I like my V8 V-Fusion® + Energy pomegranate drink around 2:00 p.m. in my Bengals tumbler with ice (crushed, not cubed), with some Smart Pop on the side. It’s just what I need to plow through what would otherwise be drowsy afternoon hours and get some serious work done.
It makes me feel creative.
It makes me feel confident about the work I’m producing.
It makes me feel happy (…and sometimes feeling “happy” goes a long way).
At initial glance, it appears to just be some liquid, a cup, and a few kernels. But no – it’s so much more. It’s an EXPERIENCE, and an experience that actually alters my behaviors, attitude and output.
I’m sure everyone can think of a similar experience that makes you feel a certain way – maybe it’s that first sip of coffee in the morning, that brand new “A Game” outfit you put on to knock your sales presentation out of the park, or maybe it’s the tranquility of your favorite cocktail glass in front of the fire at the end of a long day.
We invest a lot into the experience consumers have with our products and services. There are entire marketing strategies designed around it, product and brand managers focused on it every single day (and whose bonus depends on it!), and researchers continuously testing to measure effectiveness and resulting consumer behavior.
Why? Because the way something makes us feel alters our behaviors, attitude and output. This includes decisions we make about the products and services we choose to engage with.
Let’s switch gears now and think about the employee experience inside your organization’s four walls (or multitude of continents, or virtual platforms, or in whatever form your organization exists). What have you invested internally to support a positive employee experience? Have you developed a strategy (what kind of experience do you want them to have in the first place)? Do you have a team and budget to execute on the strategy? Who are your “researchers” and what continuous metrics do you have in place?
Being intentional about proactively creating the experience your employees have while working for you will result in the behaviors, attitudes and output you desire from your team. After all, our employees – just like our consumers – are human. The way they feel at any moment in time affects their behavior.
So how can you make sure they’re feeling the way you want them to? Follow these five steps:
1. Identify how you want your employees to feel at work. Every organization is different, so define what’s right for you based on the needs of your business strategy.
2. Audit current versus desired feelings to identify where there are gaps (this can be done a number of ways – via survey, focus groups, observations, interviews, etc.).
3. Develop a plan to create an employee experience that yields the desired feelings you’ve identified in Step 1, now being informed of the gaps via Step 2. Consider elements such as:
- Physical office environment (colors, work spaces, lighting, wall hangings, furniture, etc.)
- Management and leadership – what “type” of leaders are you acquiring and building in order to support this experience? (Watch this video to learn more about the vital role organizational leaders play in creating the “smell of the place.”)
- Opportunities to connect/collaborate (both professionally and socially)
- Levels of autonomy and empowerment to make decisions
- Core values and how they’re brought to life during your daily operations
- Flexibility in how work gets done
- Continuous learning and professional development
4. Identify the resources (material, people, and financial) needed to support the plan.
5. Execute the plan, measure regularly, and tweak as needed.
Don’t just let the experience “happen.” Just like you do with your customers, be intentional about creating the type of employee experience that is going to foster high levels of engagement, collaboration, innovation, loyalty, and ultimately performance and results. Otherwise, you can throw your best consumer experience strategy out the window! It starts at home.
I stopped at a Fairfield Inn just outside of Knoxville, TN with my family on our way down to Florida last week for summer vacation. We were in the breakfast area looking for a pitcher of water, but with no luck. I stopped a hotel associate and asked where I could find some. Her response was,
Sure, no problem – I have some in my gym right over there and have the door propped open for you.
Later that day somewhere in the Carolinas on HWY 26, I came across the following post while browsing my Facebook feed:
What do the hotel associate’s response and FB post have in common? Ownership.
Isn’t it funny how well you take care of things when they’re yours?
That hotel associate in Tennessee was running a stellar show for breakfast – coffee always hot and filled, tables wiped down, service with a smile…she owned the place…and my were her customers happy! Leadership at that establishment definitely knows a thing or two about empowerment.
