Researchers have done a broad range of studies that conclude that a motivated workforce willing to actively participate in organizational activities is key to employee retention and good business performance.
Company leaders are facing a myriad of workforce challenges. That is why we suggest going beyond traditional employee engagement initiatives. Have you asked yourself:
How do we develop a willing and motivated workforce that participates in organizational activities?
A competitive paycheck and benefits package is no longer a warranty for employee retention and satisfaction. Over the last decade, we have seen a shift in how all generations perceive the workplace. Even within Generation X, who traditionally looked for more stability and showed higher loyalty to their employers.
Employees are looking to fulfill their professional goals. In comparison to the past, they are now less willing to compromise their personal needs.
Employee satisfaction, willingness, and motivation to participate in organizational initiatives and activities are influenced by different factors including:
- Connection to the organization
- Feeling of belonging and inclusion
- Engagement/compatibility with their daily work and tasks
In response, our team incorporates the 5 following elements when supporting clients who want to increase employee motivation and participation.
1. Focus on and Define Organizational Culture
An organizational culture that is focused and clearly defined is a competitive advantage (these companies often see a higher financial performance compared to similar companies). Moreover, a clear and strong organizational culture is vital to attract and retain employees.
A solid organizational culture develops employees who can exemplify and uphold organizational values and traditions. These are elements of differentiation that sway potential hires from one company to another.
Employee commitment and alignment also make it easier to predict the future success of corporate initiatives. A high-performance, clearly-defined culture makes companies more likely to achieve goals and KPIs.
Five years ago, I recruited 3 people to join the company I was working for at the time. Because I was working abroad, these new hires had limited contact with the corporate team and, consequently, the company culture.
Because the company culture was so well defined, it permeated throughout teams located all over the world. Local leaders’ actions and stories modeled and upheld the company’s culture.
Having equitable ways for employees to communicate helps avoid bias and develop organizational cultures that promote idea generation.
Good, defined culture = better performance
On average, companies with a clearly defined, positive culture achieved 166% growth. That’s more than a 4x difference from their counterparts! Developing a solid culture affects a business’s performance and profitability.
Nonetheless, solid business culture is not a bulletproof guarantee that you will have engaged, loyal employees.
The values, behaviors, and expectations you set for your team members must be reasonable and achievable.
Company leaders are responsible for creating a safe and enjoyable work environment.
In our experience, solid and healthy workplace culture will reflect high engagement and lower turnover. These 7 elements are important to develop this kind of culture:
- Provides a psychologically safe environment
- Provides good communication channels and practices
- Fosters good relationships between employees and company leaders
- Is open to new ideas and diversity of thought
- Takes steps to make sure people feel included
- Leads and takes action with empathy
- Has a results-focused approach to doing business
2. Authentic Leadership & Trust to Enhance Employee Commitment
How long would it take you to think of someone who is not genuine? Just a couple of seconds, right?
We need authentic leaders who believe in and can model a company’s values. Authentic leaders have a substantial impact on company culture.
We must train them in the importance of listening to employee feedback and helping team members to correctly structure those feedback and ideas.
To take advantage of employee ideas, leaders must be open to new perspectives and new ways of doing things. Formal and informal conversations allow them to continuously and strategically gather feedback that can increase their team’s performance. Continuously gathering feedback is also a risk mitigation strategy. It helps identify problems early on to avoid chaos later on.
According to Ethan Harris from Harvard Business School, two main reasons stand between employee ideas and their implementation.
First is the lack of trust/confidence to submit ideas. Up to 70% of employees did not feel comfortable raising ideas to their bosses even when it was necessary. Another 85% withheld their ideas because they were afraid to speak up.
Second is the ability to frame ideas in a way that seem relevant to their supervisor. This is crucial to get buy-in and approval.
This is why organizations that want to create a safe environment for sharing great ideas must train their leaders to build trust among their team members and peers. They must teach leaders to express themselves and project themselves in a manner that is reflects openness to employee ideas.
