One of the most crucial factors to moving a firm forward is the level of passion, enthusiasm, and loyalty that exists among its employees (and by “employees,” I mean entry level staff all the way up to its senior leadership). Most firms, of course, dream of building a team of super staff who willingly put in long hours, come up with creative solutions, and generally go above and beyond their job descriptions.
But bringing this dream to fruition, however, means that those at the top need to start taking a good look at what is happening on the other side of the fence. On that side are the employees and promising candidates themselves who dream of an employer that values their time and efforts and that allows them to make a noticeable impact- both within the firm and outside of it.
While each employee will obviously come in with his or her own work ethic and personal level of enthusiasm, the onus of bringing these two sides together is really on the firm.
Why Employee Engagement Matters
A lack of employee engagement can be a leading cause of poor work quality, low morale, and difficulties in customer relations, ultimately resulting in missed business opportunities. In fact, there is a large body of research and numerous case studies out there that directly tie employee satisfaction and engagement to company performance.
This means if you can sell your employees on the firm’s future and the importance of their role in it, there are numerous advantages. Your employees are more likely to generate their own ideas, contribute with enthusiasm, and keep slogging away even when the road ahead is rocky. They also have a greater sense overall of fellowship and cohesiveness. All of this will help to ensure that your projects are successfully acquired, planned, and executed; that your clients walk away satisfied with your work; and that your firm is on top of the emerging trends in the industry.
Leave the Lip Service at the Door
So how can you foster real employee engagement in your firm? For starters, leave all the lip service at the door.
Firms are notorious for talking about things like employee satisfaction, engagement, and leadership development, while there’s little in practice to back up their words. The harsh truth is that the mere concept of “employee engagement” can easily be abused by firms that seek to strengthen the commitment of their employees without giving them anything in return.
Of course, this attitude on the part of firms just won’t work in the long run.
Only when employees have a clear understanding of the firm’s goals and mission, a strong sense of how their roles contribute to the larger goals of the firm, and knowledge of the areas where they need to be performing better… only then can they really take pride in the importance of their work and do the best possible job on every project.
A Change in Perspective
Many times when I ask the senior leaders at a firm to describe their firm’s mission, I am fed a series of memorised talking points that revolve around their strategy for achieving future growth and improved productivity. In other words, they are all to happy to tell me where there are going. Yet, when I try to get them to tell me who they are, my prodding is met with silence.
A lot of good can be achieved if firms would focus a bit less on where they are going versus who they are. Once there is a sense of what a firm stands for, senior leaders can begin the process of implanting these values into their key business decisions and ultimately into their daily operations. Every decision and every action then becomes a branded representation of the firm as a whole, creating a distinct culture that will attract suitable employees as well as clients and business partners.
A rather automatic consequence of operating with this attitude, is that the senior leaders at a firm will start to look at their employees differently. Instead of expendable assets that help them to achieve their goals, their employees will evolve into a hard-to-replace reflection of their core beliefs. These firms will then be more likely to invest in direct, personalised forms of culture building and leadership development, such as mentoring, effective employee evaluation and feedback programs, and even increased face-to-face contact between entry and mid level staff with those at the top. All of these things can generate a high level of trust, loyalty, and commitment among employees.
In closing….When firms want to increase their employee engagement, they typically consider their benefits package: how much money they are offering, what titles to give out, and who should be brought into their ownership program. They are working backwards. Once a firm figures out what they stand for as well as how their employees want to be shown that they are valued and make an impact, they can then go about fitting these concepts into the system. Armed with this knowledge, they can design a benefits package that truly and naturally elicits the engagement they are looking for.