The Customer Confidential Podcast

Why Copying Google Won’t Improve Your Employee Engagement

Bain Partner Michael Mankins discusses what it takes to truly engage employees, tactics for managing star players and the importance of inspirational leadership.


Why Copying Google Won’t Improve Your Employee Engagement

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Most companies are looking squarely in the wrong direction for ways to improve employee engagement, says my colleague Michael Mankins. “They’re focused on free food, access to child care,” he says (and let’s not forget game rooms, concierge services and the like), all of which are “basically a different form of compensation,” Michael says. Employees do expect fair pay and good benefits. But those basics alone don’t set one company apart from others, and they don’t do much to build engagement.

According to Gallup, something like 70% of US employees say they are not engaged with their job. In spite of all the money companies spend trying to build engagement, many major measures of employee engagement have declined over the last decade or two.

So what should these companies do? Michael—head of Bain’s Organization practice in the Americas and my latest guest on the Net Promoter System podcast—has some answers to this question.

What’s most important for engagement, Michael says, is the feeling that what you do matters.

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That’s probably a fundamental human motivation that all of us feel. But younger employees in particular—the so-called Millennials—want to believe that the company they work for has a real mission, that it’s having an impact on the world and that they are contributing to it. As Michael puts it, they want the feeling of “I’m doing extraordinary things for a company that’s doing extraordinary things. That’s pride. That creates a bond” between employer and employee, he says.

Everything else flows from this basic principle. Companies need to emphasize team performance, not individual performance, because it’s the team that has a real impact on the company’s mission. They need to ensure that everyone is in the right job, so that each person can capitalize on his or her strengths and contribute to the mission. They need to create inspirational leaders—people who bring out the best in their coworkers and motivate them to realize their full potential as they pursue their company’s goals.

“Today, the best companies are actually communicating much more about impact,” Michael adds. He cites a speech by Michael Dell to an audience that included a lot of Dell employees. Rather than concentrating on the company’s financial performance, Michael Dell “focused on the billions of people [for whom] they were providing access to healthcare, the billions of people who wouldn’t be educated if they hadn’t had the equipment Dell was providing,” and so on. “It was all about the impact the organization is having on the broader world and the role that the team at Dell played in that impact.”

You can listen to my discussion with Michael on iTunes or through the player above. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.


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