How do YOU define employee engagement? Recently, we posed this same question to the attendees of our How to Engage Employees Through a Culture of Ownership webinar with Great Game of Business Coach and VP Steve Baker. We received a number of responses:
- “The enthusiasm in which people interact with their work.”
- “The one-on-one interactions between managers and employees.”
- “Employees feeling like they have a voice.”
- “Going above and beyond as a way to show you’re engaged with your work.”
- “Taking initiative.”
There’s no one generally accepted definition in our space. At 15Five, we’ve wrestled with a definition that everyone can readily understand and arrived at the following:
An employee’s intellectual (head) and emotional (heart) connection with an employer, demonstrated by motivation and commitment (hands) to positively impacting the company vision and goals.
For Steve and The Great Game of Business, employee engagement is about ownership—not in the sense of equity, but in mental ownership and mindset. Picture two identical cars. They bear no differences except the fact that one is your own and the other is a rental. Which one will get more TLC? Your own. As Steve put it, if your people act like they own the business, your performance metrics will show it—whereas a “renters attitude” will result in suffering sales that allow your competition to consistently beat you.
We believe that improving culture can be achieved by focusing on four distinct areas of employee engagement—measurement, inspiration, voicing feedback, and making valuable employee connections. In case you didn’t get to attend the webinar live, I’ve extracted some of the key exchanges Steve and I shared on how these components of creating a culture of ownership applies to any business setting:
Todd: Steve, measurement is clearly important to the Great Game process. How important would you say measurement of engagement is to the companies that you’ve seen involved in the Great Game?
Steve: We measure everything. We believe that no matter what it is, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. We are trying to build a business of business people. That’s how you get people to think and act and feel more like owners. So we try to build this culture of ownership around a critical number—something that defines winning for our organization. For some, it’s profitability. For some, it’s another metric that’s really important. We begin by measuring our people’s propensity for culture and their financial literacy.
To answer your question, engagement is a really important component of our culture of ownership because owners are by definition engaged. If they aren’t, then we have to apply principles like those found in Agile Engagement to define our strategy. Ours is to teach them the business that they work in.
Todd: What happens to engagement when you fall short of critical numbers, and what can you do to build employees back up?
Steve: We don’t want to set people up to lose. A culture of ownership is culture of winning. So, we need to create plans that are reasonable and achievable, yet still challenge people. Whether you’re a knowledge worker, manufacturer, lawyer, or doctor, you must look at how you’re doing compared to the rest of the marketplace. Then, empower people to use this knowledge to improve their performance and give them a piece of the action. We need to create a game they can win. People will exceed expectations when they’re given a chance.
Todd: A number of industries like tech (where I hail from) do a great job at engaging their people with “cool” cultures that allow employees to be more human. Do you believe high engagement and inspiration can be had regardless of industry—even if they’re traditionally more formal?
Steve: As leaders, it’s our responsibility to figure out how to tap into employees’ intrinsic motivation. I believe that any organization can benefit from teaching people the business and thereby engaging them in the process. Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin, TX, owns seven restaurants employing 700 people. While it’s traditionally difficult to engage front and back of house employees, one employees’ realization that thousands of pieces of silverware were being thrown away per year resulted in recovery of $17,000 back on the income statement. When you give someone ownership, they want to take on more. He has now not only inspired his own store, but has also gone on to inspire the other six and make a difference there too.
Looking for more great insights like these? Carve out some time and listen to the rest of the webinar.