What Really Matters When It Comes To Employee Engagement?

Ready or not, we are now in what we call the age of ‘the people’. Fueled by consumers and their ability to promote or criticise a product or service, the rise in social platforms has created the rise of the “louder voice” and customers now hold some degree of power over organisations. This means they gain priority over other stakeholders, after all, performance and targets are attained by keeping these customers happy.

Also read: The Top 3 Employee Engagement Drivers

At the core of any great business is its workforce. The trouble is if your employees are not engaged, there are less likely to be productive. It sounds naïve, but the way many companies structure their internal culture causes a divide. A toxic “Them and Us” culture, where business objectives are less than aligned.

The attitude today’s leading business leaders and HR teams need to adopt is to empower and inspire so that their workforce can find meaning in what they do, and to feel valued.

Lessons from Microsoft’s cultural implosion

Not long ago, Microsoft, a giant with a reputation for being an excellent place to work, largely due to the worldly principles of Bill Gates and, of course, for being one of the wealthiest organisations on the planet, it could meet wage demand, was coming unstuck, it was imploding. And at the root of it all was the one thing everyone thought Microsoft had right, it’s culture, the same culture which many businesses still adopt today.

What caused Microsoft’s internal cultural collapse?

Internal competition fueled by using outdated methods was suffocating, it created a hostile work environment. Microsoft was built up as a blue-chip stock company with high-end investors who expected dividends, so a culture of innovation and risk taking was non-existent and with the competition from Apple overtaking their share in the market, the cultural landscape for effective employee management had started to shift.

Also read: Why Business Transparency is Key for Employee Engagement

Though also performance-obsessed, companies like Apple, Google and Dell had a different ethos and their employee productivity reflected this. Microsoft’s target-driven, employee-ranking processes caused such a divided workplace it almost destroyed an empire.

Microsoft versus Apple: an example of why stacked ranking failed

At the start of the new millennium, both companies were racing to launch new products: iOS 10 and Vista. Apple dedicated 600 of its engineers, Microsoft used 10’000. It took two years for Apple to get their product to market, Microsoft took almost triple the time, then pulled Vista shortly after. One difference in the two’s culture was how it rewarded productivity. Apple didn’t use stacked ranking.

Rebooting Microsoft: linking employee values with company and world values

Lucky for Microsoft, their new CEO, Satya Nadella, spotted problem and set about rebooting its culture, take a read of the humbling email he sent out to employees on his first day as CEO. It was a new Mission and Culture strategy email which included statements like:

“We believe we should each find meaning in our work and we ensure employees have the freedom and the reach to help make a difference in the world”.

Communication equals engagement, and open dialogue from a top-down conversation means employees feel like they matter and what they do matters.

Empowered employees become engaged employees, creating a great internal culture.

Empowerment equals creativity and productivity, which more often than not leads to innovative ideas that move companies forward. Pair these principles with the age of the people and Satya Nadella sums it up nicely:

“Our ambitions are bold and so must be our desire to change and evolve our culture.”

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About the author

Christopher Snelgrove is the founder of HIJOBS, an online recruitment company that connects candidates with employers in rural communities across Scotland, giving those living out with more populated areas the best possible employment opportunities.
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