Growth Insights for CEOs

Top Business Growth Driver: 100% Employee Engagement

Posted by The Chief Outsider

Engage your employees in order to grow your business. As a CEO, what would be the impact if your team was 100% engaged? The good news is that the percentage of employee engagement can be improved in any company. So, if you are not thinking and strategizing about how to drive higher engagement levels, you're missing out on the easiest and least-cost way to grow your business.

When your employees are engaged here is what happens:

  • They perform better
  • They’re more motivated to push even further
  • They become your engine for profitability
  • They stay with your company, becoming advocates for you, your products and services
  • You become more competitive, with a more loyal team ready to take the next hill
  • You get a higher-energy culture and working environment.

In a recent research study, only 31% of employees were actively engaged in their jobs. These employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. Engaged employees tend to have an emotional bond to their companies and are motivated by values such as personal growth and working to a common purpose rather than just remuneration. Striving for 100% employee engagement is complex to say the least but there is a starting point that most companies overlook. Patrick Lencioni, in his latest book "The Advantage", says that leaders must give their employees the clarity they need to commit by answering six basic organizational questions:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important right now?
  6. Who must do what?

The impact is enormous and it is free for the taking. In my marketing consulting practice I always start here. The answer to this question impacts branding, competitive differentiation, communications and ultimately the successful implementation of strategy.

Why Do We Exist And What Is In It For You?

Have you ever asked yourself at a personal level: Why do I exist? I suspect that most people have not asked themselves this question, based on the number of people I have asked recently and the weird look on their face when I pose the question. The question is quite difficult to answer and requires a great deal of thought. Coming up with an answer that will guide you in life is very challenging. The reason one would do this is to give purpose and meaning to your life and keep you centered on what makes you happy.

One could also say that the same introspection would also be valuable for your business. Yet there are very few businesses today that focus on the question "why do we exist" and then internalize it into all aspects of running a business. Wikipedia has a definition for the term 'mission statement' that I like: "A mission statement is a statement of the purpose of a company, organization or person, its reason for existing." So I did a random look at sixty mid size company web sites to see if they had a mission statement and if that mission statement had an answer to "why we exist." Of the sixty companies, I found only three that had a statement that resembled an answer to why they exist, the most notable of which was Aquire Inc. On Aquire's About Us page they stated: "True Wisdom Comes From Within. At Aquire, we believe in the power of knowledge, the benefit of visibility into critical information, and the collective wisdom born from experience combined with collaboration." This statement does not quite explain the reason they exist but they clearly tell you what they believe, which is very important as well.

I believe that defining why a company exists is the biggest opportunity that a CEO has these days and it is virtually untapped in most companies. The most obvious example of a company that gets it is Apple Computer, but more about them later in this article. Let me first give you an example of a company not so well known. I have the good fortune to be a friend of the Chairman and CEO of Rent-A-Center, whose company I believe is shining example of a well run, highly profitable and forward thinking organization. They are a very healthy company no matter which way you do the analysis, and they have grown from a mid size company 25 years ago to a $3B organization today. Their mission statement is clear, easy to remember and states the reason they exist: "To Improve the Quality of Life for Our Coworkers and Our Customers." They hire people who believe what they believe. When you hire people who believe what you believe they will be inspired, loyal and positive contributors to the goals of your company. The reason why you should care about "why you exist" is that decision making is an emotional function of the brain, as proven by numerous neurological studies. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. People are attracted to companies who believe what they believe. Can you imagine how your company will grow when everyone is pulling in the same direction?

Inspirational Leadership

There is a great video by Simon Sinek on Ted Talks which goes into analysis of why great leaders inspire action. In this video Simon talks a lot about Apple Computer and how they differentiate themselves in the computer industry. According to Simon he has codified how great leaders tend to think, act and communicate in the exact same way; and, the complete opposite of everyone else.  Simon calls it the Golden Circle. The Inner circle is the WHY (as in why do we exist), the middle circle is the HOW and the outer circle is the WHAT. He makes the case that inspired leaders communicate from the inside out, drawing first on the emotional level of the audience. For example, at Apple, they communicate that they believe in challenging the status quo and that they believe in thinking differently. Apple says that the way they challenge the status quo is by making their products beautifully designed, easy to use and user friendly. I might also add that Apple produces the most expensive computer products on the market and they are able to command this premium because Apple customers are emotionally attached to Apple products and they buy into Apple and why they exist.

Need another reason? How about Customer Engagement?

With the expansion of social media, a true business opportunity is emerging for those companies which focus on communicating from the inside out. In an article by Brian Solis entitled How Social Media Can Spur Organizational Transformation, Brian champions the idea that "adoption of social media isn’t just important; it’s now becoming homogeneous in its incorporation into the enterprise. What most fail to recognize is that social media is a series of channels that facilitate a more dynamic form of person-to-person connection and discovery through a powerful undercurrent of two-way engagement. Social isn’t just technology, it must become part of the corporate DNA." Unfortunately, most executives don't get social media and its impact on not only customers, but prospects and employees. Today's executives need to become educated and incorporate social media into their communications strategy, both internal and external, but from the inside out.

Topics: Business Growth Strategy, CEO Choices, Employee Engagement

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