The importance of generating "buy in" from your staffBy Maureen Jenkins
Carl Dickerson, president and founder of Dickerson Employee Benefits, knows it's natural for his 50-person staff to wonder, "What's in it for me?" as they are encouraged to achieve the goals of his Los Angeles-based firm.
To generate "buy in" of his long-term vision to be the ultimate insurance resource, Dickerson offers employee incentives such as insurance licensing classes, on-site workshops, and Las Vegas retreats -- all in an effort to make his staff feel personally vested in his company's success. "What we try to do is explain to the employees the opportunities they have within Dickerson Employee Benefits to reach their own economic and financial goals," he says. "Everyone has a contribution to make, from the salesperson to the operations person. They're all interdependent upon each other."
It is critical, says Dickerson, that everyone in an organization understands the mission of the company and feels connected to it. According to a FranklinCovey survey of 26,5000 employees in 150 companies, only one in seven American workers could identify their company's top three goals. And in a separate FranklinCovey study of more than 12,000 workers across 18 industries, only one of five feels passionate about these top organizational goals.
Companies that fail to get "buy in" from all their employees do so at their own peril, says C. Patrick Lewis, author of Building a Shared Vision: A Leader's Guide to Aligning the Organization (Productivity Press; $45).
"The key word in this process is 'vision', regardless of whether you're talking about marketing or accounting. In any kind of setting, you need to be very clear and be able to articulate this vision to all the people you need to go with you," says Lewis, who has more than 30 years of experience as an educator, administrator, and consultant for high-tech companies including Cisco Systems, HP, and Apple. "You really should set up a process whereby everyone in the organization can feel they have had an opportunity to have a voice and input into the development of this organizational vision. A shared vision is the result of collective actions, and the successful ones are."
In today's world of corporate cutbacks and staff reductions, it can be extremely challenging to convince employees that they have a long-term stake in a company's success. But, ironically, during times like these, it's even more important that workers feel invested. FranklinCovey's survey found that just 48% of employees said their team's goals were translated into their individual work goals. But strong managers can help boost these numbers.
"The lower-level manager or supervisor has a responsibility in being a participant in the vision-development process and wants to make sure the unit he is responsible for has bought into it," says Lewis. As a result, they will be a successful unit within a successful organization. As a supervisor, I want to make sure everyone in my unit wants to come to work, knows what they're part of, and that they're a contributor."
There are several ways to ensure that employees within your company, division, or team buy into the company's vision:
Have ongoing discussions. Host periodic meetings or interviews with team members in order to gather feedback on what's working and what's not. An alternative is to establish a representative committee composed of employees who will share their fellow workers' thoughts and opinions.
Provide incentives. Employees should feel that there are benefits and rewards in helping their team or company reach its objectives. At Dickerson Employee Benefits, financial incentives are provided for those managers and employees who meet and exceed performance goals.
Encourage open communication. Foster a work environment that is "open to internal criticism," says Lewis. Managers need to make employees feel that their opinions and viewpoints count. Employees "want to come to the office and go to the line because they feel they're contributing something to the process and not just to their own income."