Gallup surveys revealed that organizations with highly-engaged employees are 21 percent more profitable than their less-engaged competitors. And in separate but related research, Aberdeen Group found that organizations with engaged employees enjoy a staggering 233 percent higher rate of customer loyalty than their less-engaged competitors.
In light of this abundantly clear message, organizations should build strong relationships with employees. The fact remains that significant and sustained employee engagement is not the norm; it’s the exception. In the view of internationally-acclaimed music industry executive Lindsay Guion, the Founder, CEO and Global Chairman of GUION PARTNERS, this is less about intent, and more about strategy and tactics.
According to Lindsay Guion, the fundamentals of employment engagement are rooted in the following three areas:
Earning Trust vs. Assuming It
Trust in any kind of relationship must be earned rather than assumed. As such, leaders (which could include supervisors, managers and executives as applicable) must earn the trust of employees by being open, transparent, fair and empowering. Obviously, there are common sense limitations to this advice.
Leaders cannot share information about a potential or imminent merger if those details are confidential. In the same light, sharing private or sensitive information about one employee with another is not just wrong, but it’s illegal. However, there are many day-to-day opportunities where leaders can and should earn trust. Lindsay Guion explains that there is no shortcut for earning trust, it requires time and commitment from both parties.
Communicating vs. Dictating
Many leaders — even those who are friendly, polite, warm, and have other positive personality attributes — fall into the habit of dictating instead of communicating. Of course, they may be pleasant about it, and while that is not totally meaningless or irrelevant, it is essentially beside the point — because trust requires honest, authentic dialogue.
This means that leaders must actively listen to their staff to grasp what is really being said; and often just as importantly, what is not being said. It also means asking helpful questions to get the full story, rather than rushing to judgement and pre-maturely reaching (often erroneous) conclusions. Lindsay Guion added that from his experience, leaders who openly admit when they do not know something are far better at building trust with employees than those who pretend to have all the answers.
Reward and Recognize Small Wins — Not Just Big Achievements
The best employees — i.e. the ones that organizations desperately want to keep on the roster for the long-term — are motivated by achievement and accomplishment. Leaders who fairly and consistently recognize individual and team performance cultivates a culture of trust. They also set standards that inspire some under-performers to up their game, which is far more efficient and cheaper than letting them go and recruiting someone new who may or may not be a good fit.
Lindsay Guion — Final Thoughts
Building strong and trusting relationships with employees is not a quick fix or a set-it-and-forget it thing. It takes clear commitment, sufficient resources, and ongoing support from all levels of leadership. While it is not always easy and there will be challenges along the way, the rewards are not just significant they are transformative and profound.