Like many Americans across the country, I spent over an hour on Tuesday waiting in line for the opportunity to have my voice heard. This provided me with plenty of time to observe those around me. One thing that stood out was that the turnout was much larger than usual, which naturally led to a much longer wait.
While many voters expressed clear displeasure at the length of the line, I was filled with a sense of pride in my community. I’m happy to live in a community full of people that care about the country and want to do their part to help improve it in whatever way they feel is appropriate. They were willing to take an hour or more out of their day and invest it in the future of our government.
If only we could get our teams to be this engaged. We’ve covered in the past the best way to measure employee engagement as well as some strategies for engaging our teams and getting them to speak up. Today I would like to cover some thoughts from the voting line that can be applied to our teams and workplaces.
These four strategies can be used to create an environment that will encourage your team to get involved and make an impact on your results.
Ensure Everyone’s Voice Matters
If you want your team to speak up and get involved, make sure they know that their opinions matter. No one wants to stick their neck out or give extra effort if they think their ideas will fall on deaf ears. They quickly realize when their efforts are being wasted and find other things to do with their time and energy.
Voting is a well established process in this country. People understand that this is how they are expected to participate. This is their chance to have their voice heard, if they so choose. They have seen numerous election cycles play out and understand that the results will drive change in the future.
You can create a similar understanding within your teams. Communicate a genuine desire for everyone to get involved through both your words and your actions. Make sure everyone understands how their opinions will be incorporated and work to build a track record of responding to their ideas. Over time, they will begin to believe that their ideas and efforts really do matter, and they will be more motivated to participate.
Focus Your Requests
Feedback is much easier to give, and is usually more valuable, when it is focused. Voters are asked to choose between specific candidates or to vote yes or no on specific measures. They aren’t given a blank space to write in all of their ideas for how to run the country. Can you imagine how helpful that would be if they were? Most people would either fill the space with unhelpful ideas or be so overwhelmed that they just leave it blank.
Your staff will benefit from some direction as well. Rather than an open-ended request for engagement, ask specific questions. Direct your team to focus their efforts on cost savings, customer satisfaction, or whatever area you need the most help in. This additional clarity will help them provide useful feedback and avoid being paralyzed by too many thoughts.
Provide a Clear Call to Action
Vote. It’s a simple request. Anyone who is eligible can easily do it. It’s a very straightforward way to participate in the political process.
If you want your teams to become more engaged, they need to have this level of clarity on how to participate. What exactly do you expect them to do? What steps should they take to get involved? If the invite is too open-ended, people will be unsure what steps to take and often won’t take any.
Provide them with a clear path for submitting their ideas. Make sure they know how to volunteer for project teams. Communicate the needs of your team so that they know what extra effort would be the most helpful.
If you make your request for engagement clear and simple, your team is far more likely to answer the call.
Provide a Burning Platform
I have to start with a caveat on this one. If done poorly, this can cause more problems than it is worth. As we have seen this election season, creating a sense of fear or “Us vs. Them” is not helpful. Do not create a polarizing situation or resort to scare tactics to motivate your team. Despite some common misconceptions, this is not what the concept of a burning platform means.
Sometimes in the life of an organization or team, you come upon make or break moments that will have a dramatic impact on your long-term success. There are times when you will need to commit to efforts on an extraordinary level for them to be successful. We are either going to succeed or die trying. We are jumping in and there is no going back. This is a burning platform.
Communicate this decision and the reasons for it to your team. Don’t try to scare or guilt them into participating, but try to connect with them on a personal level. Help them to understand and embrace the challenge and their level of engagement will increase dramatically.
This approach can’t be used all the time or it will lose its meaning, but if an effort is truly critical to your organizational success, it can be a great approach to engage your team.
I’m thankful that I have the ability to share my opinions and help shape the direction of our country by voting. I’m sure your teams would be equally thankful for the opportunity to share their opinions and shape the direction of your organizations. By implementing these four strategies, you can create an environment that supports more engaged employees.