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How the World’s Most Successful Companies Treat People Differently

How the World’s Most Successful Companies Treat People Differently

We’ve all seen the alarming statistics delivered each year in Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report, with the 2017 report showing that only 33 percent of the American workforce are engaged. And to make matters worse, these statistics have only increased by 3 percent between 2012-2016, so less than 1 percent per year.

Why does this matter and why should we be concerned? To answer this, let me share some more data from Gallup, which says that companies with high employee engagement have 17 percent higher productivity, 20 percent higher sales, and 21 percent higher profitability. If we want our companies to succeed and survive in this competitive environment, we all need to deliver these results, and we can only do this by having an engaged workforce.

But the truth is that we’ve known this for years—treating people better gets better business results. And the other truth is that we have disengaged employees because we’ve lied to them, treated them as adversaries, and given them crappy jobs without autonomy, excitement, or accountability. No wonder engagement hasn’t improved!

But all is not lost. There are companies out there doing things differently, treating their employees differently, and outperforming and disrupting their competitors. We call them rebels in our new book Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement. And to help you achieve the kind of results that they have at your organization, here are eight tips from the many included in the book:

Stop the Lies

Lying to our staff, telling half-truths, withholding information, and compulsive under-communication destroys trust in organizations. It creates an “us and them” culture and sabotages any possibility of employee engagement. If you’re serious about employee engagement, you need to stop the lies and build trust first through open and honest communication.

Explain, Don’t Just State, Your Values

Designing values is more than just coming up with a set of words; real time needs to be spent on explaining what you really mean by those words and why they are relevant to your company. Rebels do this, and then take it to the next step by explaining their values through actions—actions in how leaders lead and in how HR programs are designed.

Management Really Matters

Leadership can inspire you to a cause, connect you to a strategy, and make you deeply want the organization to succeed, but it’s management that your people will connect with every day. And it’s bad managers who can ruin lives, so it’s important to get good at identifying bad managers and removing them quickly. Rebels do this, as they understand that failing to do this will lose them the respect of their staff, who always feel the pain of bad managers first.

Write Policies for the 99.9 Percent of Your Workforce

Rebels accept that most people are good and trustworthy, and they develop HR policies and practices that are respectful of their people and honor their good intentions. They deal with people who go outside this rule quickly and efficiently, not basing decisions and programs on this small minority.

Create Engaging Jobs

If we want engagement in our organizations, we need to first eliminate the disengaging jobs. The attributes of a good job are not complex. People need to deploy and develop skills, believe they are producing something meaningful, have enough challenge and demand to be stimulated over the long term, and have enough freedom and autonomy not to feel part of a machine. We need to overcome our fears of what people will do by making them accountable for clear, visible results. Then give them the freedom to innovate, iterate, and pioneer new ways of doing better.

Ditch the Clocks and Watches

Tenure-based awards don’t result in a culture where employees feel seen and recognized for what they’ve achieved and contributed, which is why 78 percent of employees don’t feel recognized. They also do nothing to encourage the behaviors we need to succeed in business. So stop them now, and move the money to value- and behavior-based recognition.

Use Benefits as a Cultural Differentiator

Rebels match their peers on core benefits—but then go much further, looking for creative opportunities to show their personalities and that they’re different. Find ways to invent or put your own spin on benefits, not being confined by what’s available in the marketplace.

Shift the Power with Flexible Working

If you want flexible working to work, you need to shift the power. You have to change your default response from no to yes. Rather than ask employees to bravely beg for different hours, you need to invert the process and make managers write a business case to prevent someone from working flexible. Flexible working has to stop being a privilege and become an expectation.

I invite you to join our “rebelution,” keeping in mind that how we’ve treated people at work has failed, and that the only way to change this is to be a rebel and challenge the status quo. I’m not going to say it’s easy, because change can be difficult, but I promise you, it will be well worth it—for your company and for your employees!



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by Debra Corey // Debra Corey is global head of employee engagement at Reward Gateway, and is co-author of the new book, Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement. Learn more at www.RebelPlaybook.com.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.