4 ways to inspire employees to care about their work and the company
By david sturt and todd nordstrom in Appreciation, Culture, and Engagement
It’s a more common problem than we’d all like to believe. It happens in every industry and workplace. It happens in every corner of the globe. This problem affects all of us. It’s our problem. It’s your problem. It’s everyone’s.
“I’ve read all the studies about low engagement,” said Bryce, a business owner we started chatting with on a recent airport shuttle. “I only have eleven employees. I don’t think all that much about engagement, and all the stuff that goes with it. I just wished my people would care just a little about the business, care a little about making our customers happy, and care about having some pride in their jobs.”
Although Bryce owned a small equipment rental company, with just a few employees, his desire—wishing employees cared—is actually a common question we hear from leaders of all company sizes, “How do you make people care?”
Here’s the harsh truth. You can’t make people care. But, you can provide all of the right elements that inspire them choose to care about your business, your team, and their job. Here are four things we’ve discovered through research, and interviews with successful leaders that can skyrocket your results.
- Care about, and share about, your employees first.As simple as it sounds, many leaders, even when they do care about their people, aren’t always very good at sharing that appreciation. Your people won’t care about your company or your goals unless you care about them and their goals first. Learn, practice, and get good at recognizing your people, because research shows appreciation is the number one thing employees say their managers could do to inspire them to produce great work.
- Cheer for effort, because it deserves it.As we travel and speak to organizations, we often find that many managers are confused by the difference between appreciation and incentives. Incentives, are a transaction—if you accomplish abc, then you receive xyz. Often times incentives are presented before a project or assignment. Appreciation, on the other hand, isn’t solely focused on the outcome. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment of a person’s intention, sweat and hard work, and their result. Research shows that when efforts and results are recognized, employees report, 1) An increased confidence in their skills, 2) An understanding that they are on track and in good standing with their manager, and 3) it creates an improved relationship with their leader.
- Be crystal clear about what you value.Telling your employees that you expect the best from them, doesn’t actually mean much to them—because they don’t understand what that means to you. Employees want to know exactly what you value and appreciate. Virgin Trains, for example, headquartered in London, wanted to encourage specific efforts throughout their company—unique things the company valued that supported the brand to consumers. Most of us have probably seen corporate values hanging on boardroom walls. They’re typically quite dull. Instead of mild, forgettable phrases, consider the raw power of their choice of words, “Screw Average. Create Amazing.” Below that was a specific list of things the company valued from their employees. Our favorite in this list was “Giving a damn,” which was followed by descriptors of things they valued in action: 1) Empowered people working together. 2) Intuitive and flexible. 3) People not (just) protocol. And, 4) Doing the absolute best for people, doing the right thing.
- Beg them to make the difference they were hired for.Most people don’t apply for jobs and assume they’ll be mediocre at best. They don’t. They apply for jobs and to companies where they believe their skills and experience will make an impact—where their thinking and effort will make a profound difference. Still, we’ve spoken with many struggling managers who can’t understand why a certain employee isn’t satisfied by simply becoming the mirrored version of a job description. In fact, research shows that 88% of award-winning projects began when an employee asked themself the question, “What difference could I make that someone would love?” Your people want to be difference-makers. Beg them to become the best version of their unique selves.
While it may seem frustrating that we can’t make people care about our companies, our goals, our customers, our teams, or even their own jobs, we can give them reasons to care. And, in our experience, when they care, they’ll achieve at a level that surpasses anything we could have ever imaged.
“That makes sense,” said Bryce. “I guess I need to spend a little more time caring about my own company.”
“What do you mean?” we asked.
“My people are my company. They keep me in business.”
Our latest book is Appreciate: Celebrating People, Inspiring Greatness, or learn more about the NYT Bestselling book Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love.
This post was originally published on Forbes.