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According to the 2013 Gallup poll on workplace satisfaction, only 30% of American workers are actively engaged in their work. Even given the economic downturn and the resulting downward pressure on employees to do more with less, this indicator is surprising. And alarming: disengaged employees have overall poorer job productivity and higher turnover, which can lead to decreased company performance.
So what can company leaders do to improve the relationship between the organization and its employees? One of the first steps is identifying what the two groups need from each other and then creating an atmosphere where it all comes together successfully.
In the modern business world, company leaders envision a team of self-assured strivers who eagerly take the reigns of a project and deliver results that exceed the most optimistic expectations. They want accountability—and they don’t want to micromanage their people. Employees want this too—the CEB Corporate Leadership Council points out that, increasingly, employees want to feel in control of the outcome of their work and feel truly empowered to make decisions without excessive oversight.
However, according to a white paper issued by ACCOR Services only 25% of managers have a strategy in place to actively engage their employees. Managers often aren’t sure how to create a strategy, other than putting a few inspirational posters on the walls.
Phil Saifer, president of Vertical Marketing Network, is an ardent proponent of creating an atmosphere of empowerment. He shares five principles successful managers use to empower their employees and, ultimately, lead to happier people and increased productivity.
Principle 1: Encourage “ownership” of the company’s goals
“One of my proudest measures of success is our employee retention. From my experience in client services businesses, the average length of an employee’s tenure with a company is 2.6 years. Here at Vertical Marketing Network, our average tenure is 6.6 years.” –Phil Saifer
When an employee joins a company, the skills they bring should enhance the overall service the company provides and help make the business even better. To be successful, it is important that each member of the team has an emotional investment in the company’s goals. Managers can foster this by encouraging open communication and mutual respect.
When employees are given flexibility, autonomy, and the ability to contribute to the company’s overarching goals, they naturally feel a sense of ownership over their projects. A study by the Dale Carnegie Training Institute on employee engagement indicates that these employees tend to be stronger performers and have more company loyalty when they feel personally committed to the success of a project.
They are also more likely to stay at a company. According to Towers Watson Research Results 2012 , 72% of the highly engaged said they would prefer to remain with their employer even if they had a comparable opportunity elsewhere, compared with 28% of the disengaged.
Principle 2: Leadership is more than a title
“Leadership is about the way we think and the day-to-day interactions. It’s not about a title.”
Focus, balance, and choice in the workplace drive satisfaction, performance, and innovation, as determined by the 2013 Gensler U.S. Workplace Survey. According to the survey, 74% of respondents feel that leadership encourages innovation. Employees frequently have abilities beyond the position for which they were hired—it is the manager’s responsibility to give employees the opportunity to show that.
By giving every employee—no matter what level—opportunities to take the lead, individuals learn to analyze and respond to problems, communicate better, and step up to take charge when needed. When an employee takes on the mantle of leadership within the team, they will often go far above what is required of them and perform beyond all expectations—even their own.
Principle 3: Give employees decision-making power
“Timely recommendations and actions build confidence and brings learning and growth to all, while procrastination holds us hostage and in the past.”—Phil Saifer
Employees know their jobs, they know their co-workers, and they know what will work to help them achieve their goals. Trust them to make the right decisions. Making people responsible for their tasks will stimulate them to succeed.
When Vertical Marketing Network moved to an expanded office in Burbank, it was important to management that the staff felt good about it. Each individual was given an office budget to make their workspace their own. The employees could decide to pool their allocations with co-workers to purchase larger ticket items or stick to their individual allotments. It was up to them. Not only did this empower the employees, it also eased the transition, encouraged teamwork, and helped everyone feel comfortable in the new office environment.
Principle 4: Recognize sincere effort
“Vertical Marketing Network invests a good bit of time finding the right professionals and concentrates on empowering their staff to achieve everyday accountability and ownership of their decisions.”
Employees deserve recognition when they strive to make a tangible contribution to achieving the company’s goals. Some companies tie financial rewards to performance. Others have special employee recognition dinners and incentives like weeklong tropical vacations paid for by the company.
Vertical Marketing Network names a Shooting Star winner each year, which recognizes a professional who has advanced significantly over the last twelve months. The winner receives a cash award and a piece of artwork that serves as the trophy. Lunches, quarterly breakfast celebrations, and “hallway bonuses” (varying amounts of cash) are other ways Vertical Marketing Network thanks their employees.
Incentive programs can naturally boost an employee’s motivation. They are most effective when they go hand-in-hand with genuine appreciation from higher-ups.
Principle 5: Listen, communicate, and give feedback
“Employee feedback isn’t limited to a yearly review. We coach, praise, and make suggestions
all the time.” —Phil Saifer
People appreciate being heard. When a manager has an open door policy, it goes a long way toward enhancing relationships, promoting cooperation, and increasing engagement. His or her feedback is just as important: according to the Towers Watson Research Results 2012, over 40% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week.
When a manager provides mentoring and coaching, an employee sees that he or she genuinely cares about where the employee’s career is headed. This in turn inspires an even deeper commitment. Stats bear it out: those employees who are most committed perform 20% better, indicating the significance of engagement to organizational performance.
All in it together
True workplace empowerment comes from the employees and management working together. The employee has to show initiative and show true ownership of their work, and the management team has to create an atmosphere where employee empowerment can flourish. Empowerment leads to a deeper emotional investment.
And when an employee is emotionally invested in a company and know they are appreciated for their effort, they naturally want to show that they are worthy of it. They’ll work hard, make the right decisions, and add immeasurably to the company’s overall success.
Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
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