Coach's VIEW

Coach's VIEW is a business column authored by executive coaches in COACH A, aimed at providing valuable insights and effective approaches for leveraging coaching to foster organizational and leadership development. The column draws on the latest coaching trends and data, as well as insights from notable global publications on coaching.

Engagement Begins with Creating a Space

Engagement Begins with Creating a Space
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Engagement means "the willingness of every employee to contribute by understanding the strategies and goals of the company in an appropriate manner and voluntarily exerting his or her abilities". (*1) Most readers understand that engagement has various impacts on corporate performance. Gallup reports that compared to companies with low engagement, those with high engagement "exceed profitability by 22%, productivity by 21%, and price/earnings ratio by 47%. They also have higher customer satisfaction, fewer accidents and quality errors, and lower absenteeism rates." (*1)

Although we know the significance of engagement, companies seem to have a lot to improve in terms of increasing engagement. Another survey conducted among more than 19,000 corporate employees around the world reported that only about 16% of employees were "fully engaged" with their companies. (*2) From these researches, we can imagine that increasing employee engagement shall be one critical topic for all leaders. There are many factors that have an impact on the employee's willingness to contribute, like "clear vision and strategy", "opportunities for learning and skill development", and "performance evaluation" and "basic employment conditions".

What else should we consider in order to increase engagement?

What generates "engagement"?

Research shows that engagement relies on a relationship in which members engage in talking and supporting each other on a daily basis, in other words, the recognition that you are part of a team. (*2) Exchanging signals of "you belong to here" is relevant to increasing engagement.

Nevertheless, today, we experience many disconnects to our sense of belonging in all aspects of our lives, including our work. For example, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, people replaced phone calls or in-person visits with messaging applications and social media. This has resulted in 46% of adults feeling "lonely". (*3)

In fact, loneliness and rejection by others are very critical threats for human beings to survive because we always live in groups. Our brain keeps looking out for signals to keep us safe, and to avoid loneliness and rejection, we always worry about "what others think about me". In other words, when you receive a "signal of belonging" that you do indeed belong to the specific group, "psychological sense of security and safety" would be ultimately established.

This sense of security and safety motivates them to contribute to the group.

What Does an Excellent Manager Do to Send out "Belonging Signals" ?

What can we learn from our surroundings?

At Starbucks, where engagement is considered high among employees, members who work together are called "partners". They place great value on "recognizing each other" and creating a culture where everyone feels like they belong.

Signals of belonging, which make people recognize that they have a safe "place" to be, can draw out their proactive behavior and motivate them to contribute voluntarily. Simple "Signals of Belonging" that are exchanged within an organization on a daily basis include the followings:

  • Greetings and talking to others
  • Calling someone by name
  • Having appropriate eye contact
  • Listening attentively without interrupting
  • Saying words of appreciation

All of these actions are very simple daily actions. However, in a sense that they are also difficult for us to do without recognizing the value of people who are "always there".

Humans have naturally developed belonging signals during the developmental process. It is not an outstanding way to reward special things, but rather an ability to communicate that we always recognize each other and their actions. However, in an era where small interactions are deterred, it may be necessary for us to intentionally create time in our daily lives to send "belonging signals".

I always remember a coaching client who was an expert at sending "belonging signals" to his employees. This manager in a retail company remembered all the names of nearly 500 employees including part-time workers, and talked to them frequently as he made his way throughout the store. He sometimes asks them, "What accomplishment are you proud of today?" so that he could elicit even the employee's small daily workplace successes. The employee's self-efficacy would increase by highlighting the small successes.

In order to manage the store in a way that best fits the local community, he tried to invite all staff members, including part-timers, to the sales floor meetings so that they would be listened to equally, rather than having a certain person monopolize the meeting. As a result, valuable information and ideas were gathered from part-timers living in the local community, enabling them to create profitable sales. The place where each employee is treated with respect, provides a sense of contribution by working together to create a better store. As a result, the store repeatedly won internal awards as a top selling store among other stores in the country.

One way of increasing engagement is to start by creating such an organization that sends signals to each other that this is your "place" and you "belong" here.

What is your way of sending belonging signals?

※1. The Future of the Organization is Determined by Engagement
Eiji Publishing
Yoshihide Nii, Hirofumi Matsubayashi

※2. MATT PERRY, 2019, ENGAGEMENT AROUND THE WORLD, CHARTED, Harvard Business School Publishing.

※3. 5 Culture Trends for 2019
What's New in Workplace Culture, 2018 O.C. Tanner

Daniel Coyle
Ken Kusunoki and Naomi Sakurada (Translator), Kanki Publishing 2018

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Language: Japanese

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