Amidst the blur of always-on mobile devices, agile apps and nimble fingered users, there is an underlying angst amongst business leaders just to stay current. Compound that with trying to sustain an organization where the frontline staff are often quicker and keener with the pace of change than the management. So, how do you nurture a culture of engagement in a context where you can barely keep up yourself? Having worked in a myriad of diverse company cultures from Japan to Europe to Canada, I have experienced four common threats which separate authentically engaged organizations from those that merely sustain the status quo.
Advocating autonomy is essential to engagement. Give people the freedom to do what they do best. When you liberate your people from endless process and procedure, you allow them to flourish, to take more value from their roles and possibly reinvent themselves. In this way, they can contribute in new and more meaningful ways.
Invite to own their work experience
Autonomous and purposeful employees lead to creatively stronger organizations and vice versa – purposeful organizations nurture the same in their people. “The companies with strong purpose are the ones we tend to love best because they feel different” (HBR, 2015). In turn, you liberate yourself from all the decision making, and the inevitable trap of micro-management. You invite your staff to own their work experience and their own professional growth. It makes for a more coherently creative organizational culture.
Give your people a voice
As cultural ambassadors, the floor should be open to input both positive and negative. Remaining receptive presents an opportunity to adapt and grow. It engages your employees to stay attuned to every nuance in customer expectations… to every shift in the competitive winds. “This takes outward focus to a whole new level… putting managers and employees in customers’ shoes” (Kenny, HBR).
Nurture an authentic narrative
If your organization’s story and purpose is built on providing quality personal service, then this is the narrative that must be experienced in every aspect of your business. How can you authentically advocate any philosophy if you are not practicing it in your own house? When your own people don’t believe it, neither will your customers. Your philosophy must be heartfelt.
“It is the “why” that form(s) both the soul and character of business” (Tjan, HBR, 2015)
After all, your people are the face of your organization – your most influential raving fans.
By authentically engaging your people these ways – autonomy, purpose, narrative and voice – they genuinely engage your customers. In today’s changeable context, this is how you stay current and sustain your organization for the long term.