Streetwise: How to Improve staff Buy-in

March 27, 2021

From our friends at Eure Consulting:

As a company grows, staff buy-in weakens. Employees that have been with the company from the beginning start to feel stifled by newly created rules and regulations. They lose access to the CEO/owner. Newly hired employees have a hard time connecting with the original passion of the company. You, the CEO, have to take steps to reengage both of these groups or your company’s productivity will plummet.

As your company grows you need to put more structure and processes in place that serve to ensure your company is producing a consistent product or service every time. Employees that have been with you from the start will push back on those efforts. Until now they have been working in a more relaxed environment. One where everyone did every job and pitched in wherever and whenever needed. They will start to grumble about how long it takes to get things done. They will get frustrated by having to follow so many new policies that they see as restrictive.

On the other hand, newly hired employees may or may not pick up your culture. They haven’t been instilled with your mission and vision from day one. So they are not as tied to the company’s success as your long-term employees are. They don’t have the history and understanding of why you do things the way that you do. These new employees can easily check out because they were never fully checked in in the first place.

Both of these employee reactions come down to one issue, poor staff buy-in.

The biggest contributor to this lack of buy-in, or employee disengagement, is the inability for staff to connect to the bigger picture. Why does what they do matter? Are they just toiling away at a dead-end job for no reason? Or do they make a difference in the world? Even in a small way.

There is an age-old story of three bricklayers who are working on rebuilding a church. An observer asks all three the same question: “What are you doing?” The first replies: “I’m laying brick.” The second replies: “I’m building a wall.” The third replies: “I’m building a cathedral to the Almighty.”

The third bricklayer is the only one who sees the bigger picture. He sees what the greater purpose of their work is. As a result, he is the most engaged of the three. The second bricklayer has a little bit of that connection, seeing the wall that they are building. The third bricklayer doesn’t see anything beyond the individual bricks he is putting in place. As their connection to the bigger picture dwindles, so does each brick layer’s productivity and engagement.

Luckily, there is a simple and easy fix for this component of disengagement.

Create a “line of sight” for each employee. Show them exactly how their day-to-day affects the company’s success. This line of sight will help keep them engaged in their work.

Everyone wants to know that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. Whether it’s in a big or a small way, we want to feel that we’ve made a difference. By taking the time to show each employee how their role impacts their colleagues’ work, their department’s goals, and the company’s success overall you’ll give them clarity about the importance of what they do every day.

The first step in creating that valuable line of sight is to clearly define every role in your company.

When you clearly define what is expected from each role, your employees will know what value they bring to the company through their work. With their responsibilities clearly written out in front of them, they’ll be able to see the exact tasks and duties that they are responsible for. And they’ll know that without them, those things wouldn’t be getting done. By clearly understanding what you expect of them, they know what to focus on and when to focus on it. And it helps them see just how much they are accomplishing. Which gives them a greater sense of purpose on its own.

Added bonus: Knowing exactly what is expected of them also gives your employees more autonomy and control over their workday. Factors that also lead to greater engagement.

The next step is to show them how their work fits into the larger company overall.

When they do their job well, what is the outcome? Whose job do they make easier by getting their tasks completed on time? When they do their job poorly, what is the outcome? Whose life are they making harder by not giving 100%? Lay out for them exactly who and what their day-to-day work affects.

Are they a shipping manager? Help them see the importance of getting merchandise out the door efficiently so that your customers receive their purchases in a timely manner. Leading to more 5 star reviews and, ultimately, more sales.

Are they an accountant? Help them see how balancing the credit card helps lessen unnecessary spending which keeps the company profitable. Which keeps the company open. Which keeps everyone employed.

Are they a bricklayer? Help them see the finished structure they are working to create and not just the individual bricks they are mortaring.

Show them how what they do contributes to the overall puzzle that is your company. What pieces are they bringing to the table that you otherwise wouldn’t have? Be clear in letting them know their value and importance to the company as a whole.

Employees who can clearly see their connection to the big picture are more engaged and passionate about what they’re doing.

These can’t just be one-time conversations. They should be conversations that you’re having consistently so that the bigger picture is always top of mind. It is easy for employees to get lost in the whirlwind of the day-to-day and not pick their heads up to see what’s going on around them. They can get sucked down into a tunnel vision mindset where all they see is the work in front of them. Not only does it disengage them, but it also makes it harder for them to effectively collaborate across the company.

Your managers should be meeting with their direct reports on a regular basis to check in, ask how their work is going, and make sure that they still feel connected to that larger purpose.

Everyone likes to know that they’ve made an impact on the world in some way. They want to feel that they are making a difference. They want to be an essential member of a high-performing team. Help your employees see how their efforts are helping the company get better every day and they will become raving fans.