How Employee Engagement Creates Organizational Agility
For many years now, the pace of change from technology and the connected world has accelerated to the point where traditional organizational structures and decision protocols struggle to keep up. When companies first start out, there are a few people closely aligned, working with purpose, with a bias toward getting things done just to survive. As companies grow, those actions need to be turned into repeatable processes with many people engaged to deliver a consistent product or service to customers. Managers are hired, decision authority is established, meetings increase, and complexity starts to build. These are all important steps to effectively operate a business, but it can start to slow things done.
Lead With Purpose
Leading teams for over 20 years and seeing other great leaders navigate the change in front of us, the most powerful approach I’ve seen is through employee engagement. But it’s not just the manager to employee relationships, it’s the relationship between all employees and the company so that they truly feel a part of it. It’s a deep understanding of the vision and purpose of where the company is going and what problems are being solved, and the mission and strategy describing how it will get there. When this is done well, it ties every employee together with a drive that goes beyond the job description or the task at hand. It’s when employees talk about our mission, and how we make an impact in the world rather than “the company”. The focus stays centered on serving customers, making an impact, and striving to find the best ways to do that every day.
The best way to create agility and compete in the new economy is to leverage the collective knowledge of all employees to make course corrections every day.
Simon Sinok describes the starting point for this approach in his book Start with Why. The objective is to help every employee connect with the purpose of the company and how they work together to contribute to that purpose. It becomes a source of inspiration and shared beliefs that guides behaviours. This is often how companies start, but as new people join and complexity grows, employees often lose sight and misalignment grows. That’s when teams migrate to process compliance and decision protocols to serve the purpose that has started to fade away. Progress slows down because only a few people at the top have enough context to make the tough decisions, the purpose that once inspired innovation to do better for customers loses ground, and the organization becomes stagnant.
The solution is to go back to the roots of the company. Engage every employee in the vision and purpose and iterate together as customer needs change. Engage employees in the “voice of the customer” to keep their needs in front of everyone. Simplify the organization to streamline information sharing. Empower employees with context to make decisions, continuously improve their processes, and develop their skills. These are daily and weekly cycles of communication and connection, not the monthly and quarterly cycles that once worked before the rapid change we see today. It keeps everyone aligned with the most precious resource we all have—how we spend our time.
The best way to create agility and compete in the new economy is to leverage the collective knowledge of all employees to make course corrections every day. As other companies spend weeks drifting off course while waiting for the next quarterly leadership meeting to reassess their position, you’ll maintain the most efficient path toward your goal at all times. And as employees see the power of the team moving forward together, engagement will increase as employees strive toward the collective success of the group while finding ways to overcome whatever obstacles may stand in their way.