Employee Engagement: It’s Getting Workers to Think Like Owners

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Mar 15, 2013

What, exactly, is “employee engagement?”

After checking the Internet, I learned that “engaged employees” are those staff members who feel good about the company they work for.

And “engaging” them reminds ‘em to like their job without a bump in pay.

I think I get it. We just renamed “happy workers” because fresh phrasing is fun. The real issue hasn’t changed with the new name though, has it?

Caring like the owner does

What we’re really after is workers who care as much about the business as the owner does.

And why do we want that?

Because these engaged employees are more productive; they’re better with the customers; and, they increase the bottom line.

Well, I’m not sure we’ll ever get someone as completely engaged as the owner is, but maybe we can get close.

Look first at some traits the owner has:

  • They go the extra mile;
  • They’re efficient;
  • They care what customers think;
  • They know that time is money.

Here’s how you engage employees

Those are the traits we want our employees to have, too.

So here’s the question that all my HR heroes out there want answered: How do you engage employees?

Here’s how: by being human, and, by teaching them what the owner knows.

Being human, that’s the leadership part. A leader makes our work life bearable and interesting. If your company’s missing that part, look up for the answer, not down.

I really want to talk about the other part, about teaching employees what the owner knows.

If you ask me, a lot of gurus and training programs just don’t get this part. Until Jim Bob the line worker knows WHY a good work ethic is important, and understands WHY it’s in his own best interest, there’s little point in a Monday morning all-staff morale meeting.

Following through and rewarding workers

You see, people tend to do what makes their life easier, or somehow better.

If they think helping a customer only affords the boss a new Mercedes, they don’t see the point. But when they learn that — and you have to be prepared for this — 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. Maybe that’s the part that’s missing. That’s a different article for sure.

So why don’t we teach what we really want them to learn – a good work ethic?

Instead we teach specific skills: customer service and teamwork. That’s like teaching the 7th grade girls’ basketball team how to post-up in the box. They don’t even understand the point of the game yet, so why bother teaching them a rebounding technique? It won’t matter.

Once they do understand the game and realize that getting the ball is essential for winning, the rebounding will come naturally.

A reason for them to feel ownership

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.

That reason will create the employee engagement we seek.

That reason is learning what their boss knows about success.

Teach those traits that the big boss has and reward your staff for caring about the company — not necessarily financially, but by caring about them back.

Now, THAT’S employee engagement.