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When it comes to employee morale and engagement, I like to reference Frederick Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory. He proposed that there were two factors to consider. Yes, there are certain things that will enhance the motivation of an individual in the workplace. Those things include achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and the nature of the work itself.
However, there is also the element of dis-satisfiers to consider. This is what he coined as hygiene factors. This includes topics such as pay, work conditions, job security and medical benefits. Meaning, if the basics aren’t in place, then the employee is unable to really focus on their job. Therefore, if my pay feels insufficient or unfair, it won’t matter how much I like the work I do. I’ll be too focused on survival to really fully engage.
In Glassdoor’s new mission and culture workplace sentiment survey and Economic Research report, “Which Workplace Factors Drive Employee Satisfaction Around the World?” they found that over half (58%) of employees and job seekers say company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction. Let’s not assume that everyone suddenly stopped valuing their paychecks. But I think that does speak to what actually engages employees and what might disengage them.
The question then becomes how to ensure the company is fully leveraging their culture and values to make the positive impact they are capable of and reducing the negative impact made possible by insufficient hygiene factors.
Below are some tips to consider:
Make sure the current values are the same as the aspirational values. Often, company leadership rolls out a full-on communication strategy, complete with laminated values marketing sheets that go up in every break room. All this to be completely ignored by the staff. The truth is, employees don’t look to marketing ploys to determine what the company values, they watch leadership behavior, observe what gets rewarded and what gets punished and where the money gets invested to determine what a company values and what it doesn’t. In other words, they look to the culture to see what values are being supported.
It’s critical for leadership to own it if the current values don’t match what they want the values to be. It’s better to admit their organization has a culture of risk aversion but are asking everyone to create a culture that supports and values innovation. Then the discussion can be had around how to make culture truly align with the values they want to commit to.
Clarify what behaviors and results are considered a demonstration of the values. It’s one thing to say the company values collaboration, it’s another thing for everyone to be on the same page as to what that means in general and how that’s to be demonstrated in their own role. This requires some definition of what each value means to the company, as well as examples of general behaviors and results that support that meaning. But it can’t stop there. It should also include dialogue across levels and functions. The more the values are incorporated into the cultural language of the company, the more employees will view them as relevant and real to their success.
Invest in employee and leadership development. The culture and values of an organization may have taken the number one spot on Glassdoor’s study, but quality of senior leadership and career opportunities were in second and third place.
However, these two areas seem like the toughest ones to tackle for companies today. The workplace has changed dramatically. Therefore, what a leader is expected to do is so much more complex. They need to know best practices but also need on-the-job coaching, peer mentoring and exposure beyond their own area of expertise to the rest of the business.
As for career development, that’s another aspect that is no longer cut and dry. You have employees who have been inundated with the idea that doing a good job equals another rung on the ladder. But most companies barely have a step ladder of hierarchy anymore. Also, the goal isn’t necessarily employee retention. An engagement focus is more about how to get fully committed employees while they are working with the company. It may not be the best for the company or employee to stay through to retirement. With a much more entrepreneurial approach needed to career management, companies have to take a collaborative approach to supporting their staff.
Communicate and dialogue to reduce the negative impact of hygiene factors. Transparency leads to employees feeling connected to the work and a feeling of being able to see how the cards are falling. This means, the more they understand what the company is doing and why they’re doing it, the easier it is to feel a sense of job security. Sharing the company’s approach to ensuring fair pay and benefits is another element of transparency that keeps staff focused on the work vs. stressed about their survival.
Ensure accountability and reward for delivering on the values. It’s one thing to say your company values a respectful workplace, it’s a totally different thing to hold people accountable for making decisions that work against the values. And an even bigger difference can be realized in actually rewarding behavior that supports the values. This should be incorporated into performance and promotion discussions. But it should also be a key factor in leadership development. They need to know how to discuss and coach on these topics.
Being intentional about how you engage employees can make all the difference. There’s no easy or simple answer but there are some key areas that can create powerful results.
July 11, 2019 at 01:03AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs