Suggested article for reading: A Very Simple Reason Employee Engagement Programs Don’t Work
This article (see link above) is a great reminder that changing the culture in which we expect our employees to thrive and be productive begins when we look in the mirror ourselves. I’ve been an advocate of ensuring that employees know “what’s in it for them” for a a long time. In fact, it’s how we reporters were taught to write news articles — always answer the question “what does this mean to the reader?” within the first two paragraphs of your story. In the 1990s, communication experts and researchers wrote books and did study after study about how linking personal success with business success “engaged” people at work and, in turn, made them even more productive and satisfied.
Sadly — 20 years later — we’re still trying to figure out how to engage employees. The folks in Silicon Valley seem to have it figured out — doesn’t every young college graduate yearn for Free Beer Fridays at Pixar or to get a free massage and play roller hockey at Google?
Call it a program or initiative or even change management — the words you use to describe it aren’t nearly as important as the actions you take to make it happen. Roll your eyes at the West Coast folks (of course, they aren’t the only ones who’ve figured out this engagement stuff), but they’re on to something. You already know that most employees will come to work and do their jobs for a paycheck . . . maybe even for some intrinsic desire to do the right thing. But in today’s global economy, your business will not succeed with average people who merely clock in and clock out. The brightest, most talented, most productive people — the ones who will take your business to the next level — can’t wait to get to work in the morning and do great things.
How do you create that kind of motivation? First, ask them. Too often, we grab the latest issue of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For and assume that if good service rewards works at Wegmans Food Markets, it ought to work for us. Maybe, but my research often finds that topping employee wish lists is everything from better desk chairs to the opportunity to contribute creatively and be rewarded for it. Every situation, every employee, every company is different. Start by asking employees what would make their companies a better place to work, and change the company. Change within your employees will likely follow.