Why imitation won’t drive engagement

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Retention has always been, and continues to be, a top priority for HR – and it is unlikely to decline in importance any time soon.

According to Michael Beer, Harvard Business School professor and director of TruePoint Partners, a management consultancy that works with senior executives to develop effective high performance and commitment organizations, there is no single component that guarantees engagement.

“Employee commitment to the company has been in decline for decades,” Beer wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

“Yet we know that trust and commitment are essential for high individual and corporate performance.

“Only a minority of companies have managed to buck this decline and have built companies worthy of the human spirit – how do they do it?”

He began to address the question by outlining what he believes does not work.
“Incentives or other extrinsic rewards—individual bonus schemes, promises of nice offices and titles, and other tangible benefits—create transactional relationships, not deep bonds to an employer,” Beer suggested.

“Indeed there is a good deal of evidence that using such individual incentives actually creates self-interest, lowers trust, results in poor teamwork, and diminishes commitment.”

Conversely, giving employees a sense of purpose by granting them “real responsibility, meaning, caring, fairness, and authenticity” has been shown to increase commitment, he claimed.

“To create a company culture that evokes these human emotions in your employees, you can’t simply copy policies and practices from another company – though knowing about them is helpful,” he said.

“They must be consciously designed to your business’ values and cultural objectives.”

However, Beer conceded that “a careful mix of mission, management, and culture” were common to companies who have a committed workforce.

Starting at the top

According to Beer, if a company’s CEO does not believe in and articulate a “higher ambition”, they cannot persuade their employees to commit.

“It must be deeper than only making money for shareholders and managers,” he said.

“A higher ambition purpose must articulate some meaningful contribution to the world so people to feel their collective efforts will make a difference.” (Continued...)

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