Employees Matter is the name of a report written by the SJF institute of New York and San Francisco and oddly enough it is about what happens when Employees are allowed to Matter.
The subtitle of the report is “Maximising Company Value Through Workforce Engagement”
The subject of Engagement in Business has been getting quite a lot of press recently as different people try to figure out what it is.
Mostly the people who are trying to figure it out are the managers and business owners who have heard of the performance improvements, the increased retention and profitability, that an Engaged workforce will produce and want to find out what they need to do to reproduce those same benefits for themselves.
The people who already know what engagement is are the workforces who know exactly what it is that their current management, by their behaviour, are denying them.
The SJF Institute are dedicated to providing sustainable solutions for organisations in their belief in the power of entrepreneurs to change the world.
They became very interested in the concept of engagement and its power, which by releasing so much potential from our workforces, delivers exactly what they want.
The Employees Matter report is the sum of their findings after studying 16 different small businesses in the US, each of whom had set out in their initial business plan a commitment to follow a deliberate strategy to engage their workforces.
Each of these companies created their own strategies for engagement believing that while most business owners do not set out to create an unengaged company culture, lack of deliberate attention to the culture of engagement means that is what they get.
Each of these companies therefore committed to a deliberate strategy for engagement as a key element of their business plan and while the sixteen companies did not produce sixteen different strategies they each had a selection of different tools to create the environment that would allow engagement to occur, the SJF report summarised the ten most popular of these tools.
The tools ranged from profit sharing schemes to stock options, open book management, performance based bonuses, flexible work scheduling, clear communication strategies and others.
Not all of the companies studied used all of the tools, and each company used them in different combinations, but each company did report high levels of employee engagement and each attributed their success in large part to that engagement.
From these sixteen successful companies it seemed clear that there were lessons to be learned, lessons that could be transferred to any organisation to allow them to release their own potential.
But the bewildering array of tools, the different combinations and packages used by each company, made finding the common denominator from which to learn seem an impossible task.
Then we realised what their common denominator was.
The tools themselves and the different combinations of tools used did not actually matter.
What was important, and what made the difference, was that each company had a declared objective of engaging their workforce.
Most managers have the idea that to reap the benefits of an engaged workforce we have to do something to make them engage, in the same way that management have always sought new ways of manipulating their workforces to make them do what management want.
This has never worked as a management strategy but in the absence of any alternative, is the accepted way to manage people, to get them to do what we want, and if it doesn’t work we simply look for a bigger stick to beat them with until they give in.
What makes the difference with engagement is that most employees actually want to be engaged. At work they are prevented from being engaged by the way that management behave towards them, by trying to make them do what management want.
In each of these sixteen examples the companies did not tell their workforces that they wanted them to engage. Instead they each committed to a practical strategy designed to allow their workforces to choose to engage.
This is what made each company successful.
They showed their workforces that they were valued and by showing them they were valued, that is what allowed them to engage.
As Goethe said 200 years ago, “If you treat people the way you expect them to be, that is what they will become.”
These sixteen companies treated their employees as if they were valuable, and that is what they became, because being valued is all that anybody wants.