How to increase profits by increasing engagement in 6 steps.

There are some brilliant engagement metrics available.  If you can it’s a good idea to choose or create one that measures the aspects of engagement your company is specifically interested in.  And nothing else – best to avoid the irony of disengaging busy colleagues by wasting their time answering irrelevant (engagement) questions.

It depends on why you’re interested of course. To show you’re a good employer & aid recruitment?  To check your people policies are gaining traction?  For recognition, awards & kudos?  To prove wholesome values to staff, owners, & other stakeholders?  To boost profits?

There’s good evidence that the aspects of engagement that affect financial performance are those that relate to the emotional connection a person feels with their company.  The criteria we use for this are things like:

  • Achieving the company’s goals will help me get my goals
  • I feel valued & respected
  • I experience more positive than negative emotions at work
  • I have affection for the company and my colleagues
  • I trust my leaders with my future and the company’s future
  • I share the company’s values…
  • …and leadership & colleagues manifest them

This sort of engagement releases optimum levels of discretionary effort.  It’s not the only factor that affects how much extra people volunteer above the minimum endeavour required.  However it is both a massive affect and highly sensitive to leadership behaviour.

Overview of how to encourage and embed such engagement:

Step 1: Define and adopt leadership values & behaviours that treat people well and create positive emotions in them – even when being held to account.

Step 2: Communicate those values at every opportunity – if they represent a change some people will need to see them seven times before they hear them.

Step 3: Emphasize that leadership values & behaviours are for everyone at every level – we are all leaders – do not stigmatise junior levels by excluding them from leadership values – that’s a certain & quick way to lose them – leadership values & behaviours make our culture.

Step 4: Knowing what the behaviours are supposed to be is pretty useless at delivering behavioural change (ever tried a diet or new exercise regime?) Meaningful behavioural change must be embedded.

  • Win buy-in
    • Use evidence that the new enlightened leadership values & behaviours will improve company performance
    • Use online metrics to reveal the (always present) consensus that new values & behaviours are necessary
  • Share the evidence that sustainable behavioural change IS achievable by everyone but only via the new & effective change strategies
  • Then deploy cognitive behavioural interventions to change how people think & behave ie to embed the new leadership values and behaviours

Step 5: Create congruent recognition/reward systems that include compliance with the new way & processes: embed in ALL evaluation and feedback metrics/procedures at ALL levels, C-level to sea level. Change must start at the very top – board, CEO, even the non-execs. People evaluate leaderships’ commitment on:

  • How you behave and
  • What you do about dissidents – tolerance here signals lack of commitment and gives people a reason/excuse not to try themselves. If you’re really serious you need to treat cultural
    congruence as a retain/release criterion (be prepared to fire persistent dissidents before they undermine the whole initiative).

Step 6: Remember, this is an iterative process, not a one time initiative.

My experience of very successful leadership culture change initiatives is that the man or woman at the top is so serious about it they are prepared to subject their own behaviour to open scrutiny.  They weren’t all exemplars from day one, but they all publicly addressed the changes in themselves that were needed.

Zero tolerance of dissident / emotionally dissonant behaviour is a powerful thing.  I recall with admiration one client CEO firing half his board over it along the way to completing a corporate turnaround a year ahead of budget.

That’s no coincidence, this is a tipping point phenomenon.  Dismissing a senior leader for not embracing the new way wins respect and belief.  Allowing dissonance in senior people for whatever reason evidences lip-service or special pleading, so folk judge accordingly and lose faith.  And lets face it, they’re not wrong.

If you would like to discuss the practicalities of the leadership-engagement-culture triangle please do get in touch.


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