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What do bridesmaid dresses, LEGO and lemon tarts have to do with employee engagement?

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

We all want our businesses to succeed, right? And why not, we need them to succeed to ensure we have a job, and to ensure we get a regular paycheck. But to an engaged employee, wanting their company to succeed is so much more. And that’s because they think and act in such a different way, in a way that can be the difference between their business succeeding and failing.

When I talk about this to audiences, I share with them how I’ve seen this play out in the following two ways:

Engaged employees take ownership

A business will never succeed if decisions are made from the top down. Yes, the big decisions may need to be done in this way, but what about all of the thousands of other decisions that are made on a day-to-day basis?

Unless, like in the movie “Multiplicity” where Michael Keaton created multiple versions of himself so he could be everywhere at the same time, we can’t do this, it just won’t work. And even if it did work, is that really what your business needs to succeed?

Isn’t it better to have more people informed about what your business is trying to achieve, and then let them go out and help the business achieve it in their own unique way through owning the situation?

And the added benefit is that according to a survey by Gallup, employees who use their strengths, skills and abilities at work are six times more engaged!

An example of this concept in action comes from a story I heard when visiting Zappos, a US online retailer. When talking to a member of the help desk team, she told me of how she delighted a customer by owning the situation.

What happened was that a customer called to ask how she could return her bridesmaid dresses, as her fiance had cancelled the wedding a week before it was due to happen. Instead of just telling the customer the process to follow, she recognized the needs of the customer and did something about it by helping her return the dresses and then sending her a spa voucher with a handwritten note saying ‘I know you’re going through a hard time, so do something special for yourself’. How’s that for creating a positive customer experience? And it never would have happened if this engaged employee had not truly owned the situation.

Engaged employees innovate

The other way that I’ve seen engaged employees directly impact the success of their company is through innovation. As we all know, innovation is something that is critical to the success of any business, and like my last point, it will never happen if we only rely on a few people in the organization to achieve it.

My first example which brings this to life comes from a company where I previously worked, Merlin Entertainments. The situation was that at our Legoland attraction an employee noticed the challenges that parents and children were having as they waited in the lines. We’ve all been there, anxious and impatient children, and parents struggling to entertain them.

So this engaged employee came up with the idea of putting big tables full of LEGO in a space in the middle of the line. Here, children could safely go and play while their parents could watch them and hold their place in the line. Fantastic idea, and one that combines both ownership and innovation.

Another example that combines ownership and innovation comes from Francesca Gina’s book titled “Rebel Talent”. She tells of a pastry chef at an Italian restaurant that dropped a lemon tart on the floor when delivering it to a customer. Instead of seeing this as a disaster, he saw it as an opportunity to innovate, and created a deconstructed lemon tart, which is now the best-selling dessert on the menu.

So next time you find yourself thinking about  ways to help your business succeed, start by asking yourself (and your business) – what can we do to create a more engaged workforce? For when you do this, ownership, innovation and all the other positives as a result of employee engagement will follow and work the trick!!

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