Importance of Pride in the Workplace

The pride people take in their work transcends to their homes, their education, families and communities — Leonard Boswell

It’s a simple statement, but it says a lot. We spend so much of our lives at work so it’s important to consider what gets us out of bed every morning, eager to give 100%.

I have spoken for years about how happy people mean happy customers and, ultimately, a healthy bottom line. But now as I consider what we are up to at the Big Red Group it goes beyond this. As founders we are driven by passion and purpose (we see this each week on Shark Tank), but how we build teams, and lead all our stakeholders, is critically important to our overall ‘experience’ of success.

Some claim it’s recognition that does the trick (and it does have a significant impact). Others claim a pay packet in enough to motivate their people (great employers know better). Some studies have even claimed having a “work bestie” is the key to people being engaged, motivated and generally better at their jobs from nine to five each day.

But a piece of research conducted by Facebook last year really nails it in my opinion. The internal study of Facebook employees showed the number one factor contributing to overall employee engagement was in fact pride in the company. What the company stood for, what it was trying to achieve and its genuine approach to people, customers and the community.

“When people feel proud to work here they are more satisfied, more committed, more successful, and more likely to recommend us as a great place to work.”

Pride plays a big role in our lives. Students take pride when they ace a test or graduate from school. Sports fans take pride when their teams win — soccer and basketball fans show testosterone spikes after a victory, and college students are more likely to wear school shirts after a football victory. Parents take pride when their kids make the honour roll or win the spelling bee …sometimes too much pride.

But when it comes to employee engagement, we’ve overlooked the importance of pride. When we talk about engaged employees, we usually focus on how people feel about their relationships and their work. Gallup famously found people were more engaged when they had strong relationships — especially a best friend at work — and evidence suggests people are more engaged when they’re working on tasks they enjoy.

Although these factors matter in our data, we were surprised to learn that pride has an even stronger impact. People have a relationship with their company too, and that relationship plays a major role in engagement.

The study found that there were three major factors that contributed to a sense of pride in the company.

Optimism: How much do people believe in the company’s future?

Mission: How much do people care about the company’s vision and goals?

Social good: How confident are people that the company is making the world a better place?

Recognition as a tool allows people to amplify this pride.

On reading this I reflected about the Big Red Group and what we stand for. What is it that we do that can create a sense of optimism? What is our mission? What are we doing to better not only ourselves, but the community as a whole? And is it that my co-founder David Anderson and I just talk about it — or do our leaders, colleagues and other stakeholders share that same understanding?

To create a culture of accomplishment and pride is first of all to make sure that people know what and why they are doing what they do each day. So how do we create a sense of common pride?

Shared company values is a good place to start. We use a framework called the V2MOM, designed by Salesforce, which outlines our business (and individual) Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles and Measures; it has taken the old ‘KPI’ to a whole new level. We use the framework to design our plan and to ensure everyone in the business has a program and knows what they are accountable for.

And then there is the other side of the coin: how do people feel proud if they’re not actually aligned to the business at a particular point in time? If they don’t share the company values, or don’t feel the company is living by its values?

I look again to Facebook and its current campaign about getting back to its roots and using the platform as a way for people to connect. It really is a crafty redirection from privacy breaches, fake news and their founder sitting in front of congress yet again, not saying a whole lot, but apologising yet again.

When are apologises just not good enough anymore? Actions speak louder than words, or a shiny new TV commercial. Look at Twitter: it’s deleting six million accounts in an attempt to “improve the health of conversation on the platform”, and before the onslaught of ‘fake news’ totally ruins the experience for everyone (and people’s reputations simultaneously). I would argue anything less is like putting lipstick on a pig — and I wonder how much pride Facebook employees are feeling at this moment in time.

Surely it’s better to simply own the issues and set about resolving them. Pretending, and not being authentic in your mistakes, is more damaging than owning it and admitting you got it wrong — we’ve all been there, myself included.

So I’m adding one more element to the list of predictors of pride in the workplace. And that is authenticity. As leaders, if we do what we say we’re going to do, and own and stand by our mistakes as we try to fix them, we’re not only showing we’re human, we’re living a powerful example for those around us. And I can’t think of a better thing to be proud of.

This article first appeared on Smartcompany.

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