The recent images we are continuing see from the European refugee crisis each represent the very worst of human suffering and indignity; every person in every image has their own story of grief, pain, fear and loss. It’s harrowing. And amidst is t all, there are people prepared to go the extra mile to help those who have lost everything and who suffer so much. Typically in fact, they are willing to go even further than the extra mile, often at great cost to themselves and their family.
Sometimes, the same is true in organisations, but not nearly so often. So what’s the difference?
There are many factors that may lead a person to want to give their all to a particular charity or cause (often as volunteers, but even if paid then for very low financial rewards). For example: a strong belief in the cause; a strong antipathy to something the cause is standing against; a sense of calling; an individual’s values; a strong sense of identity with those the charity is serving; a firm conviction that the cause is right and must be supported; a desire to good. In common business parlance, these people are extremely highly engaged.
Given the clear evidence that the majority of employees in organisations are far from fully engaged, what could organisations do to lead their employees to higher engagement? Like charities, most organisations will have a clear vision and values, and goals and objectives through which to achieve it. So why aren’t they supported in the same as charitable causes often are, with higher levels of engagement? There are very many reasons, but two are all too frequently evident:
- i) There is a failure to communicate clearly and regularly what the vision and values are. George Bernard Shaw once said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” That’s why it is so important that communicating vision and values across the organisation isn’t a one-off, box ticked kind of activity; they must be communicated regularly and widely.
- ii) The leaders in the organisation may talk about the values, and may even have published them on a website or in a brochure, but their behaviour demonstrates a different of values actually at work. Argyris and Schon spoke of the difference between “values espoused” (ie the world view and values people believe their behaviour is based on) and “values in action” (ie the world view and values implied by their behaviour). To gain higher engagement from employees, organisations’ leaders must ensure their behaviour demonstrates their espoused values being lived out every day. Nothing will demotivate and disengage employees like le
aders who say one thing and clearly do another.
What do you need to do today, in your organisation, to communicate you vision and values?
And what do you need to change to make sure your behaviour is consistent with the values you espouse?