Employee engagement isn't just about talking to employees, but how far can it go towards creating staff that care as much about the business as the owner does?
In a straight-talking blog for TLNT.com, ex US Marine David Sneed suggests that employee engagement depends on people understanding that success flows naturally from a sense of ownership for the business they work for.
What motivates ownership
Sneed takes a very pragmatic view of the motivation behind creating that sense of ownership:
"If (employees) think helping a customer only affords the boss a new Mercedes, they don’t see the point. But when they learn that…helping the company succeed is rewarded (financially or otherwise), they’ll see the light. But we also have to follow through on our end and reward the employees who DO help the company succeed."
What traits distinguish an owner
He sees engaged employees as potentially taking on the traits that the owner already has developed to build the business:
They go the extra mile;
They care what customers think;
They know that time is money.
Making engagement matter
If you aspire to this level of engagement, as I believe we all should, you do need to enable your employees to contribute in a way that matters. Token gesture consultations or mundane challenges are not going to inspire anyone for long.
Equally, you need a straightforward, dynamic and transparent ideas management system where people can easily contribute their own ideas, be part of developing others, or just keeping abreast of the latest developments. (For more on the importance of this level of 'passive' involvement, see our blog on the 90-9-1 rule of social media interaction).
Success and ownership
As Sneed suggests: "If you show your employees that success at work comes from feeling ownership in their company, customer service/time management/hard work will naturally follow. They already know how to do these things; what they need is a reason to do them."
Seeing your idea progress from an initial thought right through to final implementation creates pride; having that idea credited to you and some level of idea ownership retained from start to finish creates a deeper sense of responsibility.
Not all ideas will be great, but simply being able to contribute ideas to a robust and non-political approach to innovation is essential for providing an effective outlet for your employees.