We live and work in a globally-connected and fast-paced world that hosts a wide range of personalities from diverse backgrounds. Many of these employees are millennials, a generation that is highly vocal about their need for authenticity, transparency and individualism in ways generations before them have not been.
CEO’s and top management are no longer able to sit in a closed conference room, make all of the decision and share them as deemed fit. Today’s employees require real-time engagement and that starts by creating a company culture that values them as professionals and unique individuals.
This has left many CEO’s caught in an uncomfortable purgatory, feeling the challenge that comes with creating this kind of culture while also the pressures that come with knowing how essential it is to do so. Engaged employees are more loyal and have a direct positive impact on so many elements of your success as a business, from branding and productivity to bottom line impact. My experience with working with dozens of global organisations and executive teams over the past 16 years have highlighted some key areas that can make a real difference when it comes to cultivating an engaged company culture. Today, I will share 10 with you.
- Raise your leadership visibility
A key part of employee engagement is a sense of pride in the company and it’s leaders. Employees want to feel proud to see their leaders on TV, presenting on the external stage and with a profile that is known and out there. According to research by Burson-Marsteller in the US, a CEO’s reputation accounts for 50% of a company’s reputation. In Germany it is 63%. We live in a world that values transparency and the authentic dimension, and you and your leaders are able to bring high levels of this by being ‘seen’ and heard more both internally and externally. What better than having an ‘advert’ for your company than from the brand within? Your leadership team are the best advert you could have for portraying the core brand messages – make sure they are all brand-fit.
- Promote accessibility
An open-door policy that is practiced by management at all levels is a great way to build loyalty and show transparency. Have direct supervisors set up times each week to be accessible in an open area for staff to come and ask questions. CEO’s can have office hours several times each month where employees can come in and share their thoughts and feedback. As well as being more transparent, you’ll to learn a lot about the company and your people too!
- Lead by example
A team can only be as good as its leader and you set the tone. If you’re chaotic and disorganized, your team will be as well. If you’re focused and clear, they can be too. As soon as you stop exhibiting the behaviours you want to see in your managers and your people, you give them the perfect excuse to stop too.
- Host team-building social events
One of the best ways to build a culture of engagement is to create a space for employees to engage one another as human beings with unique interests and a shared goal. Think about different personality types and offer access to events that cater to each. From company marathon teams and volunteer days to group cooking classes, potlucks, and yes, the occasional happy hour, there are numerous ways for CEO’s to connect with their teams through organized events.
- Increase Charity/fundraising programmes
Though they often get a bad rap for being selfish, Millennials are revered by many experts as the most philanthropic generation in history. They have very clear expectations for the companies they support and work for and are motivated by giving back. Perhaps hold a meeting where you allow employees to vote on the charity to support for the quarter or even the year. Or have each team “compete” in various work-related competitions (i.e., sales numbers) to support their charity of choice. Give a certain percentage and reward the winning team for their efforts.
- Be clear and timely.
Too often managers ignore requests and then sit in front of their full inboxes, firing off responses and directives that leave their staff confused, overwhelmed and running in different directions. This often leads to employees feeling undervalued and disrespected. A sure way to create dis-engagement.
- Recognition Initiatives
We all appreciate having our efforts appreciated which is why it is essential for managers to take time to acknowledge when a team member does something that benefits the company or even has a personal achievement they are proud of. Whether it’s spotlighting a staff member in the company newsletter or giving a shout out in a meeting, take a moment to recognize when a job has been done well. A simple thank you card will have huge impact.
- Empower your staff
One of the most powerful thing a manager can do is lift his or her team in a way that empowers them to take the initiative and lead in their own, unique way. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each staff member and set them up for success by pairing them with colleagues who can mentor them and others they can mentor. Not only will this boost the skillset of each member of your team, but it will serve as a strong bonding exercise.
- Give appropriate line manager training
Often a company can put in a lot of effort to create the right engagement levels and be let down by inexperienced, power conscious line managers who have not been provided with the necessary training. We know most employees will leave an organization because of their direct line manager and high levels of attrition are expensive. Put investment into properly training your middle managers to effectively manage, lead and empower their teams.
- Make the company a place people want to work.
Do not make the mistake of thinking your employees are “lucky” to have a job. This generation values their skills and know they have options when it comes to employers. See the relationship as a mutually-beneficial one and create a company culture that has high expectations and high rewards. Development workshops, team-building, compassion, transparency and authenticity are the foundation on which an engaging company culture is made.
In summary, be under no illusion that your personal brand as a leader is not pivotal to the brand of your company. Treat it with the enthusiastic focus and importance you and your company deserve.World class means having a strong personality that is known over and above your individual products and services. You, as CEO quite simply provide the personality needed.
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Read more about Corporate Brand Personality in my new book: #corporatebrandpersonality published by Kogan Page Feb 2016 on Amazon.