The best employee engagement ideas for millennials

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We have with us Mark C. Crowley, Mark is leadership consultant and speaker; He has 25 years in the dog-eat-dog world of financial services, an environment known for its heartlessness and “take no prisoners” attitude. His research led to the publication of his first book, Lead From The Heart, and his work as a speaker and consultant for companies and organizations seeking to achieve and sustain uncommonly high engagement and performance.

Recognized globally as a workplace thought leader, Mark is a regular leadership contributor to Fast Company Magazine and has been published in the Seattle TimesThe Huffington PostReutersCEO Magazine Great BritainUSA Today, and by the Great Place To Work Institute.  He’s interviewed CEOs and senior executives at innumerable high-performing companies (including Google, SAS, Gallup and the Cleveland Clinic) who are models for “managing the emotional side of work.”  And his profound conclusion draws on new scientific research which shows that the human heart is a source of remarkable intelligence: What people feel in their hearts has tremendous influence over their motivation and performance in the workplace.  “The heart is the driving force of human achievement.”

 Q-Can you please tell us about your Amazon best seller “Lead from the Heart”?

The great paradox in business today is that workplace leaders want greater worker productivity, but have yet to fully accept that employee commitment is driven by how well employees are treated.

Our traditional and longstanding view in business is that the best way to drive profit is to pay workers as little as possible, and then squeeze as much work out of them as possible. These beliefs are global, not just American. I have friends in India, for example, who are well educated and have great experience.  Nevertheless, companies there know they can exploit their workers – and so they do.

This mistake carries a karma with it, if you will.  What my book explains is that feelings and emotions drive human behavior. As a result, workers naturally give greater commitment (they put their heart into their work) and effort when they feel cared for.  Does their boss support them, respect them, trust them, develop them & appreciate them? Is the company generous with them overall?  When the answer is “yes” to all these questions, human beings naturally and reflexively give back to their employers. They care more, they give more. The company performs better.

The breakthrough idea of my book is that the human heart is a feeling, sensing organ.  And when leaders intentionally treat their employees in a caring way, the heart influences them to reciprocate.  It works the other way, of course; and so mistreating employees routinely backfires.  My book makes the case for fundamentally reinventing how we lead – and explains why we must now choose to lead from the heart.

Q-With 59 publications under your belt, what has been the motivating factor for you to be a writer?

I’m impressed that you counted them all!

Right before I published my book, I had several business experts warn me about using the word “heart” in my title.  Their warnings were direct and unambiguous. “You will fail if you do this” is what they all said.

I understood their fears.  In business, we’ve always believed that bringing the heart into leadership was a bad idea. Hear the word “heart” in this context and most people think it sounds soft and weak. Anyone who would say “lead from the heart, “ in other words, clearly doesn’t understand business.”

But because I have the science to back me, not to mention 20+ years of successfully managing this way in very senior level roles, I had to reject all the advice I was being given and trust my own instincts.  I named the book, “Lead From The Heart,” and I did indeed have people questioning its credibility.

My purpose in writing all the articles I have was done solely to demonstrate, drip-by-drip that my message needed to be taken seriously.  I’m calling for enormous change in how we lead and manage, and know that the acceptance of change takes time.  I write so that leaders can digest my message in small bites.  My hope is that over time they realize I’ve been right all along.

Q-Being a leader of change for Culture and Engagement, what would be your advice to HR for being an effective change agent for Culture and engagement in the organizations?

The first thing I would do is re-invent the model for who gets chosen into management & leadership roles. Too often, companies promote people due to tenure – or because they were a top performer in a certain role.  But being a great manager requires unique skills. You must have an inclination to not just take joy in the success of other people, you must also know how to teach, develop and help make people successful. I liken the role of manager to that of an athletics coach. When the team excels, it reflects on the coach.  Coaches never compete with their players and are always trying to make the team better.  Too many managers the world over have few if none of these inclinations.

Q-Are the companies really able to engage employees? 

Honestly, it’s debatable.  I’ve written a lot about this and have described most companies as just “moving peas on the plate.”  They’re doing superficial things to make workers and sometimes shareholders believe change is underway.  But engagement scores have not improved in many years.  Since that’s the management scorecard, it shows that too may senior leaders have not made a real commitment to changing how they lead and responding to all the reasons engagement is so low.

Q-What are the key drivers for employee engagement? 

It won’t come as a surprise, but engagement all boils down to the heart.  We know that human beings need to have a frequent experience of positive emotions every day in order to thrive. So people become highly engaged when their boss and workplace meets these needs.  It comes down to feelings, and whether employees feel that they have a caring boss who grows them, whether they are compensated and treated fairly, whether their work is meaningful and whether they feel appreciated for all they contribute.

Q-What, according to you are the best employee engagement ideas for millennials?

I’ve become a bit of a millennial expert and even raised one.  Millennial workers see work differently than previous generations.  They want to do a great job and make a difference, but they reject 15 hour workdays not to mention having to sit at one desk every day.

So wise organizations know that flexibility is key in managing millennials.  Allowing them to move around and work in different spots on campus is a must.  If possible, giving them opportunities to work remotely is highly valued as well.  The big problem most managers have in managing millennials is they don’t know how to (1) assign challenging goals, (2) routinely check in with them to ensure they stay on target and (3) hold them accountable for results. If you get upset every time you see a millennial chatting it up with a friend or getting up to get a snack, you will have a rough time as their manager.  Tell people what you expect and hold their feet to fire on delivering it. Just don’t insist on the how and the when.

“Millennials need a lot of attention from their managers and feel neglected when they don’t get it.  Millennials have a reputation for being disloyal. My take is that they’re very loyal when they get their needs met.  Some managers just don’t want to lead & coach this way – and that’s their mistake.

Q-When you say “Lead From The Heart” is the future of workplace leadership, what is your advice to current as well as future leaders? 

It should no longer be a question that how we lead people is failing.  Look at job satisfaction and engagement metrics all across the globe and you have your proof.

So while we clearly need to change our methods, the breakthrough science I write about pretty much writes the formula for how to successfully lead and manage in the 21st Century.  It’s the hearts in people we need to tend to in leadership.  Organizations that already have embraced this are thriving.

Q-What do you think is the future of bitcoin? Can it reshape the way business will be done in future and how soon do you see it transforming the world?

No one can predict the future. The technology seems to be very limited in what it can do, so it seems hard to imagine Bitcoin will be the answer everyone is looking for as a means of modernizing monetary transfers.  Blockchain technology seems likely to be with us for the future.  But when I see people taking loans out against their homes to invest in Bitcoin, I say, “Déjà vu.”  It has all the signs of a huge bubble.  But, again; I have no reliable crystal ball!

Thank you Mark!

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