No one successfully navigates the business world alone. For every charismatic founder and innovative idea that steps into the public spotlight, there are dozens or even hundreds of hardworking people who dedicated their time and energies to ensuring its success. Businesses need teamwork and organization-wide goodwill to thrive — and yet, many have cultures characterized by division and disinterest.
According to statistics provided by the management consulting firm Gallup, a startling 70% of American workers are not bringing their best performance to the workplace. Of that number, 52% are not engaged in their work. These team members put in their daily hours, but rarely, if ever, bother to go above and beyond their minimum work requirements. The remaining 18% are even worse off — as actively disengaged employees, they are both dissatisfied and willing to deliver sub-par work to show it.
As one writer for Gallup describes the effects of disengagement, “These employees are emotionally disconnected from their companies and may actually be working against their employers’ interests; they are less productive, are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays and drive customers away.” Researchers estimate that the prevalence of active disengagement costs businesses in the U.S. between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity every year.
Engagement is critical to success — but inspiring it requires more than a few encouraging emails from executive leadership or once-annual incentive programs. The only way businesses can facilitate team-wide engagement is by developing a communication-centric organizational structure that defines the organization’s core beliefs, values, and objectives and aligns them with both its long-term objectives and day-to-day goals. With that supportive structure in place, team members will have a shared feeling of ownership and responsibility for the business’s success and be more motivated to “buy into” its mission and efforts.
If businesses want to establish a supportive and cohesive environment, they need to adhere to the following points.
Everyone — and I do mean everyone — must know, understand and share the goals of the organization. The importance of this point can’t be understated; after all, if a team member doesn’t know what an organization values or intends to accomplish, how can they buy into its mission?
Establishing clear goals and objectives is a two-part process. First, the organization must ensure that all meetings and team-wide communications are written to have “take home value” for every employee. This value varies depending on the situation at hand — a quarterly team meeting, for example, would be more focused on long-term goals than a weekly team meeting. Regardless of the specifics, though, the shared message must be consistent, clear and link back to the company’s values and objectives in some way. The clarity and shared purpose will give team members the confidence and sense of community they need to buy into the company’s mission.
Once team members “buy-in,” they need cohesive and communicative organizational structures to help them achieve their goals. Without those supports, even engaged teams will far short of the mark. Think of a business as a sports team; if half of the players think their next game is in Chicago and the other half believes it’s in Baltimore, neither half is going to bring a trophy home.
Organizational clarity is a necessity. Leaders need to ask themselves — what goals are we working towards as a team, and who will be doing what?
Generally, there are three types of problems that begin to slow down achievement when the above question goes unanswered.
1. Goals are not being accomplished because a team member is either not performing their job duties or believes that someone else is responsible for those tasks.
2. Goals are not being accomplished because no one has taken steps to do so — or even realizes that they should be.
3. Goals are not being accomplished because one or more team members are not performing their duties per proper procedures.
Clarity matters. If every person knows precisely what, how, and by when they need to accomplish a task, they will be in a better position to help their team — and the company by extension — achieve its overarching goals.
An organization cannot function without trust. If team members feel restricted, micromanaged, or held back from completing the tasks assigned to them, they will inevitably disengage and deliver sub-par work. Accountability, authority and responsibility need to be balanced within organization leaders; otherwise, they will not be able to meet expectations.
The principles of organizational alignment are simple.
1. You cannot give someone the responsibility for achieving a task without giving them the authority to assure that task is achieved.
2. You cannot hold someone accountable for not achieving a task unless they give that person the authority to see that the task is accomplished.
3. Team leaders must align their authority and sense of responsibility with a clear purpose.
Finding success is as simple as following these points. That said, many organizations fail to align to balance their demands with the responsibility and authority they give to team leaders — and thus do not perform well as a result.
Respect and dignity must be integrated into every aspect of a company’s culture and day-to-day work. Having a compassionate working atmosphere encourages team members to face challenges as a united front. Each person knows that they have value to each other and the company, so they both support each other through failure and celebrate together after successes. This shared sense of respect contributes to — or even creates — a culture of organization-wide engagement and dedication.
It’s not easy to establish an engaged culture in the workplace. The task demands a lot of time, energy and organizational development — but the results are worth it. Leaders who take the time to ensure that their team members are supported and cared for will see their businesses’ potential soar.