In his timeless work How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), Dale Carnegie traces all human motivation to one sensation: feeling important. Quoting American philosopher John Dewey, Carnegie emphasizes “that the deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.’” Flash forward to 2009, when the most innovative business leaders are applying Carnegie’s dictum to the workplace through Employee Engagement Management. More than just an “HR buzzword,” Employee Engagement Management is a leadership approach that values each employee’s well being and input, with the understanding that passionate, engaged employees are more productive. This article will explain why gathering and implementing employee suggestions is an effective technique for improving both employee and customer engagement.
Making use of employee suggestions increases employee engagement because humans have an innate need to feel that their actions and ideas make a difference. In fact, human development theorist Erik Erikson tells us that the major developmental crisis of middle adulthood is generativity vs. stagnation—whether or not we successfully contribute to the society around us. When employees see that their suggestions are highly valued, they feel important to the organization. Later, as their ideas are implemented, employees feel generative and effective. This is why employees typically become more personally immersed in their work when staff recommendations are regularly implemented. Personal contribution raises our attachment to any outcome. As they recognize that their ideas can make a difference, employees will often spend more discretionary effort to find ways to improve their own working conditions and performance. A contributing, innovating employee is an engaged employee.
Moreover, taking suggestions from your employees makes good business sense, since employees often have unique insights about how to improve operations. Since they are on the front lines, your employees have a rich understanding of what your customers need and want. By harnessing their first-hand customer knowledge, you can also improve your organization’s customer service, thereby boosting customer engagement and enjoying higher profits. (In fact, PeopleMetrics has found a clear correlation between increased customer engagement and higher profit margins.)
The Japanese have a name for the end result of respecting every employee’s ideas—kaizen, or continuous improvement. By listening to your employees' suggestions, you can boost engagement while ensuring that your organization continues to grow and improve.
Photo credit: Alosh Bennet
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Posted on 11-05-2009