The answer is that great employers must shift the focus from trying to get more out of people, to investing more in them by addressing their four core needs — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual — so they're freed, fueled and inspired to bring the best of themselves to work every day.
It's common sense. Fuel people on a diet that lacks essential nutrients and it's no surprise that they'll end up undernourished, disengaged and unable to perform at their best.
Our first need is enough money to live decently, but even at that, we cannot live by bread alone.
Think for a moment about what would make you feel most excited to get to work in the morning, and most loyal to your employer. The sort of company I have in mind would:
1. Commit to paying every employee a living wage. To see examples of how much that is, depending on where you live, go to this site. Many companies do not meet that standard for many of their jobs. It's nothing short of obscene to pay a CEO millions of dollars a year while paying any employee a sum for full time work that falls below the poverty line.
2. Give all employees a stake in the company's success, in the form of profit sharing, or stock options, or bonuses tied to performance. If the company does well, all employees should share in the success, in meaningful ways.
3. Design working environments that are safe, comfortable and appealing to work in. In offices, include a range of physical spaces that allow for privacy, collaboration, and simply hanging out.
4. Provide healthy, high quality food, at the lowest possible prices, including in vending machines.
5. Create places for employees to rest and renew during the course of the working day and encourage them to take intermittent breaks. Ideally, leaders would permit afternoon naps, which fuel higher productivity in the several hours that follow.
6. Offer a well equipped gym and other facilities that encourage employees to move physically and stay fit. Provide incentives for employees to use the facilities, including during the work day as a source of renewal.
7. Define clear and specific expectations for what success looks like in any given job. Then, treat employees as adults by giving them as much autonomy as possible to choose when they work, where they do their work, and how best to get it accomplished.
8. Institute two-way performance reviews, so that employees not only receive regular feedback about how they're doing, in ways that support their growth, but are also given the opportunity to provide feedback to their supervisors, anonymously if they so choose, to avoid recrimination.
9. Hold leaders and managers accountable for treating all employees with respect and care, all of the time, and encourage them to regularly recognize those they supervise for the positive contributions they make.
10. Create policies that encourage employees to set aside time to focus without interruption on their most important priorities, including long-term projects and more strategic and creative thinking. Ideally, give them a designated amount of time to pursue projects they're especially passionate about and which have the potential to add value to the company.
11. Provide employees with ongoing opportunities and incentives to learn, develop and grow, both in establishing new job-specific hard skills, as well as softer skills that serve them well as individuals, and as managers and leaders.
12. Stand for something beyond simply increasing profits. Create products or provide services or serve causes that clearly add value in the world, making it possible for employees to derive a sense of meaning from their work, and to feel good about the companies for which they work.
In more than a decade of working with Fortune 500 companies, I've yet to come across a company that meets the full range of their people's needs in all the ways I've described above. The one that comes closest is Google. I'm convinced it's a key to their success.
How does your company measure up? What's the impact on your performance? Which needs would your company have to meet for you to be more fully engaged?