The calendar has turned to a new year; it’s a time that many organizations review their accomplishments and opportunities from the prior year. It seems appropriate to finalize business strategies, set benchmarks for key performance indicators (KPIs), and develop goals or action plans for success in the year ahead. The primary focus is often to drive business objectives that increase revenues and profitability and increase returns for stakeholders. What ensures the business will reach those goals? You can have an amazing property, business plan, or a product that is highly desired in its segment, but without the people, success doesn’t happen! Companies need people who are inspired to do their work. People who are diligent in their efforts because they understand ‘the why behind the work’ and how their work impacts the organization’s success. People who show customers respect because they feel respected.

A business that has engaged associates is far more likely to achieve and exceed its goals and objectives. Engagement is not just about compensation, parties, prizes, having flashy vision or mission statements, or conducting annual employee engagement surveys. Engagement needs to intentional; it needs to be supported and lived at every level of the organization. Organizations that are intentional about their engagement efforts set annual performance goals related to engagement for all levels of leadership. Rather than looking in the rear-view mirror at survey results, they are talking with their people. They listen to see how things are going through the eyes of the associates, the ones who are engaging with customers every day. Leaders who drive engagement proactively look ahead, seek opportunities, and act on them.

What is your culture?

Creating a vision and mission statement and defining core values is a great way for the organization to stay focused on its beliefs and values.  To keep steering in the right direction, the entire organization needs to be aligned and focused on those core values. For them to be the most impactful, each person should not only know them, but leaders must also ensure associates can connect their work to the success of the organization. How does their role support the mission and vision? How do they live the company’s core values?  This will help to ensure that the company’s vision, mission, and core values aren’t just ideas on paper but that they are the foundation of the business.

Who’s driving?

In many organizations Human Resources has been seen as the sole champion of associate engagement. The lack of cross-discipline responsibility or accountability to drive engagement often resulted in misaligned priorities and lack of focus on improving associate engagement. Accountability for leading engagement must start at the highest level of the organization. Organizations with highly engaged associates have often shifted their approach to ensure each leader has responsibility and accountability for the engagement of their division, department, or team. Leaders who are engaged with their teams can often accurately predict their team’s engagement level before they get results from a survey. They’ve set a course and check-in along the way to ensure they’re on the right route.

Annual surveys provide the opportunity to look in the rear-view mirror to see where the organization has been, the action planning and setting goals specifically focused on improving engagement are the maps that will help leaders navigate the future. When an individual’s business goals and bonus structure include a component of engagement, the message is clear, as an organization we are committed to engagement.

Are we there yet?

Does the organization share its KPIs with everyone? Are the weekly, monthly, or quarterly progress reports shared across the organization?  Are the KPIs and progress reports shared in a way that everyone understands them? Are associates able to connect how their role helps the organization reach its goals?  By starting the journey with everyone knowing the destination, sharing the progress along the way, and making it easy to understand, every associate in the organization will know where the organization is in its journey to success. This helps to make conversations about why reinvestment in people, products, or equipment happen or must be delayed. If the organization isn’t achieving its goals, those investments may not be appropriate or possible.

When planning the investment in the building, asset, or product, it is equally as important to consider the organization’s investment in human capital. Ensuring pay and benefits are competitive and treating associates fairly and with respect are fundamentals, it’s what associates have come to expect. Organizations and leaders who take time to listen, act, and educate, using the rear-view mirror as a reminder of the journey ahead, create engaged, inspired and high producing teams. An associate who understands ‘the why behind the work’ feels valued and will help drive the success of the business. Having a team of drivers, rather than a team of passengers, makes the journey to the destination more of an adventure than a chore!

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