The Example of a True Leader
When I learned of the passing of Ross Perot, The Texas entrepreneur, I was reminded of the stories I had heard about how he was able to create such an extraordinarily engaged workforce of employees around the world. I know several people who worked for his company, EDS, and they all agree.Ross Perot was a man of his people, and everyone in the company knew and felt it. He always ate lunch in the employee cafeteria sitting each day with a different group. Despite the fact there were thousands of employees, he somehow always knew everyone’s name. And if you or a family member was ill or in distress, he was there on the phone wanting to see how he could help. He engendered such deep loyalty that his workers were willing to go to any lengths to provide excellent service to customers.
So what were the rules of engagement that Ross Perot was able to follow so flawlessly? And do those rules still apply today?
Today’s Rules of Employee Engagement
Recently, Forbes published an article entitled “Five New Rules of Employee Engagement”. In it the author maintains that in today’s highly visible environment, companies have much greater opportunities to promulgate their message and value by leveraging their employees’ activism and community commitment. Basically, your employees can help build and promote your corporate reputation if engaged correctly.
Companies can no longer afford to hesitate to ask their employees to support community issues. This was something Perot clearly understood and masterfully practiced. He knew that employee loyalty can help retain top talent in a competitive marketplace, attract new employees and even increase productivity. He just knew it before everyone else.
What Are the New Rules of Employee Engagement?
So what does it take to turn employees into advocates and ambassadors? The author posits the following five rules to follow:
- Make communication a priority. Employees, particularly younger workers, want to hear more from leadership about key issues facing the company. It’s time to invest in your employee communications — in the data, tools, training and talent you need to customize these communications and make them part of your corporate culture.
- Increase communication from leadership. Employees who hear from their company’s leadership on a regular basis are two times more likely to feel good about, and trust, their employer. CEOs and other leaders must make themselves visible and available.
- Employee communication should be as diverse as your employee population. Segment your employees in the same sophisticated ways you segment your customers. Ask them how they want to hear from you, how often and about what topics. Meet them where they are, whether that is on social media or the factory floor.
- Emphasize social impact initiatives, and don’t be afraid to engage on controversial issues. Both consumers and employees are actively looking for information about what companies stand for and how they are making a difference. Companies are expected to engage in the issues of the day and quickly.
- Make the ask. By prioritizing employee communication, increasing outreach from the C-suite, highlighting your corporate values and simply asking employees to speak up on your company’s behalf, you lay the groundwork to have them advocate for you, not against you.
Creating Company Ambassadors
Ross Perot clearly understood the rules of employee engagement. His people were his company’s greatest advocates, demonstrating over and over again to customers that EDS would get the job done on time, on budget, and with excellent results. His commitment to community concerns, social issues and support of the military was well known.
We all can’t be this type of entrepreneur, but we certainly can adopt Perot's rules of engagement. The keys are communications, availability, empathy, and selflessness. We can help with communications. The rest is up to you.