To CEOs: How to Get Your People to “Buy In”

On a business trip recently, I ran into a man who had been in the Human Resources industry for a very long time. He told me he had just received a new job offer from a large corporation that had over 9,500 stores in the U.S. (If I mentioned their name, you’d know it.)

Then he chuckled and told me that he was flying to Orlando to meet with a different corporation to see if he could get an even better offer.

I told him what I did, and he was intrigued by the idea of boosting a company’s culture by getting the executives and employees to operate on a genius level. He liked the difference in our model from what other culture companies are doing. He told me he wasn’t a big fan of what he called R&R (Recognition and Reward) programs.

Curious as usual, I asked him why. He said, in his opinion, the R&R model had no staying power and didn’t keep an employee engaged for any length of time. After a while, they just lose interest.

I don’t know if this is true or not (I’ve never surveyed HR executives), but he said most career HR people feel the same way he does about R&R programs.

He continued with, “Your model sounds refreshing. I like the idea of getting the CEO and other executives and employees to operate on a genius level but I’m a little skeptical about one thing.”

I asked what that was. “Well,” he said, pausing to think about it. “How do you get the executives and employees to ‘buy in’ to your development programs?”

It wasn’t a question I’d been asked before, but I knew the answer. In fact, I’d written an article which addressed the exact problem a few weeks prior to my conversation with him. However, it wasn’t the main point of that article.

It will be the point of this one. The answer to that question is quite simple really. Even though not enough attention is spent covering its importance by the various culture companies.

The answer is you can’t get your employees to “buy in” to a culture program unless they are already engaged in your company. And the only way to get employees to be engaged in your company is to make sure your company has a worthy purpose.

Worthy means of commendable excellence or merit; deserving.

The evidence that your company has a worthy purpose is that all the executives and employees are equally inspired and motivated by that purpose. They’re all engaged.

If you don’t have a worthy purpose, you must create one. It must be one that the executives and employees really believe in and agree to support. Here’s a hint on creating one: It must, must, must focus the executives’ and employees’ attention outward.

What I mean by “outward” is that the company’s purpose must have a wider sphere of influence than merely the company itself. It must have something to do with not only helping your customers but also helping to elevate the local community and society at large.

This is not pie in the sky stuff. If you help boost society or your fellow man you boost yourself. I’m reminded of the immortal words of John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Yes. We’re all involved in mankind. So, with a worthy purpose, let’s improve mankind and thereby ourselves.

If you lack employee engagement it is because you, as CEO, have not provided your workforce with a strong, worthy purpose that all your executives and employees can get behind and support wholeheartedly.

In that case, you will have to look in the mirror and ask yourself a tough question: How is our company helping to advance and boost our local community and society at large?

Even though you’re employing people from the local community and that is helpful, I would point out the obvious to you that their work activities in your company are paying you back with profitability. So, when we’re talking about purpose we’re talking about what your company is doing above and beyond just employing people.

To reiterate, regardless of whether or not your product or service has any socially redeeming value or not, how are you giving back or helping to improve your local community and the society at large?

In the book, Firms of Endearment, the evidence shows that companies that are being socially conscious are even more profitable than companies that are not—by a really wide margin.

So, even if it was just a question of profitability, being a socially conscious company would be the way to go.

Today’s work environment has changed.

Employees want to believe that their efforts are worth more than just a paycheck. They want their life to have meaning and their toiling not to have been in obscurity but rather to have contributed to helping their fellow man.

Creating and following a worthy purpose and making sure your workforce agrees and supports it is your job Mr. CEO. The key is believing in it yourself. Otherwise, it’s fake. I shouldn’t have to say this but find a purpose you really believe in.

Don’t be fake.

If you don’t have a worthy purpose or your company’s product doesn’t lend itself to improving society at large (maybe you make lug nuts or fortune cookies or something) there are several ways you can go about formulating one.

One way would be to survey your employees and find out how they would like your company to improve or give back to their local community. The cause or activity you decide to support should be commensurate with the size of your company.

If you have a very small company, maybe you could sponsor a college scholarship that is given to a deserving student each year from the local high school. The donation doesn’t have to be exorbitant. Your employees just have to be inspired by the purpose of it.

My old high school chums put on a yearly reunion picnic. We invite all past graduating classes and the proceeds fund a small scholarship for a graduating student from our old high school. The scholarship usually ends up being a couple thousand dollars.

And that’s just from doing a picnic.

If you have a bigger company maybe there is a charitable activity that several of your employees are aware of that needs support. Or you can create a list of ten charitable causes in your local community and have your workforce vote on their choice. Then support the top one or two.

In my opinion, it’s best to keep charitable causes supported by a particular religion or political party out of the possible candidate list. It’s just common sense. You want to support something that is not going to stir up a lot of controversy.

But it’s up to you. You’re the leader.

The most important factor in making your decision is to really make sure that your executives and employees are inspired and wholeheartedly support the purpose you come up with. Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting your time.

After the social cause(s) you will be supporting has been decided, you must make sure your workforce is kept informed on a regular basis about how much their efforts have contributed to their cause and how it has helped the local community or society.

My recommendation would be to publish it in a company newsletter or blog which could be emailed out to all employees, along with any grateful feedback from whoever is the beneficiary of their contributional efforts.

There are dozens of ways of coming up with a worthy purpose. Use your genius traits of Perception, Idealism, and Imagination to come up with the purpose that fits your company best. Or call us to get help with developing a worthy purpose that’s right for you.

Once your worthy purpose has gotten your employees to “buy in,” you’ll find that developing their innate 24 genius traits from doing our Genius Culture Courses will help them boost your culture and contribute even more easily to your shared worthy purpose. This is the best and most rewarding way to improve your bottom line.

And then you will see that contributing to a worthy purpose is worth more than you ever thought.