Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Small teams can engage with a large vision

Ask any member of my 6 member, all female team what’s our corporate mission is and they’ll tell you it is to be the best PR firm in the country within the next five years. Ask them how we are going to get there and they’ll spout off the 6 defining principles which they helped draft. Finally, ask them how they, as employees, connect to our overarching mission to be the best, and they’ll share the company motivators, the pay scale factor and our employee ladder. They can say these things with confidence because they are fully engaged with the objectives of the business.

I am not sure when it happened. How as a small firm I built a cadre of engaged employees. It certainly did not happen overnight but over long conversations and meeting about the change in our direction (we always wanted to remain small) and what it would take for us to get there. What I know for sure is that my firm offers them a belief in a possibility. A working towards a common goal. A promise that we will get there and that when we do the reward will be there for everyone. What I offer is engagement.

Employee engagement is not an esoteric thing. There are always tangible ways to do a temperature check. La Toya, our projects co-coordinator stays late every day for one month to work on a big project. Jamila, an assistant does not complete any task without asking the core questions that are at the heart of our company’s growth. Alicia, our accountant, volunteers on our PR projects when we are in a crunch, without being asked.

My senior consultants and I know that there is a wide gap between compliance and commitment. The subtle difference is that even though the job gets done with compliance, creativity and passion are missing, so too is the enthusiasm. And the consequence is often devastating:

Employee disengagement signifies:
• Poor understanding about how an individual’s work connects to
the purposes of the company.
• Poor, limited communication with team members about the purpose
of the organization, its strategies, challenges, strengths, weaknesses,
• Expectations aren’t properly set in the minds of all staff members,
resulting in disappointment, frustration or resentment.
• There’s an imbalanced focus on short-term achievement, instead
of long-term thinking.

A key building block for engagement is to have your employee’s execution be tied to something tangible like a reward. But even more important there is need for your staff to have clarity on why they are doing what they are doing. Research shows that less than 5% of the typical workforce understands their organization’s strategy. For instance, I found that when I explained our company’s 5 year objective and linked it back to our mission and identified everyday tactics that employees could do to help us achieve it, staff productivity shot up by 15%.

As a small sized business flexibility is perhaps our greatest strength it is easy enough for us to get in at the “ground level” and build the kind of understanding that really unleashes the innovative potential of our team. Yes, the mission is important but sharing that mission and cultivating understanding is perhaps even more critical when it comes to building an engaged team.

1 comment:

Kevin Manning said...

I am a celebrity.
There are also those who will tell you that your idea will fail and then steal it from you.