I think so many businesses, in today’s economy, figure employees “should be happy they have a job.” The truth is that, according to Inc. magazine, 70% of your employees are job hunting. They might smile and nod and laugh at your jokes, and at night they are on CareerBuilder and asking for recommendations on LinkedIn. Their resumes are up to date and they are ready to jump ship at the first sign of a decent paying job. They aren’t just looking for more money; they want a place that encourages engagement. As Dan Pink espouses in his book Drive, “autonomy, mastery and purpose” are the ingredients for the Engagement Wizard.
The Engagement Wizard is the secret to holding onto those employees who are phoning it in while they search for greener, autonomous pastures. It is far better to employ some engagement tactics to hold onto your veteran employees than to search out a perceived better fit. I realize that some folks are too far gone to turn around and they are the poison in the kool-aid. Employing a few tactics to create engagement for those who are salvageable, is well worth the effort when you figure that turnover can cost you anywhere from 50 to 200 % of the positions salary (and the replacements likely to cost you 10 to 20% more that the incumbent anyway).
So what are the techniques of the Engagement Wizard? Here are a few:
1. Thumb. Quit keeping your employees tightly under your thumb. It’s time to loosen the reigns. As Dan Pink said at a recent conference, no one ever said “my favorite boss was the guy who breathed down my neck”. People leave bosses. If you are dictating an employee’s every movement and deed and watching the clock to make sure they are constantly at the grind stone, your employee will not be engaged. Loosen up your thumbs.
2. Don’t prescribe. You should not view yourself as the doctor who is prescribing all the answers. As Liz Wiseman said in her book “Multipliers”, you want to shift from being the Tyrant who has all the answers to the Liberator who is listening. Listen; don’t talk. This encourages the autonomy that Dan Pink prescribes. If your employee is thinking for themselves, they are happier. If you don’t believe me, tell your partner how to make the bed. See how that goes over; and if they ever make the bed again. Don’t prescribe.
3. Learning. One of the downfalls in the recent economy is the slashing of training budgets. We keep the Sales and Marketing budget status quo, and cut the non-essential training and development budget. This, especially for Millennials, is a bad idea. Employees, who have a “Growth Mindset” as espoused by Carol Dweck, are constantly looking to learn new skills. “The Investor” as written by Liz Wiseman is the leader who is investing in resources for their team. Encourage learning so that your employees are gaining “Mastery”.
4. Monkeys. Delegate the monkey (as in task, project or duty) and check up on their care and feeding. Leaders need to delegate and give ownership to their team. This is another trait of Wiseman’s “The Investor”. You can’t develop Pink’s “Mastery” without letting go of the monkeys. This doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for checking in on the monkeys, however you shouldn’t be the one filling the water dish. Delegate the monkeys.
5. Big Picture. Does your team know the big picture? Jon Gordon at a recent conference suggested handing out 3 X 5 cards to all your employees and asking what the purpose of the company was. What would your team answer? We all need to know the purpose of the organization for which we work. It is much easier to align with an organization and be engaged when we know what the purpose it. If you answer, “To make money”, your team is not engaged. Make sure they know the Big Picture.
6. Non-Commissioned Work. One of the best examples of how effective autonomy is to creating better outcomes was a study that Pink refers to in his book “Drive”. They found that in a blind evaluation (they didn’t know which art work was commissioned versus non-commissioned) paintings that were commissioned (i.e. I want it to match my couch, I want flamingos and it needs to be 6 feet wide) were of less quality and creativeness as opposed to non-commissioned work. So make sure your team has some time to just create instead of keeping them “in the box.” It’s not practical to have all non-commissioned work all the time, however some time left to one’s own devices is critical to engagement.
Once you’ve found your magic wand, get out of the way. You will be amazed at what folks can do if they are given the freedom to find their own path. Find your Engagement Wizard and start waving the magic wand.