Communication Matters – build a sense of purpose to inspire deep commitment
The most effective way for leaders who think strategically about how to connect team mates to one another, is to do so through a shared purpose.
Organisations that have a culture built on a genuine sense of purpose will inspire deeper commitment and make people feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. Having purpose paves the way to making an emotional connection with each employee at a personal level, giving meaning to every task they undertake, building a ‘commitment culture’, the beating heart of an engaged workforce.
The term employee engagement is perhaps overused, but it comes up whenever there is discussion around productivity and retention. Disengagement findings are often quoted whenever there is talk of good and bad leadership or management, or of the difficulty in hiring and keeping good people.
Engagement requires a workplace in which people:
- Feel personally and emotionally bound to the organization
- Feel pride in recommending it as a good place to work to other people
- Get more than just wage or salary from working there and are attached to the intrinsic rewards they gain from being with the organization, and
- Feel a close attachment to the values, ethics and actions embodied by the organization.
Blessing White suggest that employee engagement represents an alignment of maximum job satisfaction (I like my work and do it well) with maximum job contribution (I help to achieve the goals of my organisation).
Engaged employees are not just committed; they are not just passionate or proud; their values, goals and aspirations – their own future - is aligned with the organisation.
Succinctly put, engaged employees stay for what they give; disengaged employees stay for what they get.
Research into how to build employee engagement invariably includes senior management implementing strategies to listen directly to employee views, and often this takes the form of an engagement survey.
Surveys are convenient ways to gather employee opinions, but they raise expectations that your organisation will actually do something as a result. Simply benchmarking will change nothing.
Done well, engagement surveys can help not only to create purpose, but to inspire your people to align their activities behind it and to build deeper commitment.
At Engagement Multiplier, this is referred to as an engaged purpose – a written statement that clearly communicates to your team what your company does and why. It is not a vision or a mission statement – these are developed to support purpose – and neither is it something that the owners of a business can come up with on their own. Involvement in teasing out purpose will help to build alignment and connection and generate momentum behind it.
A purpose statement:
- Is written for your team
- Has language that is clear and meaningful
- Is filled with emotion and passion
- Is aspirational, yet attainable.
It provides guidance, but it will also evolve as your business evolves and grows.
The feedback from a regular engagement survey, such as Engagement Multiplier (which runs on a 90-day cycle), will help drive further action, and build deeper commitment to your purpose.
It is important, though, to make sure employees understand the connection between the data and your actions. Regular communication that things are being done as a direct response to changes requested or suggested in survey results will help to drive success.
Here are six things you can do to help develop a commitment culture and build employee engagement:
- Co-create with your people an engaged purpose behind which all employees can align
- Measure employee engagement periodically – we support and recommend the 90-day cycle
- Develop action plans to address issues raised and respond to feedback
- Set and communicate targets for improving overall engagement and be clear about your commitment to meeting them
- Hold people accountable for demonstrating progress in building engagement
- Reward those who demonstrate progress in building engagement (while remembering that not all rewards need to be financial).
Virtual working, where people are geographically dispersed, means communications matter more. As we emerge from being dispersed because of social distancing – whether furloughed, working from home or isolating - the need for connection grows ever more important. Without it, employees will feel cut-off and lose their commitment and sense of engagement with their employer.
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