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A computer geek, a design guru and a customer service manager walk into a bar….
No sorry, we haven’t thought of the punch line yet either but the first reaction is to wonder what such a differing trio may have in common. And the truth is that many such friendships do take place outside work where mutual interests unite people under a common banner.
But what happens when we expect the same trio to unite within the workplace, how do we create the conditions in which everyone works together in a harmonious whole? Whilst a mutual interest in sport may unite people from differing backgrounds, how do we engage people whose skills and personalities are very different to come together for the sake of the business?
The trouble is that when people do have such differing talents and personalities it can be very easy for fragmentation to take place within the business. The IT specialist is concerned with systems and processes and lives on a wholly different level from someone whose talent lies in creativity and design flair or in the ease with which they can relate to customers. And in today’s workplace where 16 year olds may rub shoulders with 76 year olds, the challenge to manage across both age groups and personality types will stretch the ablest of leaders.
The answer is to develop a strong company culture in which individual talent is nurtured with the interests of the business in mind. Just as differing personalities can unite under a common interest, within work the same can happen if the common interest is that of the business. Developing the culture and engaging employees so that they embrace the business vision can result in differing peoples and departments working together for mutual benefit.
And let’s get one thing clear. Employee engagement isn’t a nice to have add on and it isn’t a fluffy business speak fad. Survey after survey reveals that engaged employees are good for the business. When people embrace the vision they are more proactive, they focus their work towards the desirable business outcome and, more importantly, they work together.
This means that silos don’t develop, there is no in-fighting and departments co-operate with each other. The result is that wastage reduces, projects are more likely to be completed on time and people actively try to step out of their comfort zone to understand and help others. Put simply, employee engagement cuts costs and boosts profits.
But engagement is not just about nurturing a culture and taking steps to engage current employees within the vision. More and more organisations are realising the importance of hiring for cultural fit. Whilst a certificate may be a nice piece of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the holder is able to work with others in the company. When a personality clash can ruin an entire department, the ability to do the job almost comes second to the ability to meld with the team.
Employees too are recognising that company culture and engagement should come high up on their job-seeking agenda. Work is no longer the consuming dictator to which you give your all without seeking anything other than a salary in return. Employees are increasingly looking on their relationship with the business as more of a partnership in which a good work/life balance, recognition and job satisfaction rank highly on their “wanted” list.
Businesses which involve staff in the decision making process, which take steps to empower and reward employees will gain a reputation for engagement. Sometimes just a simple thank-you may be enough but whatever it takes, the results mean that engaged businesses are more likely to attract a better level of candidate. And with the better candidate comes further rewards. Just look at those organisations which have gained the accolade of “best company to work for” to see how engagement can make a difference not only to reputation but also to profitability.
Taking steps to improve engagement quite simply makes a difference for the company, for the employees and for the customers. So when a computer geek, a design guru and a customer service manager walk into a bar perhaps they will have something in common after all; when they are all engaged in the smooth running and profitability of your organisation.