The idea that work could be different, more like an extension of life rather than something I had to do to make money, was my dream for many years. As a business owner, that meant figuring out how to help my team feel that way, so I could feel that way too. I tried profit sharing, flex-time, catering to individual employee concerns about work space and environment and anything else I could think of to “make” people more engaged and self-reliant. But it seemed to me that most would just not engage!
However, through all these trying times, there was employee engagement happening at IBEX. It was just happening where I wasn’t looking. Like many inexperienced leaders, I was focused on the wrong people, the un-engageables, using flawed strategies while ignoring those who were highly motivated and eager to be engaged. No wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere! Today, the situation is much different and employee engagement is much improved. It has literally taken years to get to where we are.
Here are some engagement practices and philosophies that have made a big difference:
Leadership – The change I want to see in the world begins with me: I learned that in order to engage everyone else, I had to be engaged first and remain engaged. Once I realized that being the catalyst for employee engagement is MY MOST IMPORTANT AND PERMANENT ROLE, things got much, much easier.
Coaching – Truly caring and listening: We have learned that people are more engaged when they feel that someone at work really cares about them and listens to their concerns. So we started one-on-one coaching at IBEX. Everyone meets with their manager every six weeks for a one-on-one coaching session. The manager listens to what is going good and bad for the person, delivers feedback and then the two review progress on current goals and the person’s future direction. This is the most actionable area for any manager interested in improving the engagement level on their team.
Hiring – Finding the right fit: Because we know what kind of people thrive in our very open IBEX culture, we carefully select people for fit, not for job experience. Here’s another lesson I learned the hard way: the easiest way to have an engaged team is to hire highly motivated and engageable people! Personality profiles, multiple interviews and detailed orientation processes all help us in this regard.
Mission – Celebrate why you do what you do: We have a clear mission at IBEX: to empower and inspire great workplaces. That means we want to be the best place in Canada to work and we want to share our success on this journey with the world. We also have made a conscious decision to focus most of our new growth on agencies providing supports for people with intellectual disabilities. Working for these kinds of organizations, gives added meaning to what we do. We have a mission and a purpose that most other companies cannot hope to compete with. This is one way we keep the best people working at IBEX. If you have a strong purpose or mission, use it every day!
Today, I am living my dream of being a member part of a truly engaged workplace. One I am proud to be a part of.