Recently, Harvard Business Review published an article titled “Trust Your Employees, Not Your Rule Book.” The editorial was aimed as a post-mortem on United Airlines flight 3411, when a passenger was physically dragged off of an overbooked flight. The author William Taylor — co-founder of Fast Company — wrote:
“[A]s you reflect on leadership and culture after United 3411, don’t just look for opportunities to fine-tune your procedures and update your employee manuals. Give your people the chance to think for themselves, to do what makes sense, to break the rules when they confront situations where the existing rules make no sense.”
Leaders cannot write rules to govern every aspect of the employee experience. Just as UX designers and developers approach the user experience — where the user is an unpredictable and autonomous variable in the equation, addressing the intangibles of the employee experience cannot be done with the stroke of a pen in a rule book.
Rules cannot address everything. You can’t demand employees be engaged in their work, for example, or that they understand the impact their work has on customers or their communities.
For example: Do employees trust leaders in the organization? Do they feel trusted in return? Do they have a fair amount of autonomy in their work? Do they consider their work meaningful or understand how it impacts their team, the organization, and the world? Is there a sense of community among employees?
Overwhelmed managers, hopelessly disengaged employees, culture fit, unmet and often unspoken expectations from employees, technical hiccups, low adoption — some factors can influence the employee and, as a result, the customer experience beyond our best intentions.
No rule book can cover every possible situation and, in the end, nothing will make employees want to engage with programs if they perceive that their employer doesn’t value their contributions to the organization.
So where can employers hoping to learn lessons from public culture clashes go from here? How can we address problematic cultures without attempting to legislate them?
Recognizing people as the most valuable part of any organization is the foundation. From there, organizations can inform the workforce of the goal to improve the employee experience, accept employee feedback on and contributions to culture, and deploy a holistic strategy to achieve a culture of appreciation and improve employee engagement.
Seven Dimensions of Engagement Impacting Your Employee Experience
While hundreds of models exist to facilitate the work of improving employee engagement, most models fall under the category of “top-down” academic approaches. Last year, Maritz Motivation Solutions and the Employee Engagement Awards set out to define a new model with crowdsourced input from around the world. With feedback from HR practitioners, senior leaders, academics and global experts in engagement, the result is a flexible framework of seven dimensions of employee engagement.
- Purpose: Why we exist
- The Work: What we do
- Social System: Inclusion and connections
- Personal Growth: The ability to realize potential
- Contribution Awareness: I know who you are, and I saw what you did
- Advocacy: Taking the step of supporting or recommending
- Wellbeing: Being comfortable, healthy or happy
When the employee experience suffers, the customer experience suffers — along with profits and public perception of the organization. It’s never been more important, in an age of instantaneous digital communication whereby bad customer and employee experiences can be explosively viral online, for leaders to realign and focus on employees as their organization’s greatest asset.
What do your employees want from their work? What’s most important to them? And how can your organization meet those needs to compete in the war for talent, engagement and loyal, satisfied customers? It’s not enough to update a handbook — that’s for sure.