The Only Thing Constant is Change

Why engagement needs to be foundational

Building the foundation

When building a new house from scratch, the first thing that happens is that concrete is poured to create a strong foundation. When it dries, any cracks found have to be repaired before the next floor of the house can be added on. Similarly, in the workplace you need to have a strong corporate culture to act as the foundation or it will be hard to layer other things on top such as recognition, compensation, feedback and ultimately engagement.

Despite a leader’s best intention to build a crack-free foundation, numerous challenges can stand in the way. Changing market conditions. Shifting priorities from management and employees. Pressure to provide a higher level of exceptional customer service. Social media that can make or break a brand in seconds. Given the fluid and ever changing nature of today’s society, both at work and at home, leaders have to constantly reassess the landscape in order to keep their organization and people on the right track. Given this, how do they go about solving the engagement problem?

It starts with ensuring that goal alignment is well communicated and occurring at every level of the organization. Senior leaders should be expected to set and communicate business objectives. Middle managers are responsible for creating specific objectives for their employees that support these broader business goals. Finally, all employees need some level of autonomy and accountability for meeting their individual goals.

To help leaders find more stability during times of change and better address the ever-present issue of engagement, it is important they understand 5 key elements.

  • Develop Distinct Values: Create a clear set of company values that are known and understood by everyone, regardless of their job title.
  • Embrace Company-wide Alignment: Ensure your employees are aligned with the company’s vision, values, mission, and goals.
  • Create a Clear Culture: Build culture intentionally by focusing on those things that support the kind of organization you aspire to lead.
  • Prioritize Management: Select and train the right managers. All too often companies tap someone on the shoulder because they’ve been a great individual contributor and say, “Congratulations, you’ve been promoted to a manager.” Now what?
  • Support Learning & Development: Enable people’s success by ensuring they have the tools, resources, and support needed to do their jobs effectively.

Culture and engagement go hand in hand. It’s hard to separate them. If you have a strong corporate culture, it’s likely that you will have a higher level of engagement. But even having reached corporate culture nirvana doesn’t mean it will stay there. Numerous factors can shake the foundation, such as entering into a merger, implementing cost reductions, needing to downsize, or cutting a key member of a team that isn’t performing. It’s all about how the messages are given and received.

Layering on the 6 C’s of engagement

Once the organization’s foundation is strong, amazing companies succeed in creating engaged teams by focusing on the 6 C’s. These tips will help leaders at all levels in an organization keep a focus on engagement.

  1. Collaboration
    Employees don’t just work together: they are vested in each other’s success. Collaborative organizations know that there is more power in ‘WE’ than in “I”.
  2. Creativity
    Employees are heard and their ideas are valued. Engaged employees are more likely to be innovative and creative.
  3. Connections
    It all starts with managers who need to be able to connect with their employees. From there, engaged employees create engaged and satisfied customers who create more sales. There’s no denying the cause and effect of this relationship.
  4. Celebration
    It’s important to celebrate your successes along the way so that employees can feel a sense of accomplishment and get recognized. There’s nothing better than having a reason to celebrate.
  5. Community
    You need to forge the connection between your employees and the communities in which they live and work by giving back. Here’s where one’s work and personal life can come together in brilliant harmony.
  6. Context
    Saving the most important “C” for last, let’s talk about the one thing that can make or break an organization’s ability to create a workforce full of engaged employees. The simple act of providing context for decisions is the most powerful thing a leader can do to foster the right environment, particularly in times of challenge and change.

Nothing rips at the fabric of trust more than not knowing or understanding why a decision was made. It’s okay to share bad news, but at least let your employees learn and understand the reason behind it. If you have to announce layoffs, explain the business reason driving that decision. If you are granting something positive like a performance-related bonus, give them the facts behind the decision so they can see how their hard work is paying off with strong results for the company. No matter the situation, everyone wants to know the why behind the what. Context helps to provide clarity, direction and meaning, and serves to get everyone aligned and on the same page.

Focusing on the 6 C’s consistently will create the foundation for an engaged, committed organization that is able to navigate change and easily handle all challenges that may arise. From this strong base, anything is possible!

About the Author: Ruth K. Ross, Engagement Evangelist, Speaker & Author

After a very successful thirty-year career as a senior HR executive for top companies in both New York City and San Francisco, including the last ten as an Executive Vice President of Human Resources at Wells Fargo, Ruth Ross started her own firm focused on employee engagement in 2012. Her recent book, “Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career,” is based on Ross’ own experiences and research, exploring the epidemic of employee disengagement in Corporate America. Learn more about her book, speaking topics, consulting services, upcoming events and blog at Follow at @ruthkross.