How to align employee engagement with business performance
Employee engagement is often seen as an activity on top of the day-job, rather than a critical measure of it, and it’s worth remembering that employees join organisations engaged – disengagement is the result of poor experiences at work.
So, what can startups do to align employee engagement with business performance? Here are some important aspects to consider:
1. Developing strategic clarity
An important aspect of employee engagement is strategic clarity – being clear of the vision ahead and the actions needed to achieve them. Whilst it’s important to have teams that are flexible and adaptable with an entrepreneurial spirit, allowing them to make the most of various business opportunities, this approach can also be the cause of ambiguity of strategic objectives.
Startups can often find themselves focused on many revenue streams and objectives as they try to establish themselves and become financially secure, however it is this very diversification which can lead to confusion amongst the team questioning what the organisation is trying to achieve.
We often think of large organisations when we think about purpose and values, but startups were formed for a reason other than to make money – a desire to change or improve the way things are done. This purpose, together with clear organisational values can help clarify the way forward, identifying which projects the organisation should and should not pursue. In this way the business stays focused on the reasons it was set up and this clarity also drives employee engagement.
2. Ensuring the right people are in the right roles
Once a startup organisation has defined a clear purpose, the next step is ensuring that the right people are in the right roles. Often, startups rely on team members getting involved in many areas of the business to keep costs low and to deliver all the work that needs to be achieved.
However, rather than let the team continue getting involved in everything, it’s important to take the time early on to assess the skill set of the team, to understand who is good at which aspect of the business, and what they have a particular passion for, which will result in better business performance. In this way potential costly mistakes caused by the lack of expertise can be avoided, whilst at the same time, this helps improve employee engagement as employees work to their strengths and can see the clear value their work adds to the success of the organisation.
3. Clarifying job roles
The startup team is often made up of friends or family, involved and recruited due to the deep-rooted trust between them, which, although a key element of a high performing team, when working together, can result in a more relaxed and informal relationship, meaning roles are not always clearly defined and reviews can be inconsistent at best.
Clearly defined job descriptions and regular reviews might seem a corporate activity, but this role clarity drives greater engagement as well as providing a roadmap of how the organisation will achieve its business performance objectives. Providing teams with a clear line of sight in how their work fulfils the organisations objectives and purpose will mean there is a better chance of achieving it, as well as driving employee engagement.
4. Employee involvement
Another way of improving employee engagement aligned to business performance is through involving employees in helping shape the strategic direction. Involvement allows employees to make the most of their talents and experiences and gets the most out of the cognitive diversity amongst the team. This then also helps with accountability and ownership of the plan.
5. Developing future skills
It will be rare that startups possess all the skills they need to achieve the business performance. Whilst the team will have worked hard to get the organisation off the ground, as the business grows, different skills will be needed to support the growth.
When defining the strategy, it’s important to consider the skills that will be needed to deliver the strategy, and map these against those currently in the business. Training and developing the team in the skills needed to achieve the performance objectives will be important and this also happens to improve employee engagement.
6. Creating a learning culture
People will make mistakes, but how these mistakes are dealt with can send a clear message of whether this is a learning culture or one of blame where mistakes are not tolerated. A learning culture is critical to driving greater innovation and creativity, but people will not have the confidence to try new things or even come up with new ideas if they fear reprisals when things don’t work out. Autonomy to try and experiment, as well as learning from mistakes from each other, can create a psychologically safe environment where creativity and innovation is encouraged, and employee engagement can thrive.
In summary, the success that many startups experience is due to their ability to adapt and change and be flexible, but this very strength can later become a source of confusion and disengagement without a clear strategy, linked to a clear purpose.
Being clear, whether about job roles, team goals, organisational objectives or organisational purpose is energising. It can be a source of inspiration and motivation and drive employee engagement, whilst at the same time, provide clarity for better business performance and the foundations for future success.