Give Purpose & Passion
 (Employee Engagement Strategy, Part 4)

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Everyone wants a job that’s rewarding and exciting (or at least somewhat interesting). And every employer wants employees to deliver exceptional outcomes.

These two goals go together!

In this article, we’ll explore four ways that you can cultivate purpose and passion in your staff.

  1. Reward Good Performance
  2. Give Employees Autonomy
  3. Encourage Passion Projects
  4. Lead By Example

1. Reward Good Performance

Take a moment to reflect on your best employees. Who went above and beyond your expectations this month? What have you done recently to go above and beyond their expectations?

Everyone wants to be recognized for their hard work.

Overlooking successes is guaranteed to demotivate your staff.

You can reward employees for free with:

  • handwritten notes
  • LinkedIn recommendations
  • recognition during a group meeting
  • one-on-one mentoring (try taking them out for coffee)
  • job switch for a day (also a great training opportunity)

You can help your employees relax with:

  • office massages
  • pet days
  • spa days
  • cooking lessons
  • paid-time-off on birthdays
Pet days are a great way to show appreciation and boost your employee’s happiness. (Photo by WeWork)

You can treat employees with:

  • snacks
  • free lunch
  • donations to a charity of their choice
  • their favorite liquor
  • FitBits or other gadgets
  • half-day off Fridays
  • event tickets
  • standing desk
  • office ping pong table
  • paid-for vacation

Want more creative ideas? Check out this list of 100 more ways to reward employees, or check this out these recommendations by top recruiters and HR managers.

Action Step: Think of an employee who you haven’t recognized recently. Show your appreciation by giving them a reward from our list.

2. Give Employees Autonomy

Give your employees more responsibility and hold them accountable for results.

At Idaho Central Credit Union, Deanna Turner manages a 19-person team. Most members work in roles that require autonomy most of the time. According to Deanna, finding employees with strong discipline is important for ensuring that their time and the company’s resources are managed responsibly.

To manage employees with a high level of autonomy, Deanna recommends conducting regular 1-on-1 meetings as well as training employees on calendar management. Both tools allow employees to communicate how they are spacing time with ICCU’s management teams.

“Our department motto is, ‘Give more than you take,’” Deanna says. “I encourage my team to manage their time and spend our company resources as if it were their own. If you wouldn’t spend $20.00 of your personal money to buy lunch, don’t spend $20.00 on a lunch that will be expensed to the company.”

Giving employees autonomy isn’t without its challenges, but Deanna finds that most of the time when employees have trouble, management can coach them to develop better discipline. “Make sure that your expectations are very clear. You might have to reel them in by helping them manage their calendar and keeping close track on where they spend their time until they regain your trust and you are confident that they have developed disciplined habits.”

Deanna says, “We believe in positivity and putting people first. When we treat our team members with love and respect, they treat our members with love and respect and the business thrives.”

3. Encourage Passion Projects

Google allows all employees to spend one day each week pursuing a passion project that they choose. This “20% time” resulted in many profitable businesses including AdSense, Gmail, and Google Maps.

Not many employers make an effort to get to know their employees. This gives you an opportunity to set yourself apart and develop lasting, productive relationships. 

Meridian, Idaho based product company Scentsy allowed information technology employees to dedicate 10% of their time to passion projects or education. According to Christopher Johnson, Scentsy’s Vice President of IT, the goal was to develop new intellectual property for Scentsy and provide employees with opportunities to grow and develop new skillsets.

Scentsy encountered a common issue: No matter how much time they allocated, employees still felt a sense obligation to their primary responsibilities and continued to commit nearly 100% of their time to day-to-day activities. Employees still found benefit, however, since they finally had time to address inefficiencies that otherwise would not have been addressed.

“Our employees are technologists that are great at executing on an idea,” Chris says. “However, without an innovation framework in place, they often stall during the idea generation phase. The purposefully loose structure of the program caused a lack of accountability in committing to complete an idea/project.”

For now, Scentsy has discontinued the program. However, Chris says they’re open to relaunching the program with a few key modifications to add structure and increase accountability. These include:

  • requiring employees to commit to a goal before commencing on a 10% project
  • pairing every technologist with a product manager from the business
  • injecting staff’s 10% passion projects into their existing work backlogs

Another way to involve your employees in causes they care about and help them develop career skills is to welcome them to participate in a company committee.

For example, ProService Boise employees formed an Employee Wellness Committee and requested an on-site gym. “We broke up the research to several employees and allowed them to present their case to management,” says Human Resources Director Kay Walter. “I provided them with a series of questions regarding legal, risk, facilities, insurance, etc, that they had to come prepared to address. I encouraged them to put together a PowerPoint presentation of their findings. It gave them the chance to collaborate, design, and present to management—all skills they would use as they grow professionally.”

4. Lead By Example

Leadership is actively living your beliefs, not just talking about them, which is why leading by example is necessity for any strong leader.

Leading by example means showing employees how you want them to work, communicate, and act.

Try doing some of your team members’ day-to-day activities. When you do, you’ll see the challenges they deal with and observe how they make you feel. Working alongside your employees is an opportunity to model best practices as well as identify ways to make their work faster or more comfortable.

As you talk to employees, be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Follow the best practices taught by Dale Carnegie in “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by staying open-minded, positive, and respectful to everyone in your company.

Dale Carnegie’s timeless tips stem from the Golden Rule, to treat people as you would want to be treated. Modeling these communication best practices is a surefire way to create a harmonious company culture that allows employees to engage fully in their work.

Lastly, model the values, mindsets, choices, behaviors, and habits and that you want your employees to embody.

  • If you want your employees to uphold integrity, keep your promises to your customers and employees.
  • If you want your employees to keep improving, then make sure you speak the language of a person with a growth mindset.
  • If you want your employees to dress professionally, set the standard.
  • If you want your employees to be punctual, show up on time to your meetings with them (even if it’s inconvenient).
  • If you’d like to see your employees read a book every week, try doing the same and starting a small library in the office.

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Give Purpose & Passion
 (Employee Engagement Strategy, Part 4)

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