Bruce Katcher makes his living finding ways that companies can motivate and encourage their workers to buy into company goals.
That’s why he’s always asking questions about people’s jobs and listening carefully to the answers. Whether he’s in a social situation or a professional function, he asks the people he meets, “Tell me about where you work.”
“Then I just listen for one of two words,” says Katcher, an organizational psychologist and president of Discovery Surveys in Sharon, Mass. “When they talk about their organization, do they say ‘we,’ or do they say ‘they?’”
That word choice, he says, is a reliable barometer about how people feel about their employers and how committed they are.
“If they say ‘we,’ there is a good chance they are highly engaged and committed; if they say ‘they,’ they probably are not,” Katcher says.
While this might seem simplistic, Katcher is convinced it is important evidence of the relationship because an engaged and committed workforce is the key to the long-term success of any organization. Any employee using “they” is a signal that the employee’s relationship with the company is not healthy. If employees don’t embrace their work and personally identify with the culture of a company, their motivation, relationships with co-workers, and service to customers will suffer.
Here are five of Katcher’s suggestions on how to promote employee engagement and commitment.
Instill a sense of pride from the first day. Make an effort to make new employees part of the team rather than just looking at them as someone who is there for the paycheck. Talk about the company’s history with new hires, discuss its mission, how it contributes to the community, its successes, and how it has overcome obstacles to meet its goals.
Try to initiate new employees with other new employees. Special bonds often are created when people look around and see themselves in the same boat as others. As part of an employee orientation, new workers might find an ally in other new workers that will bind them to the company and can be a long-lasting source of support for them through the years.
Build connections between employees. Friendship on the job is often the key to employee commitment and helps them weather difficult times on the job. Giving workers the chance to mingle — whether it is sharing lunch times or coffee breaks, or participating in after-hours sports leagues or charitable events — can build morale. Employees who find common bonds are the ones who are more likely to dig in together when the going gets tough.
Let employees know they have a future. No matter how good an employee is or appears to be, there comes a time when they want to know what’s in store for them in the months and years ahead. Katcher suggests engaging workers from the first days in a conversation about their career growth and development.
Supervisors should be role models. Katcher suggests that when managers and supervisors use “we” when discussing the company, it can be contagious. This provides more motivation for workers to look at their jobs as being part of something greater.
The shared experiences in workplaces can be binding forces in helping to build the loyalty and commitment that helps a company achieve its goals.