How Pink Floyd Helped Me Engage A Group Of Disengaged Employees
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
Last week a newly-hired manager sent me this note about how he was able to connect with his new employees, even though they were bitter and cynical because of their previous leaders (who were awful). I’m sharing this letter because it shows you how employee retention can sometimes be a simple task, if you’re willing to exert just a little bit of personal energy, attention and time.
I wanted to share this technique because I think it could really benefit your readers. I just joined this company a year ago and I was hired to oversee a large team. This team previously had three managers in two years, the lowest employee engagement scores in the company and obscenely high employee turnover. In all of my previous leadership roles, retention has always been a priority and top of mind. One of my strategies is to connect individually with as many team members as possible and attempt to create a professional/personal relationship. But honestly it was hard with this team because they were so bitter and cynical after all of their bad experiences with the previous terrible leaders.
During my first two months on the job, I noticed a large number of my technical team sporting Pink Floyd t-shirts from time to time. As I’m always looking to engage them on something other than a professional level, I began searching for a hook that I could use to initiate a conversation with them. That hook came when I learned of a Pink Floyd Tribute band that had scheduled a performance in town. I looked up some information about the band and asked those I had observed wearing the shirts if they were familiar with the band. The conversation led to a general discussion of the music they were interested in. That initial discussion has since evolved into other areas, family, work, their concerns, suggestions, feedback and even compliments. This technique could include could anything that is of interest to them. Once you figure out their interests, educate yourself a bit on the subject and look for a hook to initiate a conversation. The key, I believe, is to avoid the obvious, like talking about major or local sporting events or the weather, and really scout for their niche interests. That’s where you will get the best bang for the buck.
In my experience you need to move the relationship from one that is strictly professional to one that is professional/personal. The kind where your team sees you as someone who cares about more than just their production. The differentiation is that you, as an employer, are a “kindred spirit” with similar interests. With that belief, they are much less likely to accept another position unless it’s truly a much better opportunity. And I know this works because our employee turnover has dropped by a huge 83% in my first 12 months on the job. And we just completed our first employee engagement survey since I took over, and our overall scores are up by more than 40%. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but my boss tells me that he’s never seen my department this engaged.
Thank you Mark for letting me share.
First, I’m very grateful to Bill for sharing his story. And second, what’s clear from his letter is that it didn’t take much at all for Bill to break through the bitterness and cynicism felt by these employees. What it took was genuine interest, caring and a willingness to engage with people directly. And of course, it takes a little extra time.
One of my research studies, called “Optimal Hours with the Boss,”discovered that most people spend only half the time they should be spending interacting with their boss. Employees who spend six hours per week interacting with their direct leader are 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, 16% more innovative and 15% more intrinsically motivated than those who spend only one hour per week. The sad truth is that most leaders don’t get out of their office enough to really make a deep connection with their employees.
I know it can be hard for leaders to find the time to interact with their staff; we’ve got reports, meetings, proposals, calls, and a million other things to do. But we really do need more time interacting with our folks; my study proves that employees are 29% more inspired and 30% more engaged when they get more time interacting with their boss.
Bill never would have gained the Pink Floyd insight if he wasn’t out of his office, interacting with his people. And while bonding over Pink Floyd certainly won’t work for everybody, even bonding over music might not work, there are thousands of potential connections that a leader could make with their employees. And those connections, in turn, are the key to deepening your relationships with your employees.