Today, your greatest competitive advantage isn’t your product or service, it’s your people.

Employee Engagement Strategies: Tapping The Power Of The Creative Contributors In Your Organization


Does your organization have an employee engagement strategy or is employee engagement something that makes the priority list when things get toxic? Today, the speed of change is accelerating and the competition becomes more fierce daily. Internally, the war for talent is on, and externally, if you aren’t providing differentiated value, you are adding to the noise and customers are tuning you out.

The average lifespan of a Fortune 500 company has dropped from 75 years in 1950 to 15 years in 2017. Companies like Kodak, Blackberry, and Blockbuster, once seen as innovators and titans of their industries, are gone.

Today, your greatest competitive advantage isn’t your product or service, it’s your people. And with that, organizations that understand this make their people a number one priority, using employee engagement strategies that are right for their cultures. Here are some simple engagement strategies to consider as you continue your quest to be irresistible to customers and to build a chasm between you and the competition both internally and in the marketplace.

Creative Contributors

How you see your employees will dictate how you treat them. If you see them as just cogs in the wheel, replaceable at any moment, that’s what they’ll become. Leading organizations, like Costco and Disney, see their employees as much more than a job description. Instead, they see them as Creative Contributors. In my definition, a Creative Contributor is an individual valued for their ability to solve problems and seize opportunities that impact the organization’s goals and vision. Notice that I didn’t mention a skill like cashier or graphic design. That’s how they bring their contributions to life.  In fact Costco’s employees are trained to do a multitude of jobs so that they can go where the work is most needed. As many of you know, Disney employees are called Cast Members because whether they are greeting people at the entrance or playing Goofy, their roles are critical to the overall experience. How you see, and ultimately treat, your employees is a strategy that can either elevate or hinder engagement.

Right Fit

Are your teams leveraging their strengths or playing to a trainable skill? An important employee engagement strategy from the minute you hire someone is to understand their natural strengths. How do they solve problems? What types of interactions are they best suited for? How do they innovate?

When we created the Innovation Quotient Edge Assessment to help people discover their natural innovation strengths, or their Innovator Archetypes, we never envisioned the impact it would have on what teams and individual contributors actually do at work. We discovered from our clients that when they realized that their employee was great at envisioning how something might come together, an Innovator Archetype we call Futuristic, they began placing that person on projects that required new, not yet experienced outcomes to them and they thrived. When a leader recognized their Innovator Archetype included being a Collaborative, someone that is not only magnetic but also innovates at the intersection of random and purpose, they began to create more cross-functional teams that fed their ability to pull different perspective and ideas together to create whole innovation.

In our work, we’ve found that most organizations are missing their greatest untapped asset, their people. They put them into a skill box and fail to provide the room to play to their natural strengths.

However, organizations that leverage this right fit engagement strategy tend to outperform their counterparts.

Room To Pause

There is so much to do in a day, isn’t there? So, how do organizations like Google find a way to give their people time to tinker and explore their own ideas? They recognize that giving people the room to play comes back tenfold to positively impact the bottom line.

If possible, I’d like you to do a little exercise with me. Don’t read ahead. Just do the exercise and see what happens.

Step One: You have 10 seconds to say out loud the 5 first colors that come to mind...GO….

Step Two: Once you’ve completed step one I want you to stop, take 5 deep breaths and clear your mind.

Step Three: Now I’m going to give 1-minute to come up with 3 more colors...GO….

When I do this in keynotes or workshops, here’s what happens without fail, and I’m betting, if you actually went through the exercise, that you just experienced it as well. In step one, where the pressure is on and you have no time to think, people shout out the obvious colors - red, blue, yellow, purple. Without any time to really think it through you go for what you already know, the basics. The same is true for work. When there is no room to take a deep breath and think, you get the same ol’ ideas you’ve always gotten.

Now this is where it gets interesting. In steps two, and then three, people begin to tap their creativity. The colors we hear people shout are the ones more out there like chartreuse, maroon, and teal. Why? Because you had a moment to pause and fire those creative synapses. Room to pause is more than just nice for employees, it yields better results.

Employees that have room to pause are more engaged than those that are just hoping to check off that do list before the 5pm bell.

Just image what would happen if you switched up your employee engagement strategy to include pause time. A client of mine even created a Pause Room. If you are in the room it means no one can knock on the door and interrupt your thinking time. You can tinker, reflect, play, nap, think, ideate - whatever gives you a moment to pause.

There is a second benefit to pausing as well. While your conscious mind chatters away getting through your to-do list, your subconscious works behind the scenes to solve your biggest challenges. But, you’ve got to pause and give your subconscious mind a chance to speak up and get in the game.

One of the exercises in our on demand library, is to actually walk away from what you are doing and do something completely different. It could be tinkering with a new idea or just talking a walk. I’m amazed at the solutions that come to people like a big brick of ah-has when they walk away from their daily work.

The organization’s with the best employee engagement strategies recognize that it’s an ongoing process, not a point in time exercise. The strategy is infused into everyday work. It shows up in how their offices are set up, the employee’s job descriptions and reward structure. And most importantly, you can feel it the minute you enter their front door.