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Higher Company Purpose, Higher Employee Engagement

Posted on December 31, 2015

When discussing the modern work environment, two things become immediately evident: employee engagement and trust in management are at a low point. According to Gallup, less than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. A majority of employees, 51%, were "not engaged" and 17.5% were "actively disengaged.”

Trust in management is in a similar low state. According to Tolero Solutions, 45% of employees say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue negatively affecting their work performance. Maritz found only 11% of employees strongly agree that managers show consistency between their words and actions. The Edelman Trust Barometer found similarly low levels of trust among every organization, industry, and nation they track.

This is a worrisome trend because distrust is a cost enacted on everyone. As we’ve established many times on this blog, trust and commitment are essential for high individual and corporate performance. Making agreements on a handshake costs much less than drafting a fourteen page legal agreement. When people can be trusted to deliver on their word, trust pays for itself while low trust organizations limp along the racetrack.


Establishing a Culture of Trust

So how does one create such an environment? Doing so means going beyond the extrinsic rewards many perceive to be the way to inspire employees - including individual bonuses plans, nicer offices, and glossy titles. These benefits encourage transactional relationships, not lasting bonds.

As Michael Beer writes in the Harvard Business Review, managers should seek to create “a sense of purpose, real responsibility, meaning, caring, fairness, and authenticity” to increase commitment. These principles must, Beer asserts, be baked into the organization’s culture.

The creation and nurturing of this higher goal is the duty of executive leadership and must extend beyond solely making money for shareholders. Further, the purpose must be a meaningful contribution to the world as a whole.

On close examination, the best companies do this by design. Steve Jobs at Apple was devoted to creating exceptional products, Whole Foods Market promotes healthier eating, Google is indexing all the world’s information, and Nike goes beyond selling sneakers in favor of encouraging athletic performance.

Once a higher mission is established, leadership then creates standards of behavior and performance in accordance with these values. Employees are recruited, evaluated, promoted and terminated based on an unchanging scale. Employees are “all-in” on the goal and it produces results. For example, Southwest Airlines’ commitment to customer services has produced profits greater than all other airlines combined.

Companies which value commitment, teamwork, caring, and fairness also work to prevent hierarchy and power differentials from negatively affecting performance. Each employee is valued and encouraged to communicate with others whether through employee surveys, open door policies, or a firmly established employee suggestion system. This can build a much needed trust within an organization.


Sustaining the Trust

Trust, like all beautiful things, is valuable because it is so fragile. As the popular quote goes, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” Once created and nurtured throughout the organization, trust must be actively preserved and protected.

One way to nurture this trust is the creation of vertical communication channels. These channels don’t just support a new level of trust within the organization, but create a way to effectively move information throughout all levels of the company. Management doesn’t usually have trouble distributing information downwards, but good information doesn’t always travel upwards and these channels can provide an effective solution.

So, this year as you set new performance goals for your company - add one more resolution to the list. Creating a higher purpose for your employees will go a long way in helping your business to succeed.

And when you’re ready to make the change, contact Vocoli for a personalized demonstration of how our employee suggestion software can improve communication within your company and increase the trust.


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