Lastly, they should understand the company’s organizational structure. This allows them to correctly channel ideas that fall outside their scope of influence and approval.
Ignoring leadership performance is simply not smart.
About one year ago, our team started a consulting project with a client that lost 50-60 employees monthly.
At first glance, he looked like the poster child victim of the Great Reshuffle or the Great Resignation.
After a careful assessment, we identified a series of elements increasing their turnover. The Great Resignation was a unique phenomenon, but employees did not decide to pick up and leave their jobs overnight (in most cases).
The data from our assessment noted that the leadership was perceived as autocratic and directive.
It also highlighted that it was hard to understand the leadership team’s decisions. Our data documented too many changes that resulted in chaos and consequently in a lack of trust in management.
Never-ending changes, the extra workload generated by these, and the psychological uncertainty contributed to overall employee burnout.
Together with the team of consultants leading the project, we developed a work plan with clearly defined short, medium, and long-term actions. This allowed leaders to meet targets and simultaneously address low employee engagement and fatigue. The plan also addressed leadership communication and perception management.
We achieved outstanding results.
3. Recognize Employee Commitment and Contributions
Thirty-seven (37%) of employees report that employee recognition is the most important thing their manager or company can do to motivate them to produce great work.
Moreover, 80% of employees who are recognized at their workplace say recognition by superiors motivates them to work harder.
Recognition is a basic human need. Organizations where people feel appreciated and recognized exhibit higher employee retention rates.
Employee recognition leads to higher employee motivation, job satisfaction, and increased participation.
Recognizing employees for their work and insights increases their willingness to take on new initiatives, suggest ideas, provide feedback, and demonstrate accountability for their work.
4. Gather, Evaluate and Choose Great Ideas
Leaders perceived as egotistical or not considered trustworthy hinder an organization’s ability to gather employee ideas and feedback.
It is easy to visualize how leaders with a “big ego” or who are “not perceived as trustworthy” can affect the employees’ communication of ideas and feedback.
There is a third, less obvious, “leadership gap” regarding the idea and employee feedback-gathering efforts: leaders who lack self-confidence.
Leaders who lack self-confidence can reject ideas and feedback because they might fear being perceived as disconnected from employees and operational activities or as incapable or untrained in company processes.
The truth is that the more significant and complex an organization becomes, the harder it is for leaders to be on top of every detail. That is why idea and feedback management are essential to sustainable growth and continuous improvement.
A study by Sofya Isakkyan from the Rotterdam School of Management found that leaders felt 30% less threatened when employees provided feedback and ideas in private instead of publicly sharing them.
In today’s hectic schedule, those private conversations do not need to happen in a private office or conference room; software tools, virtual audio, and video communication can do the trick!
Technology is not enough to facilitate idea management. We must create frameworks that can help us take ideas and feedback from submission to evaluation and, overall business results.
As with most technological tools, we must consider the human factor behind them. Communication with employees is a vital part of idea management strategies.
5. Take action
Most employee feedback and idea-gathering efforts fail because of a lack of action and improvement of the original collection plan.
Designing a plan or strategy is great, but you need an excellent tactical implementation plan that includes iterations for success.
Gathering feedback from your team across different hierarchical tiers will help you identify factors that might limit the success of your feedback and idea-gathering effort.
Together with our consulting partners, we achieved over 90% of employee engagement in one of our client’s organizations. This is a crucial metric when working to slow down employee attrition.
We proved that providing some vision of the near and long-term future, gathering employee ideas and feedback, and recognizing employees for their contributions increase employee engagement, loyalty and productivity.
When employees feel respected and valued, they will be more willing to participate in organizational activities and initiatives. They are more likely to continue to work for the same company.
Recognized employees also tend to show higher accountability and commitment to their work.
This, in return, increases company productivity, lowers turnover, and can boost customer service quality.