Focusing on having the best products/services and processes will not be sufficient for your organization’s optimal effectiveness and long term success. You must also address the human element of your organization, i.e. how to fully engage your employees and their talents.
For effective employee engagement with highly productive and committed interaction and decision-making there must be commonly understood organization values (standards that guide conduct) and direction (where we are headed and how we will get there). Values and direction provide meaning to employees, and once defined they impact every aspect of your organization including external relationships. When organizations are facing substantial challenges strong values and direction can substantially help to maintain good morale and employee cohesion.
It’s important that employees see evidence that top management takes values and direction seriously. Values and direction should be the articulated basis for organization actions and decision-making, and regularly communicated to all employees. When top management sets the example values and direction (which can become more discrete within organization units) become part of standard operating procedure at all organization levels. Employees will feel misled and perform accordingly if top management does otherwise.
Values. Values should be positive and authentic to the organization, more than just some slogans that sound good; and employees should be able to easily articulate these values. Value identification should be an open process involving the entire organization. If values are identified by senior management and then communicated to employees, they will not be assimilated and taken to heart by the employees (aka own them).
Examples of values, assuming they are not simply slogans developed by management, are:
- Producing and delivering exceptional services/products
- Doing what’s best for our customers
- Accountability for responsibilities and commitments made
- Engendering high trust among employees and with customers
- Respect for others and their beliefs and opinions (granted it’s OK to disagree)
Direction. Knowing the organization’s direction informs employees about why they work, that it’s worthwhile and what the organization believes to be important. It contributes to a shared purpose. This is enhanced when employees are informed about their role in achieving the organization’s direction.
Organization direction can be multi-layered, particularly in larger organizations. Providing overall direction about where the organization is headed is normally a function of top management; however within organization work units there can also be direction appropriate for the responsibilities, authority and functions of that unit. At each organization layer the development of direction should have the involvement of those employees most responsible for implementing that direction. This action fosters employee empowerment, along with informing employees about where the organization as a whole, and their work units, are headed.
Michael VanBruaene was a KPMG Director and blogs at Michael VanBruaene – Working With CEO’s And Executives To Improve Their Organizations. (www.AdvancingYourOrganization.com). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.