Friends Foster Engagement

From Bert and Ernie to Buzz and Woody to R2-D2 and C-3PO, we can see that friendships are important. Friends help us to overcome adversity and relish in great successes. The relationships that we build and the memories that we share fuel our lives and give us fulfilling experiences.

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Previously in the business world, there was a pretty strong feeling that our personal and professional lives should remain separate. However, in today’s business climate, it’s important that we have strong bonds in the work place.

In fact, friendships are so powerful. They can help us achieve our goals, make us happier and lessen our grief. If we think about some of our most trying moments, we can probably think of friends who helped get us out of those situations. When we build a quality group of individuals that we like to share our lives with, great things can happen to us. I think the number of friends is up to the individual, as some people need a lot and others don’t need as many; however, friends are still a necessity in our personal and professional lives.

Friends can even increase the engagement of workers in the work place. In a Gallup survey, it was found that friendship could be a bigger motivator than ever thought.  It can actually turn a moderately engaged employee into a highly engaged employee, which is good for the bottom line. According the article, a really strong bond with a team member, or having a best friend at work, allows employees to be more productive, have a higher potential retention rate and be more positive about the company.

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This is not to say that you have to go to each team member and force them to be friends, but it is to say that businesses and leaders should make time for team and relationship building. Leaders should be less fearful of the extra few minutes spent at lunch or a lengthier conversation at a cubical and more fearful of silence, lack of relationships or no happy hour outings. Teams are created by employees spending time with one another, which generates friendships. Teams with friends actually perform better than teams with acquaintances.

Friends… Great for business, great for our personal lives. They keep us grounded, they keep us real and they keep us happy!

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The Dreaded Mission Statement

Mission statements are hard. They are hard to write and they are hard to live by. Even just writing an “About Me” statement was challenging, and I know exactly who I am. I sat down, typed a bunch of words, read and re-read, edited and edited some more, and then realized I wasn’t quite sure that’s how I wanted to describe myself to the world… Let’s just say I’m still editing.

Businesses can struggle the same way because it’s hard to expertly put into words why customers and employees should choose them over their competitors.  A mission statement is “a written declaration of an organization’s core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time.” Out of several examples that I’ve read, it seems that the most important part starts with “To.” To provide great customer service, to cause no destruction, to create a great place to live… The mission statement is not only an action, it creates a feeling.

golden-circleIn the TED Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Simon Sinek expertly demonstrates how some organizations and people can motivate people to act. He calls it the Golden Circle and it simply goes through the process of why, how and what in that exact order. He asks, “Why should anyone care?” I think this is where mission statements must start. Why should I do what I do and why should I do it for this company?

Sinek continues by mentioning the idea that if you hire people just because they can do a job, they will work for money, but it you hire them because they believe what you believe, they will work for you through blood, sweat and tears. This type of passion has to come from inside an individual. It can’t be a canned mission statement that is memorized and repeated. Leaders and organization creators must truly believe in their cause in order for talented employees to live the mission. They have to believe whole-heatedly in the “why” that it oozes out of the company effortlessly.

Then, the how and the what come naturally. As humans, we are able to figure out how we need to accomplish tasks in order to complete the desired outcomes. Businesses can encourage the motivation of employees if they have a clear idea of their commitments. Mission statements don’t have to cause eye-rolls or misguided attempts at camaraderie, and they won’t if they start with a purpose. Find the passion, find the “why” and you will be able to find the people who will passionately work for your cause.

Do you know your company’s mission statement? If yes, does it align with your values?  If no, learn it today and see how it aligns with your values, your “why.”

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Employee-Focused Company Culture

Nowadays, company culture is basically an employee benefit. The best employees want a culture that is employee focused, flexible and contemporary. The best are only applying for jobs that tie a challenging, rewarding position to a great place to work.

Culture can be defined as the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.

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Investopedia.com continues to say that while not always explicitly outlined, companies live their culture by being consistent with things like dress code, office setup, treatment of clients and all other daily operations.  Culture also allows employees to know if they will be a good fit within an organization. Culture can be a huge selling point for companies to ensure they are not just hiring a talented individual but retaining their top performers.

This is important because employees search for the best companies to work for and that is typically tied to culture. On fortune.com, the following companies are considered the top 5 best companies to work for:

  1. Google
  2. Acuity Insurance
  3. The Boston Consulting Group
  4. Wegmans Food Markets
  5. Quicken Loans

So, what do these companies have in common? Of course, there are fantastic perks and benefits that come along with the job like health insurance, tuition reimbursement, volunteer opportunities and 401k. However, when describing the companies, the following words were used:

  1. Google: Valued, Respected, Human Being
  2. Acuity: Fun
  3. The Boston Consulting Group: Cares, Work-Life Balance, Communication
  4. Wegmans: Wellness, Family
  5. Quicken: Renewal

Not only were the companies positively described, but they were also rated by their employees on if the company was a great place to work. The lowest score was 94% with the highest being 97% of employees saying the company was great. Incredible!

