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Create a culture of engagement

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Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I agree with his perspective that an engaged culture can give your company the competitive edge.

Business schools provide future leaders with plenty of education about strategies they can use to make companies more profitable and enhance employee productivity, but they're missing the mark if they stop there. Research shows creating a culture that actively promotes employee engagement will lead to team synergy, which can be critical to business sustainability. In other words, if you don't create a culture of engagement, all the strategy in the world won't be effective in achieving success.

As someone who has provided business adviser services for a long time, my interpretation of that reality can be boiled down to these three categories: Employee Engagement, Team Synergy, and Culture of Engagement.

Employee Engagement
The definition of employee engagement includes three components:

The extent to which employees commit to someone or something in their organization;

How hard they work; and

How long they stay as a result of that commitment.

How can employee engagement be cultivated? You may be surprised to learn that the No. 1 reason employees give for being engaged is having a personal and caring relationship with their supervisor. That connection, which includes keeping people motivated and excited, trumps everything else, including monetary rewards.

And here's something else that may surprise you about employee engagement: Those at the beginning and end of their careers tend to be the most engaged. The middle group, roughly those from age 30 to 50, is often less passionate or complacent — so perhaps greater relationship building needs to occur with these often-disengaged employees.

Team Synergy
Having engaged employees is the perfect recipe to create team synergy, which occurs when you:

Choose the right people;

Use their strengths to the fullest extent; and

Create an environment that fosters their development.

When providing business adviser services to family and non-family businesses, I often have to remind leaders that doing those three things is just the start. Researchers and practitioners have identified six factors that lead to a great team workplace:

A clear set of objectives;

Metrics that allow team members to assess their performance;

Ongoing training;

Decision-making authority to reach goals;

Team-based rewards and evaluations; and

An open culture that encourages communication and differing perspectives.

Culture of Engagement
When you have engaged employees and team synergy, you're well on your way to a culture of engagement. It is important to define your culture, perhaps using culture interviews to gain input from team members. The goal is to define not only who would be successful in their role in your organization, but just as importantly who would “fit” in and naturally connect with their coworkers.

Then, there are three behavioral strategies that can be used to create a culture of engagement:

n Confirm. Ensure your mission statement reflects your current business goals and provides a guideline for behavioral style, work ethic and priorities you desire in employees.

nAssess. Determine the factors in your work environment that influence employee engagement, make changes to motivate and re-energize those who seem no longer engaged, and ensure you encourage valued employees to thrive.

nCommunicate. Have frequent, transparent communication with your team members, following three behavioral principles to ensure productive conversations: make no assumptions, manage expectations and break down complex behavior.

Businesses that are most successful at engaging their employees, developing team synergy and creating a culture of engagement, e.g., Apple and Google, consistently let employees know they matter and are an important part of something. Employees' passion for their companies and leaders is contagious, so clients are more engaged, which benefits the bottom line.

Denise P. Federer, Ph.D. is founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group. She has 27 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. Contact her at: [email protected]


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