6 Fundamentals That Underpin Engagement – authentic organizations are high-performing organizations.
We began our research by asking people to describe their dream organization—one that feels authentic and within which it is possible for one’s best self to emerge. We’ve synthesized these ideal organizational qualities and have shown how some workplaces are making the elements of the dream real, inspiring the rest of us in the process.
Put together these multiple benefits – commitment, creativity, understanding, personal development, trust, purpose, and freedom—and you have created the fundamentals that underpin engagement at work. And we know that engagement is correlated with performance.
The dream organization, then, is also the high-performing organization.
[wcm_restrict]Organizations that give scope for people to be themselves accept – and often celebrate – personal difference. This is not an easy thing to achieve. Organizations are full of both formal mechanisms and more subtle, informal processes that produce similarity and conformity. Handling diversity is not easy. It requires tolerance, open-mindedness, and a willingness to address possible conflict. But there is a major pay-off. Allowing people to be themselves generates commitment – and fosters creativity.
Radical honesty is less of a choice these days. A social media world and a workforce tired of spin both point to the need to open up. Organizational needs to share information fast—and regulatory demands for transparency – add to the pressure. So organizations are pushed to share information, both inside and outside. But again there is a distinctive benefit from the proactive and speedy candor that characterizes radical honesty. It facilitates an understanding and awareness of what is going on. It helps explain why things are as they are, or why they must change. Neither status quo nor new modus operandi are likely to be accepted by those trapped by a communication blackout.
The benefit of magnifying strengths is that people are developed. If you build human capital, you add extra value to people rather than extract it. This equation is unquestioned, it seems, in the treatment of elites – in professional occupations and cutting-edge, knowledge-based organizations. But value can be added in many ways and for many people. McDonald’s may be critiqued for its work processes or wage levels, but its investment in training of frontline workers is exemplary.
Organizations that foster authenticity know what they stand for. They are distinctive in terms of their identity and roots, their values, and their leadership. They provide people with a reason to believe. They are unlikely to be places that succumb to quick fixes or that produce and reproduce one mission statement after another. They have a purpose that is more than “shareholder value.” Those who work for authentic organizations – like New York Life – are proud of what they do. But perhaps the major positive is trust – a long time in the making, but easily destroyed.
Where work feels meaningful, individuals experience a sense of purpose. They can find intrinsic meaning in their jobs, in the way their work connects to others and the broader work community in which they are employed. Ultimately, they can connect what they do to an overarching cause. The BMW engineer knows why (s)he is going to work. Do you?
Finally – and perhaps paradoxically – organizations that establish simple rules create the conditions for freedom. This does not equate to anarchy. Rules are inevitable – but the point is to make them fair, clear, and workable. In doing so it is possible to maximize discretion and freedom to act, in ways that are beneficial for all.
Adapted from Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes to Create an Authentic Organization (Harvard Business Review Press, November 2015) by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]
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About the Authors
Rob Goffee is Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, where he teaches in the world-renowned Senior Executive Programme.
Gareth Jones is a Fellow of the Centre for Management Development at London Business School and a visiting professor at Spain’s IE Business School in Madrid.
Rob and Gareth consult to the boards of several global companies and are coauthors of Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? and Clever, both published by Harvard Business Review Press.
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