Employee Engagement: Beyond Beer, Wings, and Bowling

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Every reputable company should understand the importance of company culture. The way you communicate your company’s values, vision, belief system, habits, and employee treatment mirrors your company’s culture and captures the essence of your business.

In today’s competitive marketplace, employee engagement has emerged as a critical factor for business success, and is observed as a direct result of the company’s core culture, i.e., its attitude towards the employees it hires. The employee equation of your workplace is simple: if your employees aren’t happy, your business will suffer.

According to Gallup’s 2013 study on the State of the Global Workplace, “only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work” which translates to just one in eight employees contributing to their organizational goals or outcomes. The study further notes a staggering 63% of employees who altogether lack motivation in their workplace. Gallup concludes that “people spend a substantial part of their lives working,” meaning that “the quality of their workplace experience is inevitably reflected in the quality of their lives.”

Employees Need More

Organizing team building activities like a karaoke night, wings, beer, or poker tournaments generally sounds fun, but they don’t cut it anymore. These days, we have a highly disengaged workforce because people aren’t satisfied. They need to feel like their work is valued and that they are a part of a team they can trust and rely on. A sense of security plays a huge role.

No one wants to feel threatened for communicating their thoughts differently than others, asking for their rightfully-earned benefits, or feeling ridiculed for having a different approach to work than their colleagues. Soft skills are taking dominance in the workplace, and smart leaders are embracing tolerance, inclusion, and understanding as their core leadership mottos.

Encourage Two-Way Communication

Airbnb has managed to create a fantastic company culture due to its unrelenting belief in honest, two-way communication. As one of the owners, Levy, explained, “our rule of thumb is that nobody should hear about anything externally until we’ve told them internally.” The company organizes bi-weekly world meetings outside of San Francisco and joins everyone on a live stream.

Every new movement within the company is distributed broadly, and “people really appreciate knowing what we’re talking about, asking questions, and sharing thoughts and ideas.” Levy further noted, "that stems from our communication philosophy that we want to have an honest, open and two-way dialogue between everyone in the company." Similarly to Airbnb, Google and Apple encourage the same type of communication that lets the employees in on everything going on within the company, treating them more as “partners in crime” than “regular employees.”

Build Your Culture Through Belonging

The modern office should no longer cultivate nor encourage the climate of employee fear, dissatisfaction, and frustration. Like Bill Gates put it, “...leaders will be those who empower others.” No matter how fun a workplace you build, if your people don’t feel like a part of your business structure or aren’t comfortable around people they work with, they’ll create cliques that will further lead to the deterioration of your office structure.

Introducing mindfulness, awareness, and understanding in the workplace before organizing a joint field trip to the nearby amusement park could be the way to go.

Rethink the Concept of “Employee Engagement”

In the words of Josh Bersin, “the days of the annual engagement survey are slowly coming to an end, to be replaced by a much more holistic, integrated, and real-time approach to measuring and driving high levels of employee commitment and passion.” Hopefully, things are gradually moving towards understanding the importance of employee happiness and working to build a supportive environment that will make them feel safe and wanted.

Create a Homogeneous Environment

Titles do matter, but do they matter more than the employees themselves? It is not uncommon for the title-chasing enthusiasts to climb up the corporate ladder faster than the others, leaving “the less enthusiastic” employees behind and, in doing so, creating a very uncomfortable work environment.

Big companies might want to consider eliminating official titles to encourage their unlimited creativity and commitment. "The minute people start talking about job titles, or are more interested in equity over changing the world through connecting people …, we know that they are probably barking up the wrong tree," said Levy of Airbnb.

Create a Culture of Fandom

The founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, created a culture of fandom, turning it into possibly the best employment strategy ever. Honestly, who would make a better employee for your company than an admiring fan? Add company discounts, gifts and other company-related goodies handed out to the employees for free, and you get a group of enthusiastic and encouraged employees who are over the moon to come to work.

Focus on Employee Encouragement and Development

At Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson encourages an atmosphere of positivity and employee encouragement: “I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers and that people flourish when they are praised.” Apple also focuses on their employees’ contribution (i.e., the number of projects they’ve worked on) rather than the longevity of their employment at the firm, encouraging them to feel like part of the Apple family.

It is no surprise that engaged employees are fostering customer loyalty, promoting retention and improving organizational performance. The more involved they are, the more likely they are to put in the extra effort. To keep your employees happy and turn your business into a thriving unit, make employee engagement your business imperative.

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Simone Brown is a performance coach who helps leaders and teams increase productivity. Her approach is grounded in  behavioural and brain-based strategies. She believes success isn’t just about talents and smarts, it’s about the development of emotional intelligence. Simone is also a speaker, and talks about topics such as emotional intelligence, millennials, and the importance of purpose.