Engagement is the hot new buzzword and organizational riddle. How do we engage our employees as well as other stakeholders?
Frequently, we see the engagement conundrum in the context of Millennials. With much of my consulting work focused on helping organizations engage constituents and stakeholders, I find that the nexus between engagement and 21st Century organizations overwhelmingly overlap.
“21st Century Organizations” are the Zappos and Googles of the world. These organizations are thriving in the 21st Century because they are aligned with the emerging cultural values; values that are helping shape the new paradigm we are living in and are challenged by. These values, brought on by the Millennial generation, are driving the future of work and our world. They are redefining what tomorrow will look like and how we will operate. Embodying these emerging cultural values is becoming the new guidebook for organizational excellence.
To Spark Engagement Embody These Cultural Values
What must organizations do and believe to both engage their people and thrive in the 21st century? Research has shown that the following organizational values foster a culture of engagement. These are the values driving authentic engagement at some of the most forward-thinking organizations today.
Transparency is sharing/making accessible all information, not just the good news. A culture of transparency increases accountability, encourages learning, and expedites organizational changes. How open is your organization? What can you do to increase transparency to better engage staff?
Serial Podcast recently changed their show format mid-season. They simply told their large audience, “We are unable to keep up with this developing story, so we will be changing from weekly delivery to bi-monthly.” Listeners were disappointed, but no one could argue with the truth, and many listeners appreciated the honesty from the show’s producers.
In collaborative organizations, stakeholders have access to each other and the ability to co-create together. Collaboration requires a release of control and encouraging reevaluation of programs, practices and products. How is your organization fostering collaboration now? How could you improve collaboration on an ongoing basis?
I am currently helping a non-profit organization create a strategic plan. In the process, I am interviewing a diverse cross-section of community stakeholders who will be impacted, by the work of this organization. The intent of the stakeholder interviews is to solicit input and feedback before my client begins to solidify their strategic plan. In essence, the community is helping my client create the plan based on actual community needs. This collaborative effort means that my client will create a program/product that responds to community needs and therefore, will help pave the way for their success.
When organizations bring diverse perspectives to the table, the quality of ideas improves. The more points of view, experiences, and backgrounds brought together in the process of creation or review, always results in more viable outcomes. Who else should you include to add more diversity to your decision-making and problem solving?
An NGO helped form a Public-Private-Partnership in an African nation to help the local population access to a clean water source. The project initially failed because the NGO, Corporation, and Government implemented a solution that worked for them, but in practice, the project did not solve the problem of increasing access to water because of cultural incongruence. The PPP then invited the local population to the table to help them redesign the project to meet their needs. In the end, the problem was solved by including a wider swath of stakeholders.
This means the work is focused on the organization’s collective outcomes. This marks a shift from “what we provide,” to “what we have done, and continue to do.” Impact is about focusing on results. It is the difference between, “We have a program that supports ESL students,“ and, “We increase language acquisition by 50% so our students can achieve their career aspirations.” By focusing on impact, we are forced to shift from being defined by projects and programs to being defined by our results.
In the early-90s, Apple set out to create a hand-held computer. Their desire to change how work was done and how people leveraged technology drove them to create the Newton. It was a flop – ridiculed in comics and among the tech elite. Instead of committing to making this handheld device work, Apple held fast in their commitment to changing how work got done and how people leveraged technology. Suffice it to say by focusing on their desired impact they weathered the storm of ’93 Newton.
This means being self-aware: knowing who you are—your values, emotions, and expressing them appropriately. In short, authenticity is about showing up fully, in the present and being honest. Authenticity is the backbone of building meaningful connections with your coworkers, clients and customers.
Four months ago, Dan Price, CEO, Gravity Payments, committed to paying his most junior employees a living wage of $70,000/year. Some employees quit, some clients fled, as many pundits lamented the rise of socialism. But Dan has not wavered from his belief that, “there is a moral imperative to create some standard, some [salary] floor” for his employees. Continuing with his authentic expression of his values, he says, “I’m being criticized a lot for the short-term sacrifice that I’m making. People… are poking fun at me, or saying, ‘look at this guy, he’s going to fail, or he’s failing,’ but I think we can actually take pride in that sacrifice.”
Whether you agree with Dan Price’s policy or not is irrelevant. The point is that he is clear about his values and expressing his values fully through implementing policies that embody his values.
These values mark a major shift from how organizations have operated, to how people want their organizations to operate. It is a shift from command and control to decentralization; from rigid to nimble, from hierarchical to flat. These values are often attributed to being “Millennial” values, yet when we expand our frame of reference we see that these values are more ubiquitous; they are the values of the 21st Century. For people and organizations to succeed in the 21st Century, adopting these very human-centered, human honoring values, will unlock the engagement riddle.
To demystify how you can begin moving your organization from its current state to the desired engaged, 21st Century future state, I invite you to review Maslow’s theory as it pertains to the modern workforce:
Daniel Weinzveg facilitates and provides solutions to the challenges facing organizations today. As an Organization Development Consultant and Engagement Specialist, he has a passion for driving creative results through people and technology. He has extensive experience in start-up organizations, program design, group facilitation, training and public relations.