What Are You Doing Here?

If you step outside of your office and ask one of your employees “What are you doing here?” most would say “working.” Some may offer additional information that describes their task or job. “I’m programming the materials database” or “I’m completing a new service order.”

If you are really bold, you might ask this question: “Given the company’s vision and mission, how do you fit into the big picture?” Don’t be surprised if you get a deer in the headlights look as they comb through their mental database trying to recall the last time they read the company’s vision or mission on the website. 

Employees rarely define their job in terms of how they contribute to their company’s vision, mission or overall success.  This connection is an important aspect in improving employee engagement because it enables employees to find purpose and meaning in what they do every day – a proven engagement driver.

The question “what are you doing here?” reminds me of a story I read about a school custodian. When asked about his job he didn’t say he emptied trash and washed floors. He said his job was to make sure the children in his community have a safe and clean place to learn. He was contributing to their education, not just cleaning up. He was connected to the mission. He had purpose. 

When employees understand how they contribute to the company’s success and the importance of their contributions, it creates purpose and increases ownership and pride.  I had a team of employees who for decades “processed payments.” Provided with a broader connection to our company goals and a sense of ownership and purpose, they transformed into a top performing team that achieved productivity results that were unheard of. Their new department motto was proudly displayed on the bulletin board “Yes, we are that good.” And when asked about their job, they no longer said they processed payments but were quick to reply “We manage cash flow for our company.”

Every job in a company is important. It’s up to leaders to make sure employees feel that way. So step outside your office today and ask people “What are you doing here?” and then help them find purpose and meaning in what they do every day.

Photo Credit: Marketurbanism.com

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