Encouraging engagement: Building a better workplace
Failing to encourage employee engagement might be the single most unfortunate misstep any business owner can take.
Not hiring free-thinking, brave and self-driven professionals would be a close second.
Have you ever worked for a company, agency or firm where engagement seemed to be frowned upon, where leadership and management were practically feared? Was it a professional working environment where you were expected to simply obey orders and complete your tasks without question?
Sadly, these entities still exist, veiling a near suffocating grip on control within phrasing like “be a team player,” portraying some vision of everyone working towards a mutually beneficial greater good—when all you have is a dictatorship. Defenders of a “no-questions-asked” policy might tout that leadership has the experience and understands the market so their judgment and decisions will yield greater efficiency.
This is simply untrue, and it’s a far too simplistic way to look at how a group of people—with different skills, personalities and backgrounds—will interact constructively. Real engagement—utilizing the full breadth of your employees’ abilities requires a multifaceted commitment to improvement, cooperation and engagement.
Ideas aren’t your babies.
They can be made better. They can be adjusted. They can be improved. You may have heard there is no such thing as an original idea. I’d say that’s pretty evident when we look around the world. Our world and our economy are full of concepts, processes, strategies and more that are not the result of invention, but of innovation.
When an employee comes to you and says “I don’t think this will work the way you envisioned it,” your gut reaction might be to cut off engagement and dismiss them. After all, you’ve thought this through. You were excited about it. You feel like it could be of great benefit to your organization for years to come. And it very well could do just that—or it could fail because you failed to consider something.
No one is perfect and everyone’s perspective is limited. Including other capable voices in the development process is essential to creating tools, strategies and products that can take on the unpredictable obstacles they will invariably face.
Engagement means encouraging courage
Telling someone they’re wrong or that they missed something—especially when that person has seniority or is your boss—that can be scary.
It’s easy to avoid conflict, to keep your head down and just do your job, but as leaders and business owners, I believe it is essential to develop working environments where this is not the norm, where engagement is encouraged up and down all hierarchies of leadership. Future leaders, innovators and exceptional contributors don’t generally come gift wrapped. They are talented people who are supported, listened to and given the chance to grow.
We really must look at all entities within the insurance industry as incubators, where you should never expect the person hired to be the same six months, a year or five years later. Those with the bravery to voice their concerns should be celebrated and their contribution to the conversation should be considered. Those who might be shy or apprehensive about sharing their perspectives should know that their workplace is a place where engagement is encouraged and their voice is welcome and valued.
At The James Allen Companies, we work to find our clients within the insurance industry those talented candidates who will enable and evolve their professional vision.