Work is a big part of our lives. What if we can create our business in a way that creates good?
What can happen when people feel disconnected from others and lack a sense of purpose or significance?
If you are aware of events making the news recently, it turns out things can get pretty ugly at the extreme.
The average full-time employee spends one-third of their weekly hours either at work, traveling to and from work, or preparing for work. If you are a business owner or entrepreneur, those hours could be even higher.
It is surprising to see people who think that they can compartmentalize their lives; further trapping men in the man box trap. The work me. The family me. Me with friends, etc.
What happens in one part of your life tends to spill over into other areas of your life; especially stress, frustration, and anger?
As business owner or leader, we can’t personally take on all of the world’s problems no matter how big our social conscience. But we can still make a difference.
We can start to realize that our businesses are a mini-version of the world and society. They have people in them, they interact with other people, they have a culture, and they impact lives outside of work both directly and indirectly.
Even if you are a hard-core “business is no place for the soft stuff” type of leader, you might want to consider the impact of that belief on your business in terms you can understand. It costs you money.
These are some ways disengaged employees cost your business money:
- With turnover, the true cost of replacing an employee is up to three times their annual salary.
- They sometimes go to work for a competitor and take clients and employees with them.
- They take more sick days.
- They impact the perceptions of other employees.
- Sales people don’t sell as much.
- They are inconsistent, indifferent or rude with client or customers.
- Clients or customers leave due to bad service or experience.
- They don’t care as much about wasting time, resources or materials.
- They share their feelings off and online.
- And in the worst case, they do something that can cost the company a lot.
What Everyone Needs
If we look at the simple model of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we see that every level above the first is impacted if it is lacking in the workplace.
You may think meeting part of the hierarchy is not your business’s responsibility. But if people are not currently getting those needs met elsewhere, it will impact their performance in your business in ways you may or may not even notice.
As humans we are wired for our personal survival to try to fit into the groups we spend time with. Our needs vary from connections (belonging) at the lower end to a purpose or meaning at the higher-end.
You may hire someone who is currently well balanced and stable in most aspects of their life. However, their personal situation could change. How well you understand this, and how well you respond, matters.
You are not expected to solve problems outside of work, but awareness of how it impacts your team, and the team’s performance is critical.
What Employees Need
Marcus Buckingham in “First Break All The Rules” talks about 12 needs of employees in a progressive hierarchy of four camps. What is interesting is that 50 percent of these needs speak to our inherent desire to connect and feel that what we do has meaning.
A few samples include:
- Does my manager seem to care about me as a person?
- Do I resonate with the company’s mission, vision or purpose?
- Do I have a best friend at work?
Understanding The Quiet People
People come in a lot of shapes, sizes and personality types. For years, extroverted behaviors have been encouraged in the workplace, especially on the leadership side. It is now a lot better understood that introverted people can thrive throughout an organization as long as you recognize the difference in styles.
It is important to understand that shy people can be introverted or extroverted and that people can fall in a spectrum of introversion to extroversion.
So being quiet at work does not mean employees are not engaged or connected and vice versa. Introverts just connect in different ways.
The last thing you want to do with an already engaged introvert is to continually point out that they are not like all the extroverts. Quiet is okay.
Creating Connection and Purpose in Business
Here are some of the ways you can increase the sense of personal connection and shared purpose in business.
Core Values and Culture
If you have ever been with a group of people where you just didn’t fit, you can understand the importance of understanding the culture of an organization and growing it consciously. Part of the culture stems from common beliefs or core values.
A lot of leaders understand about hiring for fit. But letting people go who no longer match on fit is also important.
What is the mission, vision, and purpose of the organization? How do they deliver value or serve customers? How does what is important to an employee overlap with what is important in the business?
The more you can align these things, the more engagement and discretionary effort you will get. Sometimes, the alignment is not long-term but that can be okay. Values and purpose alignment translates directly to the bottom line.
The first few weeks and months will likely determine the next few years of performance and connection with the organization. The sooner employees know what is expected and can connect with other people, the more likely they will stick around and get up to top performance faster. Many businesses, even big ones, leave this to chance.
Leadership Training and Mentoring
People don’t naturally know how to lead. A few people learn from observation and experience and the luck of having a good manager. Most are left to figure it out, or not.
A good mix of training and mentoring can make a huge difference in organizational performance. Leaders can also learn to mentor their team members.
Empathy and Respect
Most teams perform at a higher level if there is good diversity, and even well-managed tension. The keys are having respect and showing empathy for other people, styles, and approaches. These skills are partly learned as well as something that requires some emotional maturity and self-awareness.
If you have to let people go because of issues or because they no longer fit, if you do so with respect and empathy, you will be modeling these things to your organization.
Don’t Leave It to Chance
Bake all of this into your company culture, leader, systems and processes so it doesn’t get left to chance. The key is to ensure that the strategy, goals and plans of the business are implemented consistently and that people are held accountable while doing this.
Is It Worth It?
Having an engaged and connected workforce is not only good for employees; it almost always translates into the bottom line of the organization. Businesses that get it right outperform competitors by a significant percentage.
A lot of leaders still have a picture in their mind of the tough, decisive executive who is expected to make the quick and hard decisions. Then you go home and put on another mask of loving parent or spouse. When you aren’t authentic to yourself, the stress builds, and it impacts your long-term health. You have the same needs as your employees do.
People don’t compartmentalize their lives very well. Building a business where the leaders and the entire team are engaged, connected, and sharing a common objective spills over into all aspects of life and society.
How can you make that a good thing?
This post originally appeared in The Good Men Project.