How many employees roll their eyes during meetings to discuss new initiatives? How often do they scramble to complete a task not because they love it, but because they’re afraid of the consequences if they don’t? How many mutter “not in my job description” when asked to assume a new responsibility?
“These are examples of people whose work is providing them with nothing more than a paycheck,” says Trevor Wilson, human resources strategist, CEO of TWI Inc., and author of The Human Equity Advantage. “And even though that’s ostensibly why we go to work, it’s not what gets us excited and enthusiastic about what we do.”
The solution, he says, starts with business leaders and managers. If their work is not fulfilling any higher purpose for them than making money, they’re lacking one of the essential qualities necessary for helping their employees become engaged – and for keeping engaged employees enthusiastic.
“You need to step back and assess your own situation,” Wilson says. “Are you driven more by your fears – of not being able to pay your bills, of losing your job, of failing? Or are you driven by the knowledge that you, like every one of us, have the capacity to do amazing things?”
Business leaders who are striving to create something that will leave the world a better place not only are more engaged themselves, they’re more likely to do the things that help their employees engage, Wilson says.
“Our search for happiness is our search for our purpose, and we achieve both by bringing all of our skills and talents – our human equity – to the job,” he says.
He offers these tips for fostering a culture in which employees are actively engaged:
- Use performance evaluations to learn more about your employees’ strengths, interests and goals. Each employee has strengths and talents that often go unrecognized – and untapped – in the workplace. Helping them to identify these and use them at work contributes to their feeling that their work has purpose and results in more engaged, productive employees. “People want to bring all their talents to what they’re doing – we’re happiest when we’re doing what we’re good at it,” Wilson says. “In order to know what those skills, talents, even personality traits are, managers must get to know their individual employees.”
- Do not treat all employees equally. All employees are not equal and treating them as if they were leaves engaged, enthusiastic employees feeling shortchanged and disengaged employees feeling entitled, Wilson says. “Acknowledge and reward employees who are going the extra mile and point out the ways they’re contributing that may not be quantifiable or part of their ‘job description.’ The successful salesman who routinely coaches less successful colleagues is displaying a strength that won’t show up on his sales sheet but is, nonetheless, a valuable contribution to the company.”
- Recognize and reward employees’ demonstration of strong values. Values are part of the human equity that all of us bring to work in varying degrees. Honesty, integrity, compassion, work ethic – our best employees usually have these and other strong, positive values. Business leaders unconsciously may recognize them, for instance, by giving a very honest employee their trust, but they should make a point of acknowledging them publicly as well. “Our values are the foundation of our purpose and an expression of our true selves,” Wilson says. “Employees who are both able to demonstrate their values at work, and rewarded for doing so, having a greater sense of purpose.”