How the CEO can Create an Even More Engaging Work Environment

How can CEOs create an even more engaging work environment?  I asked David Witt, Program Director at The Ken Blanchard Companies.

The Blanchard folks have done an enormous amount of research on this topic of workplace engagement. They’ve found some astonishing and profoundly useful things about truly getting high performance from knowledge workers — and it’s not money.  Above a certain point, the more money you offer a knowledge worker for their work, the more you harm their performance.

(read the full article)
[Watch Dan Pink on Drive (RSAnimation) as he explains this paradoxical finding.]

Here are the eight things David Witt says are key for building an engaging work place:

  • Meaningful work — Employees perceive the organization’s larger purpose through
    products or services produced, consider their work to be worthwhile, and are proud of
    their individual actions and contributions that help the organization serve its customer.
  • Collaboration — Employees perceive an organizational environment and culture that
    enhances collaboration, cooperation, and encouragement between all organizational
    members.
  • Fairness — Employees perceive an environment where pay, benefits, resources and
    workload are fair and balanced and equitable, people treat each other with respect, and
    leaders act in an ethical manner.
  • Autonomy — Employees perceive an environment where people have the tools, training,
    support, and authority to make decisions.
  • Recognition — Employees perceive an environment where they are praised, recognized,
    and appreciated by colleagues and their leader for their accomplishments, where
    they receive monetary compensation for those accomplishments, and where they are
    contributing to positive relationships with others.
  • Growth — Employees perceive an environment where people have opportunities to learn,
    grow professionally, and develop skills that lead to advancement and career growth.
  • Connectedness with the Leader — Employees perceive an environment where they trust
    their leader and where the leader makes an effort to form an interpersonal connection
    with them.
  • Connectedness with Colleagues — Employees perceive an environment where they
    trust their colleagues and where their colleagues make an effort to form an interpersonal
    connection with them.

[Get the Blanchard White Paper on Employee Passion and Engagement]

One key skill is to care genuinely about your co-workers and direct reports.  Don’t fake it.  Most people can smell fake interest a mile away.  And as you look for people to promote into leadership, look for this ability to care about others — it’s a crucial leadership skill.

If you’re practicing this skill, try this — ask your people on Monday what they did over the weekend… and ask it intentionally and really listen to the answer.  One thing I’ll do is, ask a question like “what’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week?”  Then, as another person joins us, I’ll share with the new person what the other person said, paraphrasing it.

So Joe tells me he spent the weekend fishing.  As Jim joins us, I say “Hey, Joe spent his weekend fishing — what did you do?”  By using the information I’ve received, I help anchor it.  And, I practice the skill of taking and expressing interest — growing that capability.

Further, people want to work for a company they can feel proud of.  They like it when they can be proud of their company’s mission, and they feel special engagement when they can see how their own work directly contributes to that mission.  Managers are broadly doing well on this — it’s perhaps the best of the eighth points.

The poorest area is in growth — creating opportunities for people to grow their skills and abilities.  Very few work places are doing this well, and it’s only gotten worse with the economic downturn.  At the same time, this is a great time to ASK for additional responsibilities.

If you’re a manager, you’d be wise to keep notes on each of your direct reports — where do they want to be in five and ten years?  Use that knowledge to explain how today’s assignment is helping them reach that long term goal.

As you see with growth, there’s inter-connectedness between these eight points — by noticing growth opportunities, I also demonstrate I care, and I reinforce that person’s connectedness to the leader.

A huge area of opportunity is to ensure that people feel a sense of autonomy within clear boundaries — people want to set at least some of their goals, and they very much enjoy having freedom to choose how to reach those goals.  As a worker shows expertise, give them more latitude to pick their own approach.

People value collaboration, especially across departmental boundaries.  They value fairness — which requires managers to communicate clearly and proactively how and why decisions are made about compensation, benefits, resources, and so on — if you don’t give them an explanation, they will invent their own.  And of course, people value recognition.

Listen to the complete interview here.

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