Enable. Equip. Empower. These three seemingly simple words were supplied by my company’s chief technical officer as we discussed employee engagement back in September 2019. In retrospect, they could not have come at a more critical time. On the cusp of a tenacious global pandemic (though we could not have known at the time), it would have been crucial to have an engaged workforce that could withstand the concept of working remotely for months.
Over the past year, “enable, equip and empower” has become our motto and completely transformed our ongoing journey toward building an engaged team. No longer are we cherry-picking practices in order to engage workers. These three words have guided us in consolidating a sound structure that supports our desire to bring about engagement. Our team members are more than capable at what they do, but we wanted to be sure they see their value and are motivated to reach their full potential as well.
Here is what I learned:
To enable your employees, go for the core, or, as it is eloquently phrased by Jim Collins in Good to Great, “Put the right people in the right seat.” Simple as it might be, I have gradually uncovered the layers of positively enabling employees through first-hand experience. One of those layers is the fact that you can only enable your team with a solid foundation. This means having:
- The right people. It is simply not sufficient to look only at what an individual can do. Emphasis must also be placed on culture and chemistry. As competent as an individual might be, you also need to ask yourself: Does this person buy into our core values? Would they fit into our team?
- The right seat: When you are fortunate enough to find the right person, make sure they have a proper title and a clearly defined job description that fits neatly into your organizational structure. For example, there are companies that prefer a flat-hierarchy approach, but this was not the case for me; with a rather large team, it would have been very difficult for everyone to spend enough time together in a way that would help the company. It boils down to your judgment of what your organization is capable of. Regardless of the approach, choose clarity over chaos.
Train your people. Equip them with the procedures and tools they will need to thrive in your company. It might seem archaic these days to have policies your employees must follow, but coming from a second-generation family business, I have to disagree. People come and go, but processes are here forever. Done properly, these processes are the glue that keeps companies grounded and going in times of uncertainty.
Just be sure not to go overboard. Too many procedures could stifle innovation and prevent continuous improvement. There can be too much of a good thing.
With your people equipped, I find that the proper assignment of your resources becomes even more important. It will be tempting to have your team pull more weight than they otherwise need to — completely understandable in times of a worldwide pandemic — but unless you want to risk losing the right people, be ready to take on the necessary resources as soon as you are capable of doing so. Understand that even the most engaged employee, who will gladly do whatever is required, could burn out, and I would not wish for anyone to have to witness this person walking out their door.
Above all else, your company vision and mission are just as, if not more, important than your standard operating procedures. This vision needs to be continually communicated if only because it keeps everyone aligned and heading in the same direction. My team might find me painfully repetitive, but take it from me: It is absolutely necessary.
Motivate your people. Inspire them. Empower them. We are all but human; we inherently want to be valued and recognized for making a difference, and we need something to work toward to achieve this. Personally, I establish for my team a set of key performance indicators and make them SMART goals (or goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). We have a grading scale of five, where three is the baseline for attaining a goal reflective of corporate annual objectives.
With expectations clarified, establish a regular cadence of meetings (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly), each with its specific goals and agenda. It seems like a lot, but when done regularly and with a clear purpose, your team will start showing up with the understanding that they will be held accountable.
I have learned that accountability and empowerment will not occur overnight, and you will rest easier if you do not expect it to. Be patient and trust the process, similar to teaching a child to ride a bike. Some parents give their child a helmet and hope for the best, but I believe only those who have balanced their child in their hands until they soar untethered will experience true euphoria. This is what I hope for you to experience when your team becomes fully empowered on its own terms.
Building An Engaged Workforce
With your team enabled, equipped and empowered, accountability is no longer a chore, and constant intervention and supervision is no longer necessary. Simply put, your team has become the engaged workforce all entrepreneurs desire.
Yes, it is a time-consuming process, but there are absolutely no shortcuts to building an engaged team. It has been five years since we first started our journey to building an engaged team. We have had successes, but we’ve also had difficulties and heartbreaks. We may be nowhere near finished, but with enable, equip and empower, we are closer than ever before, and the effort is worth it. I believe to work with colleagues who love their job is not a job at all.
By Carl Hung,
CEO & President of Season Group
Originally published on Forbes on 12 Jan 2021 (Three Steps To An Engaged Workforce (forbes.com))