Engaged teams really do want to make their company successful. Companies know that if their employees succeed, then in all likelihood the company will also succeed. This concept is as old as time – it is called a symbiotic relationship. When two organisms of different species “work together,” each one benefits from the relationship. There are many examples in the animal world, like birds eating ticks and insects off the body of a water buffalo – the birds gain food and the buffalo gains much needed pest control.
Symbiotic relationships also exist in the business world, and a company culture that engages employees will foster and develop this symbiotic relationship. If the management team is committed to follow through and implement just seven simple actions, then an engaged workforce will emerge and become the partner in the symbiotic relationship that the company needs to thrive.
Engagement brings about an environment where employees act symbiotically, where they succeed and the company succeeds. None of these seven actions are difficult, though some may surprise you; it just takes a strong commitment and a strategic plan to make it happen.
- Foster a respectful environment
Conduct an exercise with your managers; ask them to think of a manager they respect and brainstorm for the characteristics that they say make them respect that manager, then compile a list. I’ll bet you will find things like: honest, respectful, fair, good communicator, shows appreciation, teacher, trusting and trustworthy, results oriented, calls me by my name, takes time for me, good listener, has a sense of humor, is a planner… and the list goes on.If your manager can develop a list of what caused them to respect someone then why don’t they use that as their guideline of how to treat people with respect? In his book, Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with The Principles of Respect, Dr. Paul Marciano emphasizes that while recognition and rewards are good, they don’t foster long-term meaningful results.
It should hopefully come as no surprise that basically everyone just wants to be treated with respect and dignity, so building an environment that reflects those principles will create more long-term success for your company.
- Promote and encourage open communications
John H. Mc Connell, founder of Worthington Industries, said that one of the reasons for the success of the company was their ‘unique’ management system, simply, “We talk to one another.”Employees like to know what is going on in the company. If they have valid information they can use it to make decisions that will help the company. All managers need to be good communicators and be clear about what they are saying. Don’t blow smoke up people’s shorts, and speak from the heart. Speak with honesty and sincerity and your people will respond in kind.
- Make sure that you and your leaders use the common niceties in life
This might seem incredibly simple, but get back to using “please”, “thank you”, and “I appreciate that” in your daily work life. We need to get away from always telling and start asking. It cost nothing and gains so much.
- Know your people
They are all different – age, gender, religion, ethnicity, political motivation, etc. Take time to find out what is important to them. Why do they come to work? What do they do for leisure? Do you share common interests? Have a meal together and figure these things out. Not only will you often uncover talent, but you’ll bond with your people.While coaching at Notre Dame, Hall of Fame football coach Lou Holtz used to end a weekly team meeting by asking “Does anyone need any help, need a ride, need a tutor?”. His theory was that those who help others are helped the most, and you can see this premise at work in successful businesses around the world today.
- Be a good delegator
Engaging leaders understand the value of delegation; they give employees opportunities to be involved in important projects. Not only do employees learn and contribute, but they become more engaged and invested in the overall good of the organization.Ask for employees’ ideas and encourage critical thinking. Make sure to follow up on ideas and communicate with employees which ones will be pursued and why. But most importantly, don’t be afraid to let an employee tackle a new task. Not only will they build skills, but also confidence, and a stronger sense of being part of the team.
- Be involved in the community and encourage others to do the same
Employees of all ages enjoy working for organizations that are involved in the good for the community. Speak positively about donating time and talents to help in community endeavors and offer your employees the opportunity to be teachers and coaches.When your good employees get involved in the community, they will also be spreading a positive message about your organization. This is one of the best branding tools available, and it benefits everyone involved.
- Include spouses and families as much as possible
Spouses and families offer support and encouragement. If they feel included in communications, learning opportunities, brown bag lunches, or open houses and picnics then they will be more supportive and positive about the company.I have known many employees with excellent attendance records who give a lot of the credit to their spouse who encouraged them to get up and out the door because their company loyalty had also been fostered.
The above seven ideas might look as if they could be simple to adopt, but it takes a coordinated commitment by a company and its leaders to turn them into actions. Others will look at this and think they will be just too difficult to accomplish. To those people I say, just give them a try, you have no idea what symbiotic relationship you could be missing out on.
And remember, as Jon M. Huntsman said in his book Winners Never Cheat, “The surest path to success is the one where others walk with you.”