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The Ultimate Engagement Strategy

May 9, 2023

How do you create a culture where every member of the organization is engaged?

Last week, we talked about employee engagement as a brand problem.  Today, I want to take us one step further into the ultimate way to keep people engaged in their work.

Every employer I know desires to create a workplace where their employees are happy and thriving. They want their employees to like their jobs, their coworkers, and their times together as a team. Ultimately, they want to foster a culture where their employees are engaged in the work they are doing.

However, the way companies approach engagement is almost always wrong.

While there are hundreds of tactics, I’ve chosen to highlight three approaches employers take. The first two are the most popular (and completely wrong), and the third approach is essential to keeping people engaged and excited about the work they do.

The first approach is obvious: money. If you pay people more money, they will stay; right? Wrong. To be clear, compensation is critically important, but if money is the primary motivator for the employee’s engagement, they will always be on the search for somebody who will pay them more. When the exchange between employer and employee is all about money, we turn our employees into mercenaries who’d quickly sell their services to the highest bidder. Money alone is not a strong strategy to get (and keep) people engaged.

The second approach is fun. As the co-founder of a company who has spent consecutive years on the “Best Places to Work” in our city, I have to tell you a secret: I believe most of those lists measure the wrong things. The questionnaire asks about ancillary perks each business has to offer. Can you bring your dog to work? Does the company host happy hours? Can you play ping-pong in the middle of the day? Those are fun, but they are all fringe benefits. I’m all for fun at work. We just announced yesterday that we are taking our entire team to New York City for our upcoming retreat. But in isolation, fun will not lead to true fulfillment at work.

The third and only effective way to keep people engaged over the long haul is purpose. Every person needs to connect their individual role with a purpose bigger than themselves. USAA does this well. For those of you unfamiliar with the financial institution, USAA exclusively serves current and former members of the military and their families. The company and its team members take pride in serving our nation’s heroes. In order to help their employees better understand who they are serving, USAA has them go through mock “boot camps,” to feel what it’s like to train as a member of the military. 90% of their employees say they are proud to work at USAA and feel a sense of loyalty to their mission. 

Purpose engages your workforce, which in turn translates into more positive customer experiences.

Money and fun are not bad things to offer individuals. You should compensate people well for what they do and desire for them to enjoy their workplace. However, these two things are “me-centric.” In isolation, they aren’t effective, and they aren’t fulfilling. 

Purpose, on the other hand, is others-centric. A purpose-filled life is one focused on others. This is true in a corporate setting, but it’s also true in every profession and every role in a person’s life. It works because it’s not just a tactic, it’s the right approach to life. When the focus is on making the lives of other people better, you will find true satisfaction.


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