry to my employees?
- How can I change the way I choose employees during the hiring process to include consideration of how much they do (or might come to) care about the welfare of my business, or at least about the customers themselves?
- How can I make employees more aware of how they impact the customer experience or how their role helps to fulfill the mission of the organization?
- What can I do to make employees feel more vital to the company and more valued by the company?
- What can I do to tie the success and development of individuals within my business to the overall success of my business?
Conversely, if you are an employee, you need to realize that your employer may not be aware of all that you are capable of or what your personal goals and dreams are. It is incumbent upon you to share these with your employer if you want to create a career path and professional development plan that corresponds to your personal interests and desires (not just your capabilities). Ask yourself:
- What about my job do I truly love doing and what types of activities would I want to spend more time on (or what type of activities do I want to learn to do?)
- What tasks am I capable of performing but which I don’t enjoy or wish were not part of my job?
- How can I prove to my employer that my true value to the organization lies in giving me more responsibilities in the areas in which my competence and passion aligns, rather than those I dislike?
There is untapped potential within your organization in many areas, and employee engagement is just one of those areas. Employee engagement, intrigue and interest aren’t items you can require as part of a job description, but they are equally if not even more important when it comes to the ultimate success of your business. And while you can’t mandate these types of emotions, you can write job descriptions and create an employee on-boarding or employee orientation program designed to reinforce the behaviors an employee would normally demonstrate if they were emotionally invested in the success of your business. Make sense? And can you imagine how your business would be different if all of your employees felt engaged and identified themselves personally with the brand of your business?
And on the flip side, can you imagine the level of employee engagement which your business could enjoy if you were aware of all of the strengths and passions of your employees as individuals (and created real value within their current jobs and a path for development which corresponded to those passions?)