Let’s Get Engaged

There are talented people everywhere. In every office, in every position, in every state and country. They’re all contributing to their companies at different levels and in different ways. But maybe they slack off, don’t give their all. They don’t seem as interested, or motivated. It’s a talking point we’ve heard from office managers all over; it’s conversations we have within our own walls.

And if we’re being honest, who can blame them? When you’re just working for a paycheck, a quote from the old classic Office Space comes to mind: “The thing is, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.” It’s obviously not an attitude that companies want any employee to have. On the same hand, neither does anybody working; after all, that’s what we all spend most of our time doing.

At the end of the day, you’re trying to put together the most kickass team ever assembled in your field. This means not only hiring the best around but ensuring they’re putting forth their best effort, are actively engaged and motivated every day. That they can’t help but talk to their friends outside the office about work because they’re that excited about it – even though they enjoy their passions outside of it.

So how do we get, and keep people engaged?

How do we have them invested, eager, involved, any word that all boils down to the concept of engagement? To be as committed as the people enthusiastically looking forward to that perfect matrimony usually only found in corny movies?

There are a ton of cliches on the topic. Take no offense if you’ve used one (or all), each has an element of truth to it. Let’s just knock a few out real quick:

  • We think of ourselves as a second family
  • Everybody on the team’s important
  • A bad apple can spoil the bunch
  • It’s all about culture
  • We do things a little different
  • Everybody should love what they’re doing
  • We value diversity of all kinds

Peel away the platitudes.

You’ll notice a common theme in all of those tropes: everybody wants to feel wanted, needed, respected. People want to know what they’re doing matters, is making a difference and is appreciated.

No reason to overthink this.

We say be real. Be appreciative and know what makes each person tick. Some may want company-wide recognition, some may want to go celebrate as a team after accomplishing a big milestone. Some even may loathe the hullabaloo and just appreciate a simple thanks. Although secretly even the biggest grumpy pants appreciate appreciation.

Everything circles back to encouraging, even demanding, raw honesty.

For managers, this could mean using a “Start. Stop. Continue” policy, meaning critically critiquing projects every step of the way, and having employees do the same in return. Patty McCord, the chief talent officer who was responsible for putting together the amazing team at Netflix as they skyrocketed through the stratosphere, has stated she believes motivating with challenging work is the biggest motivator in any career.

Beyond this, she argues waiting for annual reviews are detrimental – a dialogue should be continuously running, not from the top down or bottom up, but in every direction. It sounds easy, but so does the thought of a little hike in the woods before realizing you’re gaining 3,000 feet of elevation. It takes work, the courage to admit when other people’s ideas are better, and taking the time to understand where each member’s coming from. When everybody feels like their voice is heard, that they matter, they’re far more likely to buy in and give it they’re all.

Honesty and feedback is the only way to get through to everybody.

Too often we think of work as different than anything else in our lives. That there’s a magic solution, how an idea that revolutionized one company should work for ours. Thinking the magic formula that makes the grass greener on the other side can be found out there. How amazing would that be? The fact of the matter is it isn’t.

Think of it like school.

Some people like the goofy shit, some are too cool, some are too busy thinking about Legos or cooties. Point is, everybody’s different – but they all get along at some point. Well, until parents and preconceived notions get involved

That’s weird, right? Doesn’t have to be; it shouldn’t be. After all, true love never happens on the first date – it takes time to cultivate. You’ve got to work, communicate, and relate in order for that to happen.

Let’s make it personal.

Listen. Be real, honest. Transparency means nothing when said. But it makes all the difference in the world when done. Don’t pay lip service to ideas of culture to encourage engagement, It’s not even always necessary to talk up or promote a shift towards this line of thinking, actions speak louder than words.

People notice when companies walk the walk, and they want to go to bat for them. To be a necessary part of a successful operation. No matter what you’re doing in life it feels good to win, so make everybody a part of those victories in a genuine manner. Then use any losses as mistakes to learn from, not ones to start bickering or pointing fingers over.

So think about yourself.

Not in a selfish way, in an empathetic one. You don’t want to be pandered to. You want to be respected, to know your goals and roles and given a high five (or whatever it is) when you nail them.

You’re tired of games and politics, because while they’re impossible to avoid they’re easily minimized when everybody’s on the same page. You want to be part of a community, just like ones you’re into outside of the office. You want to be respected and valued.

It’s as easy (and hard) as thinking of everybody that way

The thing everybody wants is to feel truly included in something. Doesn’t matter if they’re a boomer, a millennial, Gen Z or even back when they heard the Queen of France said let them eat cake.

People need to be encouraged to bring their unique perspectives to light. If we’re all forced to act and work the same the beauty of the human connection is lost. Differences are what makes every group tick. Celebrating and encouraging them through open dialogue fosters the passion you’re looking for, resulting in surprisingly great, well, results. And a focused team all on the same page. Even if they’re getting to it from different chapters.

Example time

Let’s take it to a hypothetical micro level. There are two bars. One encourages employees to be themselves, to feel free to think of events and promotions they’re into, to have their own friends come by and chat. The other mandates strict professionalism only allows events the owner wants thought of from outside vendors and discourages fraternizing with the patrons. Which one sounds like a better time?

It’s the same thing with offices of all sizes. People need to be encouraged to bring their unique perspectives to light – if everybody’s forced to act and work the same, they don’t feel a connection. Just think about any social group you’re in that you enjoy – not everybody acts, thinks, or believes the same. But those differences are what makes the crew special to everybody in it.

Why does this all matter so much?

If you’re this far along you already know. Getting talent is just the first step. Keeping them and keeping them interested is a different beast altogether. It’s a little counterintuitive, but when you nail the latter, the former becomes much easier. It’s inevitable for people to talk about work outside of it, and each industry, no matter how big or small, is a little incestuous.

When people are passionate and happy at their job, others are quick to hear about it, and jealously want to join. There’s no secret solution, everywhere’s different, but it all starts with that honest open dialogue. Where that takes you is anybody’s guess, but from our experience empowerment translates to engagement. Where you take it from there is up to you.