Understanding Employee Engagement With One Simple Question

Get to the Crux of Employee Engagement with Why

What one question can get to the core of employee engagement? Why?

It feels like a throwback to our toddler days – the insatiable questioning of everything. As children, we were streams of questions, wanting to understand the mechanics of everything, and the reasons behind everything. As employees, we often forget to take pause and really consider why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Managers and company leaders need to make sure their teams know why they’re doing what they’re doing. In fact, everyone in a company needs to feel that her work is purpose driven. As Jan Brice writes in The Purpose-Driven Business: Why Your Mission Matters , Forbes, September 24, 2013) www.forbes.com: “Your success—as a leader, visionary, executive—isn’t just the sum of all you do in any given day or even in a given year. That’s because excellence isn’t a list of to-do’s. The way to excel in your field and in your business is the degree to which you are purpose driven. Your why, in other words, matters more than just your what.”

So ask your team, “Why?” And see where the question leads you.

Purpose is the crux of employee engagement. It’s that sense of being connected to something bigger, greater. It’s a feeling our work matters in the large scheme of things. It’s a feeling we’re part of a community. (Purpose on Purpose: Thinking Small About Something Very Big, Switch and Shift, switchandshift.com). Purpose has another positive spill out – company confidence. This translates to optimism and higher productivity.

The core of employee engagement is purpose. So, as leaders and upper management, how do we communicate purpose? Is that possible?

1. Purpose must be embedded in the company’s mission statement. Is your organization’s mission clear, concise? How can you create a great mission statement? Here are a couple examples of some powerful mission statements.
Southwest Airlines: To connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Custominsight: Helping companies achieve success by engaging and developing their employees, managers, and leaders

2. Leaders must share a clear vision of the organization’s goals.

3. Leaders must communicate how each individual’s efforts are valuable toward reaching organizational goals. How does our work matter? How does what we do, every day, make our community better? There’s an HR legend that tells of a janitor who worked at NASA. When asked what he was doing, he responded, “I’m putting a man on the moon.” That’s purpose.

4. Purpose is more than words. It’s more than Just do it on a t-shirt. An organization needs to live its purpose, not just talk about it. So an organization’s actions must be coherent with its mission.

5. Create a purpose review. If we agree purpose effects performance, than it only makes sense to create a kind of review/check system that measures how purposeful the work to an employee feels.

6. Transparency and trust in an organization are keys to breaking down walls, engaging in difficult conversations that will help the company grow, and leaving room for mistakes to not be condemned by learned from.

Purpose isn’t stagnant. It grows, wanes and changes with an organization and its employees. But the purpose of an organization has to be clear, concise, and something employees feel is important not only to the organization but also their personal and professional growth.

We so often focus on the what – the outcome – that we forget that the critical question is, “Why?” Just three letters to something so complex but, at the same time, relatively simple.

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