To maintain employees’ motivation, and their commitment to their role and the company – what we might term Employee Engagement – we need to know only one thing – what’s important to them.  Of course this one thing may have a number of different sub-elements, but the deeper we go into someone’s psyche, the simpler it becomes, with often only a handful of things being of intrinsic and long-term importance to them, and with a definite order of priority i.e. one or two will really be the deal-breakers. 

I’m talking about values  – deep-seated feelings about certain things that are so important to employees that they not only drive their behaviour, but also affect whether they will stay in a job or not.  Values conflicts are a reason many leave a job, although employees are not always consciously aware that this is the reason.  All they know is that they feel deeply uncomfortable with the way they are being asked to operate. 

Far too often employees live with this discomfort, staying in their role because they don’t have a visible alternative.  This leads to disengagement, reducing confidence and “brownout”.  Yes, brownout.  A term traditionally used to describe an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in an electrical power supply system, it has now been adopted by psychologists to describe someone who does not yet have “burnout”, but has become disengaged, demotivated and with little interest in their job.

When we know that values are often at the root of the problem, all we need to do is to equip our managers to find out the values of the individuals in their team, so that they can do their best to attend to them.  And if this isn’t possible, at the very least they have an awareness of the problem and can have an honest conversation with the employee about it – putting measures in place to manage the conflict if it can’t be eradicated.   Nothing in complex organisations is perfect, and within such complexity, an individual employee’s needs cannot always be met, but very often awareness of the issues and communication around them is enough.

As well as equipping managers to discover their team’s values, we can also go one better, and equip employees to find out their values for themselves.  When employees know their own values, they are more likely to speak out for, and stand up for them, allowing them to manage their own motivation, engagement and even stress levels.  Self-service employee engagement AND stress management – now that sounds attractive!  

More importantly, when employees know their own values, and managers know them as well, then work can be done to find alignment between company, team and individual employee values, setting the whole company up for high performance.  And it all boils down to managers and employees becoming coaches, and their own coach, as they start to ask questions of themselves and others. 

When questions like “What’s important to you in a job, or what do you want in a job?”  yield abstract nouns such “freedom, independence, learning, creativity” etc, then you know you have your values.  A brightening of body language will provide further corroboration.

Values are a key part of building Employee Confidence, and a culture that drives high performance.

 “Employee Confidence – the new rules of Engagement” launches on 26th April.  To pre-order your copy, click on the link below.