My FB friend was putting a little glitz and glam into her home…spent her hard-earned resources doing it…and was excited about it. Quite a bit different than how some people treat rental property.
Do you want your employees renting or owning their responsibilities at work?
I think it’s safe to say we all want our team members to be excited about their work and to take pride in it just as in the two examples above.
Below are 4 ways to create a culture of empowerment amongst your team so that they will own their to-do list and contribute successful results to the business:
1. Involve the individuals themselves in developing the What’s and How’s.
What is your team working on and how are they going about accomplishing it? Empowerment is direction without the details. Share the vision, then work with them collaboratively to both create and execute the roadmap.
Just as the homeowner above picked out new granite and countertops, have your employees “pick out” what they want a project, sales presentation, or process to look like. Don’t just have them rent your ways of doing things.
2. Apply a “walk before you run” approach.
Not every team member is going to be comfortable with a culture of empowerment. They are all likely at different stages of their career and have had varying experiences that have shaped their levels of confidence. Recognize this and tailor your approach to empower each one appropriately.
- Toddlers – They are curious but have a lot of questions and still look back for reassurance. You’ll have to be a little more hands-on, but it will pay off in the long run.
- Adolescents – They want to be on their own and typically have the confidence, but still need resources and guidance. Mentoring employees at this stage in their career is very important. Stay connected through check points.
- Adults – You may have more senior level employees on your team who have been around the block a time or two. Keep them challenged by asking them to run with a project that is a bit out of their comfort zone or is new for the company. Harness their rich knowledge by encouraging them to serve as informal mentors to others on the team.
3. Be okay with – no, encourage – mistakes.
Tell your team to make mistakes. Promote a culture of learning alongside your culture of empowerment. The two go hand-in-hand. Use the mistakes as teachable moments to help your team grow.
4. Still be a team.
Everything is better when created in partnership with others. Although each team member will flourish when given ownership of certain tasks, you need to foster a collaborative team environment where everyone is willing and able to lend a hand. My FB friend would have never enjoyed her new granite and cabinets if it weren’t for manufacturers and contractors. Likewise, your team needs to rely on the strengths of those around them to add value to whatever it is they’re working on.
In what other ways have you developed a culture of empowerment? Please share!
It should come as no surprise that one of the strategic focus areas for many companies’ people practices is employee engagement. According to research conducted by Ascend, organizations with highly engaged employees outperform their rivals in:
• Operating income by 19%,
• Net income growth by 14%, and
• Earnings per share by 28%.
In addition to financial performance, highly engaged employees are more productive, more likely to remain with their employers, and just overall more passionate about and committed to their work.
Many organizations drive engagement-related efforts from a central team such as Human Resources. These are initiatives spearheaded by others, for you. However, how can YOU complement this at an individual level and take ownership of your engagement?
While most highly engaged employees embrace an employee-centered model of engagement, most disengaged employees follow an employer-centered model. (Ascend)
Disengaged employees expect the organization to play a primary role; however, their highly engaged counterparts more appropriately expect the organization to play a support role.
Individuals who are engaged in their careers are happier people Monday through Friday. Below are a few tips to help you get started taking ownership of your engagement at work.
1. Make the commitment. Engagement requires an increased amount of energy and effort, so you need to make it a conscious choice and be committed.
2. Be “real.” Bring your authentic self to work every day and infuse those characteristics into your work. Start bringing more of “you” into the workplace.
3. Follow company happenings. There’s a lot that goes on outside of your individual role. Stay tuned in to the larger business on a regular basis.
4. Connect with colleagues. Invite them out for coffee or lunch to seek input on a project, or just enjoy a friendly chat.
5. Stretch yourself and take advantage of opportunities. Get out of your comfort zone. Volunteer on committees; ask for a leadership role on an upcoming project; commit yourself to one or two stretch goals each year.
6. Ask your boss for feedback. Be proactive in your communications with your direct supervisor. Don’t wait for her or him to come to you.
Want to reap the benefits of being more engaged in your work? Take that responsibility into your own hands and start today!