Successfully engaging your teams is like cooking – you must utilise all the ingredients to bring your vision to life

Engaging your teams is like cooking – you need all the ingredients

Whether you are team MasterChef or My Kitchen Rules is more to your taste, one thing reality TV fans can all agree on is that kitchen fails happen to the best of us (and for those wondering, yes it is possible to overcook a boiled egg). But even the Chef de Cuisine’s among us know – that regardless of whether you are following a set recipe or not – your resulting culinary masterpiece is only as good as your ability to access the key ingredients.

Salt is no substitute for sugar, and plain flour won’t help your cake rise! So, when it comes to engaging employees in your business, it’s the same concept – there are several elements that all must work together to succeed, or else, it’s nothing more than a recipe for disaster.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen office

By now, you may have heard about the ANZ’s recent agreement with staff, offering them the ‘right to disconnect’ from their workplace. Recently, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke told Q+A that he was ‘attracted’ to the idea of workplace legislation that would grant employees the right to screen calls from bosses outside of work hours.

Of course, the entire concept of being able to ‘switch off’ from work is an interesting proposition, particularly at a time when employers right across the country are collectively scratching their heads trying to figure out how to switch their employees ‘on’.

But is switching employees ‘on’ and ‘off’, and being ‘engaged’ at work really the same thing? On that note – when it comes to employee engagement – what message does this decision send to younger workers? Or will such legislation propel employee engagement backwards?

Engaging your teams is like cooking – you need all the ingredients

Firstly, the ANZ’s move is a step in the right direction. It sends a strong signal from the leadership team that they acknowledge there’s more work to be done in supporting employees to have a stronger work/life balance while creating a culture where setting boundaries for work is encouraged. But… and here’s the catch… it can’t succeed on its own.

To be truly successful, ultimately, focus needs to remain on building the right culture, leadership capabilities, organisational structure and on resourcing, systems and processes. Because these elements are all equally important and they underpin the way the business is operating – while also helping to support employees on a granular, daily basis.

The six-step recipe for a more engaged workforce

  1. It’s all about the culture

If a loaf of sourdough is only as good as its starter culture, then teams can only be as good as the work culture that’s been cultivated before them. Offer your people a voice and facilitate communication channels that encourage this. Ensure your people are given many opportunities to contribute ideas and provide feedback (and that the feedback is listened to).

Perhaps you have considered or already implemented a work-from-home or hybrid approach in your workplace, allowing staff some freedom to complete their work outside of the office. This will also help to build trust and create some space and autonomy away from their desk.

  1. Purpose, purpose, purpose

While it’s difficult to confuse an eggbeater’s purpose in life, teams may struggle to remain focused if they begin to question the overall purpose of the organisation they’re working for or where they fit in when it comes to the ‘bigger picture’. In fact, studies have shown purpose is integral to overall workforce performance, with the pandemic having a profound impact on the thoughts of many workers, causing them to reevaluate the work they are doing.

Engaging your teams is like cooking – you need all the ingredients

According to a Mckinsey report in 2021, nearly half of US-based employees said they were reconsidering the work they did because of the pandemic, with the resulting message to employers being: “Help your employees find purpose or watch them leave.”

For employers, it is therefore imperative to clearly articulate the company’s overarching purpose and how it relates to individual job roles.  Developing or reinvigorating your company’s EVP (Employee Value Proposition) using an overarching brand objective or motto and supporting pillars as the key company values, is another great way of doing this.

Or, consider going a step further by implementing a workplace policy whereby employees can access one paid volunteer day per year. This will allow staff members the opportunity to make a real difference outside of their workplace and ‘give back’ to their local community. Helping a cause close to their hearts will not only boost morale but will allow workers to experience a greater sense of purpose in their personal and professional lives.

  1. Celebrating team success and milestones

A birthday isn’t the only milestone worth celebrating among your team. Have you ever worked for a boss who only ever gave you negative or critical feedback? While constructive criticism certainly has its place in the workforce, celebrating your teams’ successes are equally important, as is empowering your people to achieve inspiring goals together.

Set an inspirational goal for your firm and take your people on the journey with you. Find ways to communicate your goal and be sure to track and celebrate successes along the way.

  1. Leaders who are accessible (More so than Gordon Ramsey)

No one wants Gordon Ramsey’s feedback said to their face, and your workers shouldn’t feel intimidated by your leadership style either! Open door policies are always the best kind.

Engaging your teams is like cooking – you need all the ingredients

Encourage your leaders to not only be accessible but also approachable. This will allow you to establish a mutual sense of trust and respect. It is also key that your executives are visible to your employees. Where feasible, have them visit your retail outlets, branches or offices. Even the simple action of picking up the phone and having a conversation with a handful of your employees can have a lasting impact on your people and culture over the long term.

  1. Better communication – (Hint: sometimes less is more)

We are not suggesting you resort to using the coconut string phone, but when it comes to employee communication, it’s often the case of quality over quantity. That said, bombarding your workforce with unnecessary information via a raft of channels i.e. Slack, email, social media, team meetings – the list goes on – may not be as effective if employees start to ‘tune out’ to the background noise (that is quite often distracting to their job at hand).

Rather, if you can manage targeted, concise, relatable and consistent messaging, the results will pay off. Teams will find themselves with less ambiguity and more time to complete their work. For operations with remote workers, investing in strong employee communication is even more essential. An effective employee communications strategy ensures that all your people feel informed and connected regardless of where they are physically located.

  1. Wellbeing above everything else

Nutrition is one thing, but general employee wellbeing should be of the utmost priority for any business leader. Providing the benefits or access to programs which support the wellbeing of your people is paramount to achieving your goal. You should also ask them what services they would find valuable. Then, find practical ways to support them to live a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle that allows for mental and physical downtime, away from the office.

By implementing all of the above five steps across your organisation– boosting company culture, providing employees with a better sense of purpose in their work, celebrating successes, ensuring leadership is approachable, and communicating better – you will go a long way towards offering employees with a better sense of wellbeing in their roles and lives.

So, is allowing workers to ‘switch off’ the answer?

Engaging your teams is like cooking – you need all the ingredients

Only time will tell how the ANZ’s workforce responds to their agreement (and whether similar legislation becomes more widespread among Australian employers) but what we do know for sure – is that having more trust in staff boosts engagement, and allowing employees some space to breathe should be part of every organisation’s employee engagement toolkit.

Your people need to feel a strong connection to your purpose, strategy and values. Because when your people feel engaged, they will feel valued for their contributions and empowered to make a difference. Not only will this create a positive workplace culture for your business, it will also enable you to build a sustainable competitive advantage over the long term.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for communication strategies and it’ll depend largely on the size of your workforce, the type of work you do and your own style of leadership. And when settling on a communication strategy that’s best for your team, always remember to:

  • Be clear about your organisation’s purpose, strategy and values
  • Empower your employees to achieve goals together
  • Ensure they are given a voice
  • Recognise them for their achievements
  • Communicate clearly and consistently
  • Let them know you trust them
  • And provide them access to information

Linda Karkafi is an employee communications and engagement expert, published author and the Managing Director of Commcentric – a consultancy inspiring and coaching business leaders, based in Sydney.

Linda Karkafi, Managing Director of Commcentric