How to Get the Best from Your Staff?
The primary reason for any company to employ someone is that they will give their very best at their job, so that the company can delight current and new customers, retain them, and grow revenues and profits. This is why the subject of employee engagement is very topical in business. A working definition of an engaged employee is one who is fully committed to their work, carries out the necessary action required to help the business to achieve its goals, while protecting its interest and reputation. In practice however, the majority of employees just do enough to keep their jobs and collect their pay cheque at the end of the month.
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report in 2014, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. This state of affairs has hardly changed since that report was published. This is bad news for business, because it says that the bulk of employees are not actively helping their companies to grow. So, how can a business transform its workers from just doing the bare minimum, to employees who are fully committed to their jobs, who will do everything in their power and capacity to perform at the very highest level to help their company to grow? There are no doubt various strategies that a company can use to reboot the engagement process in a critical mass of its staff, however the key that unlocks this process in staff is leadership.
Leadership is absolutely critical to building employee engagement and consequently getting the best from your staff. This is because effective leadership is about movement; of people, of organisations and of ideas towards a mutually desired goal. Simply put, an effective leader is one who moves people from a current state to a future state. Stand out effective leaders do this by employing some of the following strategies and tactics:
- Establish Personal Connection with a Bigger Purpose.
These leaders realise that it is only when people connect with the vision or objectives of the business from within themselves that they are willing to commit to their achievement. Central to this is that the leader successfully and with clarity, paints a picture of a future state showing how both the organisation and the individual will benefit by the accomplishment of the vision and or goals. As an old saying goes, the employee has to have “skin in the game” if they are to give their best in their jobs. Staff will only fully invest themselves in the organisation and its goals, if they also know that the success of the business is tied to the realisation of their own personal goals in the process. When this vital personal connection with the success of the business is birthed, staff move from being mere employees to genuine stakeholders who desire the success of the business. It is the responsibility of the leader to inspire and motivate staff to this level. When staff are inspired and motivated internally, getting the best out of them at work is something they do themselves.
- Identify Few Critical Deliverables.
Effective leaders know that it is only possible to get the best from their staff, when there is clarity around a few critical deliverables. They do this by first establishing the key goals of success for the business for a given period. They then proceed to document and communicate the specific outcomes that need to be accomplished for the goals to be realised. They ensure that all their staff from the production operative, warehouse picker, customer service consultant, the Sales Rep, credit controller etc. are all acquainted with what they need to do, day by day, individually and collectively in order to achieve the desired outcomes. For example, if one of the company’s goals is to increase revenue by 20% in 2016, the leader might identify some of the following deliverables as key:
- Grow new business by 12%.
- increase product quality by 3%,
- increase credit collection by 5%,
This is not to say that these are the only things the business will do to achieve this goal, but what this says is that these are the critical few, without which we cannot achieve our main goal. Identifying few critical deliverables helps staff to focus, which in turn helps with increased productivity because they don’t feel like they are being asked to do too many things at one time.
- Create Purpose Supporting Boundaries.
In simple terms, a boundary is a tangible or non-tangible dividing line, partition or limit that indicates the separation between one property and entity from another. In fact it is anything that denotes limits or bounds between two entities, with the result that each entity determines what happens or does not happen within its limits or bounds. More importantly a boundary has to have a purpose that it supports or assists in achieving. So, a boundary keeps things out and also keeps things in, so that a specific purpose is accomplished within that boundary. Acclaimed boundary expert, Dr Henry Cloud says that boundaries in a work context can either positively drive results or hinder them. His major contention is that it is the leaders boundaries that “shape what is going to be and what isn’t” in a business.
In addition, boundaries also frame a unique strategic framework for the organisation. Examples of strategic boundaries are the vision, purpose, mission, goals and values for the organisation. These strategic imperatives say clearly to the staff, this is where we are going, how we will get there, what we want to achieve and the principles that will guide our behaviours as we work towards our desired future state. It is these necessary boundaries at work that help to cultivate a sense of purpose for staff, while at the same time keeping them focused on tasks and activities that move the organisation to fulfil its vision. Dr Henry Cloud says that, clearly defined boundaries in the workplace create a “positive emotional climate” which helps people’s brains to function well and thus lead to high performance teams.
- Speak Through Actions.
It was Ralph Waldo Emmerson who is quoted as having once said; “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say”. Leaders by virtue of their elevated position in a business are looked up to by those whom they lead, not so much for what they say, but what they actually do in practice on a day to day basis. It is the leader’s behaviour that informs the staff how they should also behave. A leader who tells his staff that they need to improve their time management and productivity during working hours, but she/he then proceeds to routinely check out of the office at lunchtime at least twice a week to play golf with friends, should not be surprised if the staff disregard his call and carry on with an attitude of business as usual. This is because the staff will take their cue from the leader’s behaviour to model theirs accordingly.
In my experience of working with business leaders, I am always amazed when leaders and managers express their frustration and near helplessness at the lack of urgency and absence of passion by employees in the execution of their jobs. Upon further investigation, the results invariably show that it is not just the staff who are the problem. The staff’s approach to work, is learnt by observing how the leader goes about her/his work. Therefore the culture of work in a business, is in the main shaped by the behaviour of the leadership of that company. It is leaders who in the first place allow a particular approach to work, to flourish in a business, by the manner in which they apply themselves to their work. So, in order to get the best from your staff, first ensure that as a leader you are setting that example first, otherwise your words are just like a clanging cymbal, full of noise but signifying nothing.
- Build a Winning Team.
The one major characteristic of a winning team is that they are driven by outcomes. It is a team that has grown to a level where each team member subordinates their own personal or divisional interests to the mutual outcome, which is the success of the business. It does not matter how big or small the team of staff is, a winning team realises that it is only when they work together, that they are able to achieve better and bigger results than each would achieve on their own.
A winning team is not about a group of staff that are nice to each other, occasionally get together for a rah rah session, are simply politically correct with each other and superficially tell each other that they are a great team, based only on the fact they work for the same company.
Rather a winning team is one that has the following traits:
- Works to a common vision
- Relationship is based on shared Goals and Objectives
- Committed to a shared performance standard
- Agree on behaviours & relationships in the team
- Allow each other to openly question and challenge decisions or processes
- When agreement is reached by the team, everyone fights for its achievement
- All agree that it is all about performance towards a given outcome.
It is teams like these that help to bring out the best from each other in the workplace. The responsibility for putting teams like this in place, supporting and empowering them, rests on the shoulders of the leader. Effective leaders know that when winning teams of staff begin to take ownership and pride in the achievement of their results, their job is done.