Treating Employees Like Grownup Humans Is The First Rule of Engagement
Lucy Adams writing for Personnel Today wonders if we make successful employee engagement more complicated than it needs to be. After speaking to her share of CEOs, HRDs, and communication directors, she’s identified three simple principles she believes are all a company needs for engaging employees.
Treat Employees Like Adults
Many companies act as if they think employees are children who need to be protected, controlled, and amused.
Adams cites things like Casual Fridays and restroom reminders to wash your hands as indicators of a paternalistic attitude towards employees. We might add micromanagement, mandatory self-appraisals, and other such infantilizing measures.
Rule-laden employment contracts and mandatory trainings can also have the effect of alienating the vast majority of good employees while failing to protect the company from bad ones anyway.
Think of Employees as Customers
For many companies, an annual engagement survey is the extent of the effort made to keep track of employees’ feelings. It may take departments months to agree on the survey questions that are likely to garner a mere 60% participation rate.
Companies invest in understanding their customers, collecting and analyzing data that describes their actions and preferences. They should consider leveraging their data-parsing systems to understand employees the same way.
And just as different customers require different enticements, so do employees. The one-size-fits-all approach of the annual review/bonus structure doesn’t recognize the human differences between people, and can’t be expected to successfully motivate all employees.
Engage Employees As Human Beings
In world of “VUCA” — volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity — the value of connecting on a human level can hardly be overstated. Inspiring leaders consider it part of their job to make themselves available to employees who need to vent, share ideas, or just connect.
Such efforts can fail, though, when leaders talk to employees like made-up characters whose corporate-speak checks all the boxes while failing to make a human connection. Adams says you don’t need to “dialogue” with employees, or “interact.” Just talk. Use the same words you’d use with your friends and family as a sign of respect, a recognition of common humanity.