My older sister graduated from THE Ohio State University a few years back (I won’t say how many – okay 36 – remember she’s my OLDER sister.) Our family went to the graduation in the famed Horseshoe. It was a mad house.
For some reason, the thing I remember most vividly was the first line from one of the speakers (I think he was the school Prez but not sure.)
“We both have a job to do here today. I am delivering a speech. You are listening. If you finish your job before me please, be patient and polite, and wait for me to finish my job.”
I don’t know many things I heard 36 years ago that stuck with me – but that did. At first, I thought it was an excuse to be boring – and to put the onus on me – the audience – to make it seem bearable. But the years that have rolled by since have given me a different perspective, and it is one that I think translates into talent management and employee engagement.
Managers Are Only 1/2 the Equation
I’ve railed on my own site and in some of my posts here that managers are the real levers for employee engagement and performance. I still believe that. Something – someone – has to get the ball rolling and managers are the perfect place for it to start. But…
Employees have a job to do as well. Just like the opening line of the speech, managers have a job AND employees have a job – if they want to truly impact engagement, satisfaction, retention, etc.
I think we give employees a pass way too often with respect to their role in engagement. We talk about the things companies have to do – (massages, 401k match, day care, fitness centers, time to pursue your muse) but we don’t really talk about the things employees have to do (or am I reading the wrong blogs?) Employees have to take co-ownership of the process. They have a role and a very, very important one.
Specifically, employees have to:
- Speak up – You can’t hide your dissatisfaction under a rock and expect managers to read your mind.
- Reciprocate – Employees cannot take the perks and benefits offered by the company and not return the favor. Work a bit harder; spend 10 extra minutes proofing that email, checking your figures, or reading a blog in your area of expertise.
- Bring an idea to the table – Bosses aren’t the only ones who should be thinking about the business. Your job is to do the business AND think about the business. When was the last time you prepared an idea to increase sales, decrease costs, drive engagement, whatever. You owe your employer your thinking. What are you thinking about during your massage anyway?
- Talk positively about something in the company – I know there are probably more things that tick you off than make you happy but, do you focus on the negative many or the positive few? Focus on the positive and you’ll find that there are more positives than you initially thought. Be a positive virus – not a negative one.
- Recruit – Yeah – take the time to look for people you think can help the company and bring them in. You are the best recruiter there is – believe me – you know who will fit in and what the company needs.
Entitlement Mentality and Fear
The economy is tough and companies are a little scared that once it improves they’ll lose some good people. Unfortunately, as a manager or as a company – if you spend too much time creating “engagement” strategies to keep employees, without asking for something in return, you foster an entitlement mentality. Your employees can smell that fear. And they just might take advantage of it.
If you’re a manager – balance the scales.
If you’re an “employee” (aren’t we all) – balance the scales.
Paul Hebert is Vice President of Individual Performance Strategy at Creative Group Inc, writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. He is dedicated to creating true emotional connections often overlooked in our automated, tech-enabled world. Using proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation, incentives, and engagement.