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Other companies can create cultures to get to this level of engagement and happiness as well. Companies should strive to provide an employees-first culture. A great example of this is The Container Store. They were rated 14th on the fortune.com list, and have really strong ideas on how they got there. The Chairman and CEO, Kip Tindell says, “We start by putting our employees first in everything we do… And don’t forget FUN! Fun is part of the job at The Container Store.”

Culture is a great asset that companies can use to encourage new, talented employees to join their team and also engage their current employee base. Tindell boasts nearly a 10% annual turnover rate, which in the retail arena is extremely impressive. By taking a deep look at what the company has to offer and how it treats its employees, culture is a benefit that a company can create in order to prove its priorities and values to employees.

What’s your company culture?  Let me know in the comment section below.

Engagement… THE Buzz Word

All companies want their employees to be engaged.  But what exactly does that mean? What’s the outcome? Why try so hard to impress the people who are getting a paycheck? Isn’t that enough?

Not anymore! For a long time companies were able to coast on the idea that providing a solid career and an optimistic retirement plan was enough, and employees were satisfied with that. However, now, employees expect more; they expect to be engaged.  According to gallup.com, 51% of employees are searching for a new job or at least watching new openings while only 33% are actually engaged at work. These numbers should be concerning to any company because there’s a lot that a company can do to try to improve the motivation, wellbeing and engagement of a team.

So, what is engagement? It’s motivation. It’s passion for the job. It’s knowing a company’s mission and living the company’s culture. It’s commitment to the job, the team, the organization. As I will discuss in future blogs, some engagement is internally driven, but an employee’s company can implement things to increase engagement.  What kills engagement? Empty promises, no communication, forced interactions and unethical behavior. Anything that makes the employee go, “Hmmm… Something’s not quiet right!”

While reading A World Gone Social by Ted Coiné and Mark Babbit, it further confirmed my thoughts that engagement must run rampant through an organization, not only just with employees but also any person who has a relationship with the organization . But engagement should start with employees in order to encourage customer loyalty (p.51).  “In fact, it is quite simply impossible to build an engaged customer base, inspire loyalty among vendors, and generate an attractive employer brand without engaged, passionate employees serving as a strong foundation” (p. 51).

share_05The pair go on to demonstrate that transparency, communication and trust within the organization is the way to create engagement (p. 55-56). I think trust has to be at the foundation of an employee/employer relationship before the word engagement can even be thrown around with the smallest amount of understanding.  Coiné and Babbit also repeatedly tie the idea of engagement to leadership, which is also spot on (p.54). If a leader isn’t being authentic or isn’t connected to employees, it’s an uphill battle to get those people to root for the company and provide great customer service. The leader has the ability to build a trusting culture where employees feel valued or a culture of fear, frustration and angst.

Engagement is a buzzword for most companies, but bringing it to life can be crucial to the success of a business. A way to differentiate themselves from their competitors, so they are a company that people want to be a part of, not just have to clock-in at for a livelihood.

Is your company obsessed with engagement? How do they make it a reality? Let me know by commenting below.

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Do Employees Want Love or Tough Love?

Love… A four-letter word that can mean may different things, and usually has no space in the professional arena. But how does it fit with employees in the business world? How can it be used to strengthen the bond between employees and employers? Can we smother our employees with too much love? Can we alienate them with too little?

Most employees want to be noticed by their employers. Sometimes employees are spending more time with their work families than their own loved ones. By sacrificing personal time, I believe employees need recognition, understanding and compassion. So, love is important in a business relationship because employees are willing to sacrifice love for their employer.

Based on information from Thesaurus.com, I found a few love synonyms that could and should describe the employee/employer relationship:

  • Appreciation
  • Respect
  • Enjoyment
  • Involvement

When a business focuses on its employees first and its business second, it is aligning itself to its greatest strength. By continually reinforcing this relationship, a business will help improve employee well being levels, which will only propel its cause and focus.

So, love and business can go hand in hand; however, there must be boundaries as there are in all relationships. By heavily leveraging employees, businesses are only as strong as their weakest team member.

Here enters tough love. Leaders must be willing to set clear expectations and hold people accountable. Employees want “involvement” from their managers not just “appreciation” or someone that will agree with them on all issues. They want other employees to be held to the same expectations and to be treated with fairness and “respect.”

I think employees want both equally. They need a caring company that takes a genuine interest in their well being while also desiring a company that has clear expectations and goals, and will follow through on set expectations. Employees look to employers to set the foundation and culture of an organization.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I hope to begin my employee focused blog with the purpose of raising awareness of the importance of employees and how they directly relate to the success of a business. Moving forward, I’ll be looking into multiple avenues to cultivate employee well being from all aspects of business.  I hope to not only spread my knowledge on employee engagement ideas, but also absorb information from others in the field to develop myself.

I look forward to collaborating on ideas to build successful teams, to increase employee well being and engagement, and, just possibly, to spread the love.

Which one, love or tough love, do you think is more important for employees? Which is more important for a business? Let me know by leaving a comment.