According to Gallup and other workplace surveys, only about 18 percent of managers are effective in engaging their employees.
Since it is well established that companies with highly engaged workforces perform far better than their competitors, this is a crucial issue for businesses to address. In an era when the prospect of a good job seems unattainable for many Americans, it is also a pressing challenge for the nation.
Many people believe leadership can't be taught, but we don't buy that. Therefore, we created the Business Action Guide Series, jointly produced by the Hitachi Foundation and the Great Game of Business.
The Business Action Guides are a compilation of management practices that work. They take the perspective that leadership can be learned, and they breakdown its individual elements to be applicable to a wide range of industries and contexts.
Here's one example; perhaps the very first step in becoming a more effective leader is learning how to communicate your company's values effectively to employees:
- Define Values That Everyone Can Own
To communicate your values, first you need to know what they are! Managers and employees may see values very differently. At Chicago’s Tasty Catering, for example, they took the advice of Jim Collins' “Good to Great” and established a council with representatives from each department. This council met with teams throughout the company in order to carefully define a set of values that really represented everyone. Doing it this way earned a deep level of buy-in, because everyone helped create them.
- Use Values to Guide Performance
The core values at Tasty Catering, which are on every wall in both English and Spanish, guide the performance of all employees. Everyone knows that as long as they stay within the parameters of the core values, they can make decisions and implement efficiencies without going up the ladder. As a result, the company basically runs itself; the employees serve as checks and balances for each other.
- Autopsy Without Blame
When something goes wrong, it's tempting to find the employee who is responsible and criticize that person. Tasty Catering resists that temptation. Instead, they “autopsy without blame” — collectively figuring out the root cause to avoid repeating the same mistake. When people know that they won’t be blamed or punished for a mistake, fewer things get swept under the rug, there is less finger pointing and a lot of time is saved.
- Keep It Positive
Tasty Catering's newsletter is employee-driven — the owners contribute only one paragraph. The rest is employees communicating with each other, discussing their accomplishments, thanking the culinary team for good food, or thanking the brand ambassadors for a job well done. Communicating appreciation is very important. The team also has lunch together every day so people get the chance to talk across departments.
- Live Your Values Through Repetition and Shared Language
Tasty Catering's core values don't just sit on the wall. They read them at the beginning of every meeting by three or more people and in the truck on the way to a catering job. Each person probably will read them three or four times in the course of a week. They also consult them at key decision points – if there is a gray area, they immediately go to the core values.
Similarly, when Al Fuller acquired his first plant for Integrated Packaging Corp., he made sure to put his work desk right off the factory floor – moving it from the building next door where the prior management had been located. This communicated immediately to employees that he took their work seriously and was there to solve the company’s challenges.
There will be two sessions at the 23rd annual Gathering of Games by company executives featured in the Business Action Guide Series who will share best practices from their firms.
The first one, “Empowering and Engaging the Front Lines,” features President and CEO Barbara Dyer of the Hitachi Foundation, CEO Al Fuller of Integrated Packaging Corp., CEO Tom Walter of Tasty Catering, and employee engagement consultant Anne-Claire Broughton who wrote the Business Action Guides.
The second session, “Innovative Employee Rewards Systems,” features Director of Organizational Development Jenny Briggs for New Belgium Brewing, Kevin Walter of Tasty Catering and the Great game of Business, Senior Program Officer Tom Strong from the Hitachi Foundation, and employee engagement consultant Anne-Claire Broughton.
The Gathering of Games is Sept. 9-11, 2015, in St. Louis Missouri. To learn more about the conference or to register, visit the Gathering of Games website.
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