Peter Drucker once said, “Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.”
If your employees became volunteers—if the direct deposits stopped hitting their bank accounts—would they give another thought to the mission of your company?
For most of them, the answer is probably no. Just look at widely cited employee engagement data from Gallup showing that less than a third of workers are engaged (and less than 15 percent worldwide). Despite millions of dollars pouring into engagement programs each year, we continue to struggle to get people to actually care about their jobs. What are business leaders to do?
The shift of mind-set suggested by Drucker is a great place to start. We have to consider the fact that our best employees are in a sense volunteering to work for us: they could easily get jobs elsewhere. If we want them to give discretionary effort and connect with the company’s purpose, we have to convince them that it’s worth their while.
Whose responsibility is that? Everyone plays a role here—including employees themselves, as both Gallup and Marshall Goldsmith have recently argued. But to build an environment where most employees are invested in their jobs most of the time, the CEO must step up and lay the groundwork.
Here are five essential ways to build engagement from the top.