Employees who care about their work will work harder, be more motivated, and be more invested in a positive outcome. But how do we actually get employees to care? Unfortunately, we can't simply force them to exude loyalty, but we can give them the opportunity to be committed and the support they need to succeed. And if we give them those things, they will become connected to their work and feel satisfied when they succeed. In essence, they will care.
In a previous career, I was a union organizer. Employers believe that employees join a union because of wages and benefits, but research shows conclusively that wages and benefits rank fifth on the list of reasons. Truth is, employees are most likely to seek union representation because of failed relationships. It turns out that the relationship between an employee and co-workers is the most important one in the workplace. When employees have a good friend at work, they are likely to be more engaged, more productive, and more likely to stay with the company than an employee without a buddy.
Obviously, you can't force your employees to make friends. But you can create an environment where networking and positive relationships are encouraged. It could be as simple as providing a break room where employees can mingle or having team lunches or after work activities. Signing up for a work group softball or bowling league helps employees develop relationships and builds a team mentality. As they determine they like each other, they develop a feeling of trust, and that leads to loyalty and a sense of investment or engagement.
The second most important relationship in the workplace is between the employee and the direct supervisor. Without a doubt, the number one reason employees approach a union is because they are furious with the front-line supervisor. Supervisors frequently fail to develop positive relationships with employees — relationships that generate engagement. Often, supervisors are promoted based on technical expertise, but they don't get the interpersonal training needed to interact properly with the workforce and build it into a high performing team.
Organizations that have already established positive relationships among employees, and between employees and supervisors, can then begin to look at other ways to engage employees so they want to go above and beyond the call of duty. One way is to create a culture that nurtures and supports employees. Find out what they want from the job. Where do they see themselves going in the organization? Give them adequate resources so they are able to properly do their jobs, and challenge them to do more. Set a goal and let them determine how to do it — with a minimum of parameters. Give them as much control as possible, including the opportunity to make decisions, and then praise them for their success.
Managers cannot simply order employees to be engaged. But addressing the top reasons for dissatisfied employees (failed relationships) and establishing an environment that makes interaction, engagement, and motivation more likely to occur provides the fuel that helps build a loyal, satisfied, and excited workforce.
With his distinctive, direct and oft-humorous approach, "recovering attorney" and long-time business and executive coach Paul Glover bares his knuckles to present 76 strategies and tips to thrive in the Knowledge Economy in his new book, WorkQuake, published by Round Table Companies. The blogger for FastCompany.com coined the term WorkQuakeTM of the Knowledge Economy to capture his unique insights and tools to implement organizational change in the knowledge economy. Paul's writing has been featured in The Business Edge, Vistage, Manufacturing.net, and Food Manufacturing. He is based in Chicago.