Employees are hungry for someone to notice them, encourage them and help them find their own internal security and strength so they too can work at peak performance. In a business climate of accelerating complexity, a volatile stock market and collapsing governments and economies – it is up to leadership to engage and encourage employees.
A leading impediment to workforce engagement and innovation is lack of focus. Employees are caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between downsizing and job elimination, which can bring down levels of confidence, security and focus. They need help creating their own roadmap to success; with the right leadership, an innovative, engaged workforce is born.
According to the McKinsey Global Survey, “Innovation and Commercialization, 2010,” The barriers to successful innovation remain the same, but companies have made little progress overcoming them. In this survey of more than 2,200 executives (representing a full range of industries, regions, functional specialties and seniority), they noted that most companies are beginning to refocus on growth with 41 percent looking at their existing core business for expansion. However in the high-tech sector 68 percent were seeking organic growth through new products or services and/or new customers in new markets. Remarkably, the responsibility for this growth was placed squarely on the shoulders of leadership, not the workforce. The answer is to invest in your workforce
Whether it is a financial, time or educational investment, you need to cultivate, encourage and capitalize on your workforce. That is the only way for them to be fully engaged in your organization’s needs, goals and sustainable outcomes. Do unto your employees as you would have them do unto you.
As you improve and grow, help them do the same. If you’ve learned new strategies and techniques about peak performance, the flow of focus and productivity, share this with them. Recreate it for them – provide in-house trainings, seminars, reading materials, and help them find ways to create life balance, reduce stress and remove anxiety. These actions will yield more focus, engagement and flow of innovation, which are so necessary to compete in an increasingly complex world.
Cultivate Leaders and Innovators: Not everyone is a leader or wants to be a leader but everyone can be a leader and innovator for a specific period of time or a specific circumstance. Aggressively seek them out, communicate with them and ask for their opinions. The more you connect with them the more they will connect with you.
At various times invite them to participate in innovative think-tank sessions and seek their input. You will quickly find the best and the brightest who might not otherwise speak up – and they may provide you just the solutions you’ve been seeking. Cultivate and nurture them and their contributions; this one act will raise their self-esteem, reduce their stress and engage them in your future, all while helping your business.
Encouragement 101: Everyone needs encouragement from time to time. One of the easiest ways is in the form of a question. By simply asking after an ill spouse or a child’s little league team, you show that you care. Employees often feel that no one cares about them. Break the ice and ask.
This is also an easy and inexpensive way to resolve human resource problems and solve looming productivity, marketing and capitalization problems. The workforce in the trenches often has the answers you seek; the problem is, no one ever asks. If you have a weak link in management, or a problem that needs solving, it will show up quickly with a few encouraging words in a brief conversation.
You can also use a very personal form of encouragement, such as sending a birthday card or a special birthday dessert. Send the card to their home, which makes it very personal and the birthday treat to their work station. A card signed by the company or group or posting birthdays on company bulletin boards might be other options. Do the same to recognize excellence, meeting goals or innovative ideas. Encourage and reward excellence and good behavior and recognize milestones. This is how to personally engage a workforce and create buy-in.
Capitalize for Sustainability: Invest in knowledge and improvement for your workforce as you would for yourself. Through internal incentive programs, encourage your workforce to invest in themselves through reading and online webinars during personal time. Provide a recommended reading list and an easy inexpensive way to obtain the reading materials or purchase an executive book summary subscription for their use. Then put them to work by leading a mini seminar to share what they learned with others on the team. If several have read the same materials, do a panel discussion. This will broaden everyone’s horizons and provide you a glimpse of potential leaders.
Invest in in-house training programs, seminars and workshops. Bring in fresh thought leaders from the outside to engage and inspire your team. If this is not in the budget, create internal short informational presentations, videos or fast paced power point presentations that are fun, entertaining and provide the message you wish to imbed in their thinking or new behavior you wish them to incorporate. It doesn’t need to be a Steven Spielberg epic; create something light, brief and to the point with a bit of humor.
Employees want what you want. They want to be recognized, encouraged and appreciated for their productivity and accomplishments. While a basic salary or hourly wage is expected, it is the encouragement, inspiration and appreciation that are needed to be fully engaged. Remember, an investment in your workforce can lead to engagement that opens the door to innovation and sustainable success for everyone.
Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.