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Keeping employees engaged means keeping them in motion

As the football season gets underway, players, coaches and fans prepare for a year of excitement, and of course, a little drama. With the new season come significant changes, with players, teams, and even the rules.

The National Football League’s operations team updates the official rulebook, an 80-page document clarifying 18 rules of the game, ranging from definitions of the playing field, game timing, player conduct and scoring. Commissioner Roger Goodell makes the final ruling and any necessary interpretation should there be disputes. Many of the NFL rules involve motion—movement, formation, advancing, contact—all variations on action within the game. Other than on the sidelines and in the huddle, there is very little time spent standing still in football.

Outside of sports, the very act of moving—whether to a new office, city or home—is a source of both excitement and anxiety. At Dixon Schwabl, our team of more than 100 employees has experienced the joy of change as we have grown throughout our 30-year history. One of the Dixon Schwabl team members who has worked for us for nearly 20 years mentioned that she has moved her office 11 times in her tenure with Dixon Schwabl! The ability to adapt to change is an ideal attribute in the fast-paced, modern business landscape.

A recent profile of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, written in celebration of her canonization, noted that members of her Missionaries of Charity order were required to fit all of their belongings into a small box. With over 5,000 nuns in 139 countries, this helped make members mobile and ready to help when and where they were most needed. While very few people can scale their belongings to a single box, it points to the singular focus and purpose of an organization when they are nimble and committed to such a dedicated yet rapid response.

Great workplaces are equally focused on response and motion: keeping team members engaged, informed and inspired to do great work. The word “promotion” is derived from Latin meaning “move forward.” By definition, a promotion is an activity that supports or provides active encouragement for the furtherance of a cause, venture, or aim; or the act of moving someone to a higher position or rank.

The Conference Board, a global research association, found that U.S. workers have reached their highest level of job satisfaction in more than a decade—and promotions are playing a part in the findings. The Conference Board found that 49.6 percent of the workforce signaled that they are finding jobs they enjoy. The rate is still below the 60 percent highs from 1987 and 1995, but it is the highest rate since 2005. As part of the survey, the Conference Board asked 1,565 respondents about 23 components of job satisfaction. U.S. workers are most satisfied with people at work, interest in work, and their supervisor. They found that respondents were least content with promotion policies, bonus plans, the performance review process, educational and job training programs and recognition for their work.

JW Marriott Hotels and Resorts believes that motion is an integral part of their employee training—so much so, that they partnered with the Joffrey Ballet on a program called Poise & Grace. A series of videos led by Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater and the dance company demonstrates proper breathing, flow of movement and connecting with an audience, all aspects of the guest services offered by Marriott. The videos are played during daily shift briefings and are also viewable through an app for employees.

Mitzi Gaskins, vice president and global brand manager for JW Marriott Hotels and Resorts at Marriott International, said the training applies “to (our) associates from servers to housekeepers to a bellman.” The hotel consistently receives high scores in customer satisfaction and is recognized as a great workplace. One Marriott supervisor noted that she has observed changes with employees navigating a crowded lobby bar, using two hands to present towels to guests, and placing room keys in the hands of guests by coming from behind the counter rather than reaching over it.

The Marriott team already was working with the renowned Joffrey Ballet on a “Nutcracker”-themed hot chocolate serving, which became an event featuring ballet dancers to enhance the guest experience. The new training partnership includes providing complimentary rooms for visiting dancers and choreographers. To continue to inspire its employees and guests, Marriott partnered with the nonprofit TED to host creatively curated TED talks and offer blogs and original quotes to guests worldwide. With themes changing quarterly, there is a steady stream of content.

In addition to using training as a tool for strengthening culture, organizational leadership plays a significant role in employee engagement and job satisfaction. Just as the Marriott team members interact daily with customers, great workplaces often find that seasoned employees on the front lines help the entire organization by mentoring co-workers and sharing ways to practice and protect company culture.

Adherence to core values helps team members root out those who do not match the mission and vision of a company. A study from the Journal of Applied Psychology found varied relationships between management styles and organizational cultures. The survey of 114 CEOs and 324 top management team members explored the fit and interaction between leadership and culture, and its predicted effect on company performance. Researchers classified management styles as either task-focused or relationship-focused. The results discovered that top leadership was effective when it provided psychological and motivational resources lacking in the organization’s culture. 

Lauren Dixon is CEO of Dixon Schwabl Inc., a marketing communications firm, which has been honored as a best place to work.

9/30/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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