As part time employment soars, and millennials continuously seek new jobs, there is a growing need for organizations to keep employees engaged and motivated. One huge barrier to retaining high quality talent is a growing sense of anomie in the workforce. Anomie, as described in our recent book, Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition, is a French word that means “alienation or normlessness.”
A feeling of anomie often happens when there are not clearly defined values and norms within an organization. Without an agreed upon belief system within an organization, it is difficult to ensure that behavior and interpersonal communication is cohesive – there are not social and interpersonal guidelines for interaction. A feeling of isolation and listlessness – anomie – runs rampant when employees are unsure of how best to engage with one another.
The best way to ensure that members of your organization feel engaged and encouraged to actively contribute to the organization is to develop a common set of agreed upon values that represent the beliefs of the employee base. Mutually agreed-upon values link employees together, lessening the need for corporate regulations or organizational structure. When management behaves in ways that reinforces the agreed upon values, it encourages employees to activate the values and to leverage those values in their day-to-day behaviors.
Once you have mutually agreed-upon values within the organization, then you can begin to set up norms—group-decided codes of conduct. Norms serve as the translators of values into daily behaviors and provide employees with common ground and a sense of community. In any organization, we need to create a desired set of norms and behaviors that we want our employees to live by. By clearly communicating and rewarding certain norms, you can give employees a roadmap by which to work, ensuring that they stay along the right path, engaged throughout.
As the nature of employment shifts from upward mobility at one company throughout one’s career to the new standard of jumping from job to job, the importance of keeping employees engaged at work continues to grow. A key factor in increasing employee engagement at work is reducing the feeling of anomie by ensuring that there is a clearly defined culture. The two components of culture – values and norms – need to be agreed upon by the entire organization and need to play off of one another. Without norms, values can end up just being a list of beliefs. With a communal set of values-based norms, however, employees will thrive, feeling committed and engaged with the work that they are doing.