“Engagement” is a fairly common buzzword nowadays, both in business and everyday jargon. But what does it really mean? And in business, is it enough?
Think about the fans who root for a particular professional sports team, they are certainly engaged. They scour the sports pages for news about their team; they willingly don head-to-toe team apparel at the game, and they root at the top of their lungs. Yet no one from the team calls them up for their input on what free agents they should look to acquire next. They’re close to the action, but not part of it.
There’s a similar situation in business. You want your employees to be engaged. You want them to passionately root for the company. You want them to don your figurative apparel with pride—and in my opinion there are going to be times when you invite them to participate in the next round of draft picks.
So how do you win their heart and soul? It starts with top management being transparent, sharing the company’s vision and goals, and telling people what to do and what’s happening. But real engagement goes beyond this. There exists a level of engagement where employees go beyond rallying for the team—a place where they dedicate their heart and soul to the company.
Let me tell you the story of Flooring America, which CCA Global Partners bought out of bankruptcy. The owners of Flooring America franchises were incredibly unhappy that CCA was there as they had been Flooring America’s main competitor. So there was a lack of trust. It was as if McDonalds had bought Burger King. The opposition encountered was fierce.
Furthermore, CCA Global had very little time to win over the Flooring America franchise owners. Per the court order, they were free to leave after a year. They couldn’t use the company name if they did, but they could stay in the flooring business.
The management team had to take an incredibly unhappy group of people and find a way to win their hearts, minds and souls. How did they achieve that goal? They worked with them to involve all the store owners—all the employees of the company—to build a strategic vision and plan.
Town hall meetings were held all around the country. Employees were surveyed and workshops were held to get their input. Suppliers were included in the discussions too, so that everyone was part of the process. In addition, an advisory council of Flooring America owners was created. They were invited to meet and make recommendations to the new management team.
The result was that 200 out of 202 owners decided to stay. And in the next four years, the company went from systemwide sales of $700 million to $2 billion. The same-store sales had increased to more than twice the industry average. And the store count doubled.
The difference was ‘in’gagement, rather than ‘en’gagement. Management won the hearts, minds and souls of the people at Flooring America. They built a culture of ingagement where everyone felt ownership and responsibility for the future success of the organization. They wooed, earned hearts and trust—and had a fanatical team to show for it.
If they had simply locked the management team in a room, built a plan, and then gone around and paraded it in front of everyone, that would have created engagement. That might have allowed the company some growth, maybe even short-lived success, but ingagement allowed the company to thrive.
By implementing ingagement in my own business, we took a stagnant $3 million company to $25 million in four years. At CCA Global Partners where I worked for 20 years and was the fifth employee, we grew systemwide sales in 20 years from those of a small company to over $10 billion.
Now that is the power of true ingagement. I urge you to ingage your people and experience the benefits.