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The business world is all abuzz about employee engagement. Have you heard of it? You could easily fill a room with books, articles and blog posts that talk about it. If it's not being discussed at your law firm, perhaps you’ve heard a client mention it or seen it referenced on a poster in their workplace. Before you dismiss it as touchy-feely corporate jargon de jour, allow me to attempt to convince you otherwise—to extol employee engagement as the single greatest factor that can lead an organization (such as your law firm) to towering heights and unparalleled success. Wow, how’s that for setting the bar high?
“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute." - Simon Sinek
Employee engagement occurs when the employee feels that his own goals, values and interests are completely aligned with those of the organization. As a result, the employee is motivated to work and contribute to the company’s success—not because she has to do it, but because she wants to do it. Why? Because in doing so the employee is able to enhance his own well-being. Employee engagement has been described as an emotional commitment between the employee and employer. According to Kevin Kruse in an article he wrote for Forbes magazine:
“This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.”
Based upon the above description of employee engagement, it’s easy to see why organizations around the world are eager to jump on the employee engagement bandwagon. Why then do so many struggle with ever achieving any significant level of employee engagement? It’s probably because most confuse employee engagement with employee satisfaction. As a result, they waste their time and resources trying to make their employees happy. Relaxing the dress code and allowing your employees to wear jeans and shorts into the office may make them happy, but it’s not going to motivate them to work late into the night to finish a critical project. An employee who is satisfied—who is never late and never complains—is just as likely to take a call from a headhunter and leave the organization as one who is disgruntled. Engaged employees are happy and satisfied; happy and satisfied employees are not necessarily engaged.
“Engaged employees stay for what they give (they like their work); disengaged employees stay for what they get (favorable job conditions, growth opportunities, job security)." - Blessing White’s The State of Employee Engagement 2008
“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace." – Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup
The return on investment to organizations who understand, invest in and foster an engaged workforce is extraordinary. The most significant byproducts of high employee engagement:
Now that we have an understanding of what employee engagement is, what it is not and why it is important, the last remaining question to be answered is, “HOW?” How does an organization build a culture that nurtures engaged employees? The answer is simple: they attend to the three factors that influence an employee’s level of engagement—the “Holy Trinity” of employee engagement:
“On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: A great place for great people to do great work." - Marilyn Carlson, former CEO of Carlson Companies
When all three of these factors are present, employee engagement occurs. The greater the intersection of these factors, the higher the level of employee engagement. Like a three-legged stool, all three legs must be present and relatively balanced for it to function properly.
Law firms today are searching for every possible advantage to attract and retain top talent, maintain their client base and grow their practice, and increase profitability. Competition is fierce and market conditions are tough. Attending to your law firm culture and creating conditions that foster high levels of employee engagement should be at the top of every strategic plan and every Managing Partner's agenda. Whether you are a staff member, associate or shareholder of the firm, you play a vital role in creating an environment conducive to engagement—not the least of which is ensuring that you yourself are engaged. Challenge yourself and your law firm by asking hard questions to ensure that the required conditions (the "Holy Trinity") are present. Lastly, never allow complacency to set in. There's always room for improvement!
Jeff Weaver is a veteran leader and sales executive. For the past 14+ years he has been helping law firms throughout the United States solve critical problems impacting their client service, economics and quality of work life. This article is modified from an article originally published on KarmaMacchiato.com—his blog for sales professionals and organizational leaders. In addition to following his blog, you can find Jeff on Twitter at @jeffbweaver or LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffweaver/.