Leaders seeking solutions to employee engagement woes take note: research suggests that highly-engaged workforces have one thing in common: a Connection Culture.
A Connection Culture is created when leadership communicates an inspiring vision and lives it out, values people as human beings, and gives employees a voice in decisions.
In part one of this three-part series, we explored the first element of a Connection Culture – vision. Today, we will explore the element of value.
Human Beings, Not Human Machines
Despite the ubiquity of phrases such as “human capital” and “people are our greatest resources,” many American workers today feel that they are treated more like human machines than human beings.
Often, this happens unintentionally. Managers don’t mean to treat their direct reports like machines, but fall victim to focusing too much on task excellence at the expense of relationship excellence.
Consider these commonly missed opportunities to show colleagues that you value them:
- Listening, but not truly being present in the conversation
- Forgetting to affirm a coworker for a job well done or perseverance on a difficult task
- Not saying “hello,” “goodbye,” or “thank you”
- Imposing strict rules and controls rather than setting guidelines that provide autonomy in task execution
- Being insensitive to others’ time, either by regularly interrupting their work or by not returning messages in a timely fashion
- Failing to learn your direct reports’ career aspirations and doing what you can to help them achieve those
- Passing up opportunities to get to know your colleagues’ interests and concerns outside of work, such as using the lunch hour to get away from your desk and build relationships
Jack Mitchell, the CEO of Mitchells/Richards/Marshs, a high-end clothing store with locations in Connecticut and Long Island, is an excellent example of a leader who understands the importance of human value. He describes his philosophy as “hugging” employees and customers by treating employees like family and customers like friends.
Mitchell coaches employees to help them achieve their potential. When they are sick, he reaches out to them. He also gives them autonomy. For example, when one older salesperson needed to take a short nap in the afternoons to get re-energized, Mitchell said that made sense to him.
But does this relationship-oriented approach to business work? Mitchells/Richards/Marshs was the 2002 Menswear Retailer of the Year, and there are countless other examples of companies with people-first philosophies that have excelled in their fields.
When you understand the needs of people, appreciate their positive, unique contributions, and help them achieve their potential, your colleagues will feel valued and will be more engaged in their work.
Effective communication will keep your employees engaged and working hard. Learn more with these AMA resources and seminars.