Employee engagement doesn’t necessarily mean employee happiness. You won’t get there simply by making people do trust falls at a team building ranch or organizing a laser tag outing at the local fun barn. While I’ll agree it’s very enjoyable to see the accounting department win a mock futuristic space war, people want more.
To make my point, allow me to oversimplify and divide your employees into two groups: The Bulls and The Bears.
The Bulls: These are engaged employees. They are bullish about the company and their role in it. They are motivated, focused, and productive. At the same time they are, and should be, always analyzing, understanding, and challenging.
The Bears: These are disengaged employees. They are bearish about the company and their role in it. They may be disillusioned and unmotivated, but guess what, they are still listening and analyzing the company and leadership. They may not speak up to leadership, but they are complaining to coworkers, friends, and family about their perceptions.
Your goal is to turn bears into bulls. But how?
Step one is realizing that the common thread between bulls and bears is that both groups are constantly analyzing what’s going on. So simply give them better information to analyze.
Both bulls and bears have invested their current career in your company and have some expectation of a return. So pretend employees are investor analysts, some bullish, some bearish, listening to a public company earnings call. Your job is to rigorously and consistently share relevant detailed information about the following things:
- As much financial information as your company allows
- Important trends and whether they are going up or down
- Background on popular or unpopular decisions that were made
- Motivations of leadership for various actions taken
- How teams and individuals fit into the master plan
Then what? Go beyond what a public company would do on an earnings call and simply listen to feedback from your investor analyst employees and use that feedback to make course changes. Complete the loop by reporting those changes back to employees later.
Why? Because no matter how good or bad things are right now, a bear turns into a bull when they feel like they know the truth in all its technicolor detail, they understand leaders’ motivations, they have confidence in the future direction, they understand their role in the strategy, and their opinions and concerns are actively solicited and sometimes used. This will boost confidence, quell fears, quiet rumors and build trust.
Being bullish or bearish is about confidence in the future. You can only be confident in the future if you fully understand the present.
Your goal is to get more people flashing the buy signal and less doing the mental short sell. If you consistently and rigorously share relevant detailed information during good times and bad, and then truly listen to feedback, you will find greater engagement among your employees.
If it’s employee happiness you’re going for, then try the laser tag. It makes me happy…but only when I win.