You need do just 2 things to engage your staff. Unfortunately both are easier said than done. Do them, however, and you’ll have a team of passionate brand ambassadors, you’ll attract the best job candidates in the market, you’ll save a fortune, earn a fortune and build an unassailable business.
Wild dreams? Not on your life. Each of these outcomes is supported by research.
So what are the two things you need to do?
The first has to do with your brand. Namely, you need one. More than a business name or a logo, your brand is an encapsulation of everything you are working towards. It is the ambitious vision you have for where you want your brand to be after you’ve gone. Business owners often have goals. Goals are attainable. Vision rarely is. It’s not a line in the sand but a guiding star to navigate by. Every decision you make should bring you a step closer to realising your vision.
If you don’t make time to define your brand, you will almost certainly confuse your audience with conflicting messages. In the absence of cohesive, consistent reinforcement of your brand character (its attributes, personality, values and benefits etcetera), your audience – and especially your critics – will define it for you.
Why is this important for staff engagement? Just as consumers are attracted to strong brands, so are employees. The best people want to work for what they believe is the best brand in any business sector. Job candidates who share your brand’s values and personality will self-select. They will find you. You don’t need to find them.
(There’s another good reason to focus on your brand. The annual list of the world’s biggest brands has the same names as the annual list of the world’s most valuable companies. Make your brand stronger and you make your company more valuable.)
The other key to engaging staff is to encourage their creativity. Research shows that when employers value and foster their staff’s creativity, a number of serious improvements follow. Staff happiness increases, sick leave reduces, productivity improves, innovations (patents) abound, processes and procedures are refined, costs are cut and efficiencies are gained.
So how do you encourage creativity? Three elements are necessary – environment, attitude and tools.
Build a physical space that is conducive to creativity. Most offices are designed for efficiency, not for intellectual stimulation. If it’s impractical to redesign the entire office, then create a space within the office that looks and feels different. Fill it with stimuli unconnected with your core business – games, books, puzzles, art, illusions, paper, crayons, sandpit, Play-Doh, sports equipment, musical instruments. Consider making spare office space available to young entrepreneurs and then encourage your staff to swap ideas with these entrepreneurs. Give these spaces creative brand names.
If you commit to fostering and valuing creativity, then demonstrate this commitment in some way. Introduce weekly idea-sharing sessions. Create a prize for the best ideas. Invite experts from creative fields to present to and interact with staff. Tell your staff – and job candidates – that creativity is a core company value.
Finally, equip your staff with the tools they need to be more creative. Remember, most of us have had our creativity squashed during schooling and in early employment. Luckily, creative thinking is a skill that we can easily rekindle. Ask an expert to introduce creative thinking techniques to your staff. Run a series of idea generation sessions to address different needs or opportunities. Create a physical place where people can record random ideas for others to view. Create an online space that also becomes an idea-sharing medium. Introduce your clients to these creative thinking techniques to demonstrate that you value creativity and innovation.
Creativity is fun. But this fun has serious benefits. In the average organisation, only 11% of employees are highly engaged (Corporate Leadership Council). Highly engaged employees perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave. Studies show that the cost of replacing employees is between 1.5 and 2 times their annual salary in direct and indirect costs.
Fully disengaged staff (13%) have a wide negative impact in their peers and your company culture. They voice their displeasures to the 76% of staff who are neither fully engaged nor fully disengaged. As a result, the performance of the bulk of your employees suffers.
Until recently, business and creativity rarely appeared in the same sentence. Now business creativity is a hot topic. 6,500 CEOs around the world nominated creativity and innovation as critical to business success (IBM, Credit Suisse). You can bet your client CEOs regard creativity highly.
If you don’t already have a relationship with external branding and innovation consultants, do it now. If not, you will lose your brightest, most creative staff to competitors whose brand and culture better match their personalities.