Five Ways to Earn the Hearts and Minds of Your Employees

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Every year around the holidays, my family brings out a Christmas themed puzzle. It is in fact the same 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle that my wife put together each year as a young girl. We usually bring it out after Thanksgiving and over the following weeks, my four kids, my wife and I slowly piece it together.

Even though I’ve put this puzzle together many, many times, finding the right piece to fit in the right spot can still be incredibly time consuming and frustrating. With the top of our dining room table filled with hundreds of small pieces, I will endlessly scan the many colors and shapes thinking that any moment I’ll spot the exact piece for which I’m looking.

Yet, it rarely works out that way. The right piece does not easily reveal itself. However, when I decide to concentrate just on the Christmas tree or the reindeer, removing the other pieces that don’t relate, I more readily find what I need. Suddenly, with the right focus, the needed puzzle piece magically appears, even though it had been under my nose the entire time.

I’m convinced that the solutions for many of our organizational challenges are within our reach, maybe even under noses. Our ideas, resources, and past experiences offer rich possible solutions, but for some reason we may not fully see it. Like a display of individual puzzle pieces laid in front us, the right piece is there somewhere, but we may need some guidance to find it.

One of the greatest puzzles that we face is creating environments where employees at every level are committed to the purpose of their organization. After surveying over 80,000 people, Gallup stated that only 32% of employees are engaged in their jobs, while 68% were either not engaged or actively disengaged. Too often employees are delivering their work only with their hands, while their heart is not in it.

What can you do to build higher levels of commitment on your team? How can you help engage the hearts and minds of your employees and not just their hands and feet? Here are five ways that leaders can earn the heart of their workforce (Aiken & Keller, 2009). Focusing on these five conversations will help you find the right piece in the commitment puzzle in your organization.

Five Ways to Earn the Heart and Minds of Your Employees

The first and most popular way of earning the heart of an employee is through communicating the organization’s results. It is exciting to be part of something that is profitable and is growing market share. It can be rewarding to see how much money is being saved and how the stock price is moving up. While this can be a powerful link to the organization, this approach can be tremendously overused and overly relied on.

Social psychology research indicates that only about 20% of employees and leaders are energized solely by operational results. Talking about increasing productivity and cost savings is critical, but that is not going to tap into most of your employees. There are four other conversations that will engage the other 80% of your workforce.

Rarely, if ever, does someone come to work to fail. People want to shine and to be successful. They want to use their expertise and clearly understand what is expected of them. They want others to find value in what they do. They want to add to the discussion and to the product or service in meaningful ways. They want to build a career. They want to be challenged. They want to make a difference.

Yet, too often, they may not understand the impact their work has on the organization’s purpose. Or perhaps they receive confusing or misaligned expectations from upper management. Providing transparent and straightforward feedback in an environment that stretches and grows people is key in helping others support the team, department, and organization. Connecting one’s day-to-day tasks to the greater vision, engages and energizes another large segment of your organization.

Some employees may not mind ambiguous or frequently changing direction from their boss. They also may not care as much what The Street says about the organization’s stock price. What drives them is how their work benefits their customers. They are strongly motivated by making the customer’s life better in some way.

Whether it is building an app that delivers up-to-date information, serving delicious food on a special occasion, or making someone feel more comfortable after a medical procedure, many employees are most motivated by their direct or indirect impact on their customers. Leaders who clearly articulate internal and external customer needs, provide the necessary resources to take care of those needs, and recognize employees when they address the needs, tap into another critical avenue toward building organizational commitment.

How does my community benefit from what I do every day? How will the world be a better place for my family and friends because of what I do? How will the environment be positively impacted because of what I contribute? Higher percentages of the workforce are concerned not just about operational results but about societal results. They want to make a difference not just for their customers now, but for humanity tomorrow.

While some of this perspective can be attributed to the rise of younger generations, it is a powerful motivator for many people…of all ages. As a leader, emphasize how your team benefits others outside of the organization. Talk about how the planet is better, how sustainability is promoted, and how neighborhoods are renewed because of what each person in the organization does. Don’t make stuff up, just look at work activities in a different light and you’ll engage another group of your workforce.

How do you build unity among team members? How do you enable friendships? Earlier in my career I worked at the corporate office of Kohl’s Department Stores. I had the privilege of working with smart, experienced, and considerate team members. I looked forward to seeing them, working with them, and navigating organizational challenges with them. They helped me feel engaged.

The power of peers to support, educate, and stretch each other is too often an underutilized commitment tool. Encourage members of your team to get to know each other—their styles, their preferences, their strengths, and their opportunities. Build open communication so new ideas can be shared and added to. And spend time as a team in less structured ways to foster personal connections that will sustain people in rough times.

Ultimately, the team leader is the voice and determines how to focus on each of these commitment enhancing conversations. The leader is the representative of the organization and has the responsibility to create an environment where employees can thrive. Is it too hard to share all five commitment approaches at once? Maybe so, but can you strive to use at least three of them or even four? Each of these five approaches, especially when they are all used, will help you sharply increase your focus on engaging your people.

Creating employee commitment, just like finding the right puzzle piece, can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating experience, even though the answer may be right under your nose. However, with a clear focus and helpful strategies, the right pieces will fall into place. Using the five ways of building organizational commitment will help you look at your team in new ways to earn their hearts and minds. Connect the pieces together for your employees and their commitment will create a vibrant picture of success.

To help remind you of the Five Ways to Earn the Hearts and Minds of Your Employees, we created an infographic for you that you can download and or print. Click here to download your FREE copy of the “5 Ways to Earn the Hearts and Minds of Your Employees Infographic

This article originally appeared in Stewart Leadership.

This article was written by Daniel Stewart from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.