The 3 Paths to Engage your People (Part 1)

In a modern, matrixed working environment with “remote” and complex working teams, be it on different office floors or different countries, it is harder to directly impact productivity through an “I lead from the front” mentality.

This is why in recent years People Engagement has become the primary goal of CEOs and HR Leaders. Indeed, the marketing function has realised this and has rewritten the rule book for go-to-market strategies.

So how do we build an Engagement strategy? Where do you start?

Well, firstly, remove from your mind the yearly survey you undertake with your people. It is not this. It is a more subtle collection of direct and indirect activities that build a momentum of “I care about my job and my employer” within your people and it cannot be achieved with one strategy.

And this can be the problem. Seeing the wood from the trees. Picking apart the seemingly unachievable into achievable chunks.

My goal over the next three articles is to attempt to break down Engagement into three action-orientated strategies to help you assess your Maturity level in each area and put together strategies, that over time, will shift your organisation’s level of engagement and improve your business performance.

To me, the 3 areas for action to increase Engagement are:

1)  Promote your Purpose

2)  Develop your Managers

3)  Seek and Embrace Feedback

Let’s look at each in turn over the next 3 articles. This time let’s look at Promoting Your Purpose

As a senior leader within an organisation you need to create an environment where every person understands your business. You need to identify what your people need to see and hear from you and do everything you can to achieve this goal. If your teams understand the “what” and the “why” they will endeavour to passionately deliver the “how”. People desire to have a purpose in life and in work.

So what can you do as a senior leader to assist people engagement?

1)  What does your business stand for?

In other words, what are your company values? And I mean real values that make you different from elsewhere. We all know “integrity” and “customer service” are part of modern workplaces but these are faceless words without passion. What is it that you build the foundations of your business on that will resonate with everyone and can get them understanding why you do and why you don’t do things in certain ways with your customers and what underlines the principles behind your business’ success.

The more you bespoke your values, the more people will understand them and remember them.

And then build these values into everything you do and say as a senior leader. This may have to be done consciously to begin with but shouldn't be too hard if they are the “right” values because, as a senior leader of the organisation, you should be living these values pretty much already if they truly are the underpinning fabric of your company.

  • Identify your true company values & visibly bring them to life in everything that you do.

2)  Tell a story

You know how your business is achieving and what lies ahead, be it good or bad, and your strategies on how you will exceed expectations. This is because you attend board meetings, shareholder meetings, build strategic plans etc. 

But how well to your line reports know this? And their line reports? Before you answer think about the amount of time you are immersed in this strategic development. Now ask yourself how much time you have spent directly communicating this outward. Or, in other words, how often do you communicate the “what needs to be done” without spending an equal amount of time on “why we need to do this”.

One of the biggest lost opportunities for engagement is not spending time refining the company plans and strategies into a simple narrative of what are we going to do now and in the future and why we are doing this and why it is important. The best senior leaders can offer this out as easily as a great seller knows their elevator pitch.

If this is not a personal strength then seek feedback from direct reports on their understanding of the “story”. Also, consider working with your marketing team who already create narratives for your customers. Even consider media or public speaking training to assist in developing the behaviours that capture an audience’s attention.

  • Identify your Company’s “story” and ensure, as a minimum, all people managers have heard and know the narrative

3)  Be seen

Lastly, get out there and share the good news! Great leaders get themselves in front of as many people as possible to promote the purpose of why you are doing your part in the bigger picture. If people see a real face behind the “position”, who speaks the same language as their direct manager, then they understand that there is a joined up purpose and that everyone must be working together and I am more than just an employee number on my payslip.

The impact of this is that this helps build a “we’re all in it together” culture and stops those little niggles and annoyances we all have in our job becoming a central demotivator.

This also can be achieved by technology for remoter teams if needed. But try and make videos a bit “human”. If they are very corporate and slick it can have an opposite effect of “this person is nothing like me” resulting in less connection rather than more.

  • Get out into your business and have a dialogue with your people

As a senior leader, if you build action-orientated strategies to work on the above you then have laid a foundation stone for an overall positive change in engagement with your people. This then allows all your people managers to take this foundation and bring it to life on a daily basis and this is the subject of Part 2 of this series.

So part 1, in summary. To help build engagement, senior leaders need to Promote Your Purpose by:

  1.  Identifying your true company values & visibly bringing them to life in everything that you do
  2. Identifying your Company’s “story” and ensure, as a minimum, all people managers have heard and know the narrative
  3. Getting out into your business and having a dialogue with your people

Anthony Ryland is the Co-Founder of tap’d Solutions Limited, an HR consultancy and technology business in the UK. Prior to this, Anthony has enjoyed splitting his career between operational leadership and HR/Talent roles in various sectors.