Right now – as you read this sentence – your organization’s greatest assets are alienating your customers, resisting changes or costing your organization money that could be used for more productive uses.
I’m talking about your people.
Your people are more important than your products or services for your long-term success. Every day, they drive out of your parking lot carrying institutional knowledge about how your business operates. If your culture engages them to stay and contribute, your ability to build and sustain a culture that thrives in today’s world of hyper-change increases. If it doesn’t, people apply the effort you need to succeed to something else – such as the Fantasy Football League in which they participate.
According to the Gallup organization, approximately 68% of employees are either not engaged or, worse, actively disengaged. Those who are simply not engaged tend to be task oriented rather than goal oriented. They do exactly as they are told – nothing more or nothing less. Chances are they feel their talent is overlooked, or hesitate to share ideas that could make your operation better.
The actively disengaged (17.5%) undermine others’ performance. They voice their mistrust to co-workers and their discontent is readily visible to everyone with whom they come in contact.
The impact of the disengaged on your bottom line is real. ISR, a leading global employee research and consulting firm, found that companies where employees felt connected saw a 19.2% increase in operating income, while those where employees were not engaged saw a 32.7% decline. That is a difference of almost 52%.
There is no denying the importance of a culture where people feel connected and engaged. People want to work in a place where they can succeed and feel their contribution is appreciated. They want leaders who care about them and their growth. They want to be challenged, and they want to feel proud of what they do and for whom they work.
Here are six things you can do immediately to expand the connection with your greatest assets and achieve better results:
1. Connect your vision and goals with individual performance. Specific goals and expectations linked to a common, compelling vision provide a sense of purpose, contribution, and focus. Provide the time, tools, and training to accomplish the job. Doing more with less does not mean doing everything with nothing. Reinforce the idea that quality is important and you want everyone to succeed.
2. Make recognition and encouragement a priority. Sincere recognition ensures that your stars don’t look for a better environment in which to utilize their talents. It tells the poor performers that you are willing to acknowledge their value rather than only look at the negative; and it communicates that good performance matters to the majority of your team that does a good job every day.
3. Address poor performance. Good employees grow weary of shouldering more than their share of the performance load. Straightforward, sincere efforts to help people improve will show up through a change in the individuals’ behavior.
4. Use honest mistakes as a learning opportunity. The most important lessons often come from mistakes. How are honest mistakes handled in your organization? People who feel punished for honest mistakes avoid the risk that is inherent in innovation. Communication becomes closed, and the opportunity to share valuable knowledge is lost.
5. Remove a barrier every thirty to sixty days. Ask your staff to identify and prioritize the obstacles that prevent excellence. Begin with those that can be accomplished quickly and provide visible results. Utilize staff at all levels to design and implement solutions. When the list is exhausted, create a new one and renew the effort.
6. Live your values. Policies and practices that are inconsistent with value statements are a leading cause of mistrust. Consider an audit of your key policies, practices and processes to determine those that are most out of step with an environment that engage your staff.
The choice is clear: Allow disconnected staff members to define your performance or build a culture of connection that leverages your most important assets to deliver results. Which will you choose?
Randy Pennington is a business performance expert, award-winning author and speaker, and leading authority on leadership, culture, and change. Through his engaging articles, books, and presentations, Randy teaches companies and associations how to make change work within their organization; achieve positive results; effectively lead through transformation efforts; and build a strong organizational culture to safeguard success.