Regardless of industry, a business is only as strong as its employees. Even the best products, patents, or ideas won’t succeed if there is not a quality staff or workforce making a positive difference each day.
One trait that successful workplaces share is strong engagement from most or all of its employees. Employee engagement, at its core, is a measure of how invested employees are in the success of their company. It describes the quality of the relationship between business and employee.
The past few years have taught us much about employee engagement and what happens when employees become disengaged, but the disconnect that can result from physical distance is only one reason why employees disengage. Excessive workload, burnout, and not feeling appreciated are other common causes.
But one of the most important parts of keeping employees engaged is fostering company culture by being your authentic self. Let’s explore what that means and why it’s important.
What Is Authenticity in the Workplace?
Authenticity means you’re real and genuine – true to what is advertised. This is as important to building workplace relationships as it is to building personal ones. From an employee’s perspective, they’d like to trust that the workplace atmosphere at a new position matches what is portrayed during the interview process. (Don’t forget: interviews are just as much about the company’s self representation as it is for the candidate!) And when employers make their next hire, they’ve placed their hopes and expectations on the person they interviewed. In this situation, nobody likes surprises!
Authenticity starts well before your first meeting, phone screen, or interview with a new candidate – and it extends throughout an employee’s tenure at your company. Here are some simple questions to ask yourself:
- Do your website, marketing materials, and job descriptions paint an accurate picture of what the company does, what the working environment is like, and what the job expectations are?
- Do your employees find that working at your company is similar to what they expected?
- Does your company’s culture meet or exceed employee expectations?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, it’s a safe bet that some of your employees have noticed and consequences can have a severe impact on employee engagement. People who don’t trust their employer or feel they have been misled are not inclined to give their best at work. They may feel disappointed and disrespected.
If, however, you work hard to build and maintain an authentic workplace, you’ll be on track to receive authenticity back from your employees. Employees who feel comfortable being their true, authentic selves at work are not just more engaged – they’re better employees.
Imagine someone who feels a need to act differently when they are at work than they do in their non-work lives. It can be exhausting pretending to be someone you’re not eight hours a day, five days a week. Now imagine a worker who is entirely comfortable being their true self, who brings all of their best attributes to the job every day. This worker is likely to get more done, with better results, and feel a great sense of connectivity and satisfaction with coworkers and the company.
Let’s look at three reasons why authentic employees can make a big impact on your business.
Why Authenticity in the Workplace is Important
1. Build Stronger Relationships with Colleagues and Clients
An engaged employee who feels comfortable being authentic at work brings extra energy to the job, is naturally open to viewing coworkers as a team, and is motivated to support company and client goals. There is no wasted energy on negative thoughts or efforts to shift from “home mode” to “work mode.”
Understanding and trusting a company’s goals will empower employees to make their best contributions to those goals. Teams of employees function best when authenticity, transparency and trust are at their highest.
Productivity rises when employees are well-aligned with the company’s principles and goals. By eliminating confusion, morale issues, and lack of trust, you empower your employees to pour their full efforts into the work. You’ll also likely discover better results from employees whose work involves creativity. Only employees who are comfortable in their own skin at work are ideally equipped to dream, envision, and innovate without being fearful of what others will think of their ideas.
2. Authentic Employees Feel More Engaged With Work
As discussed earlier, it can be difficult for people to navigate a significant gap between who they are at home and who they are on the job. Some people may feel they need to hide or modify aspects of their true personality or interests while at work. Some might even shy away from exhibiting a strong personality because they’re concerned about how their coworkers and managers might perceive it. In reality, businesses are at their best when the best aspects of their employees are allowed to shine through – barring toxic or otherwise harmful behavior, of course. Employees who feel encouraged to be authentic are very likely to be among the most engaged.
Every good team needs effective role players. In fact, even stars and leaders have a specific role to play. You’ll achieve best results when each employee not only understands but also embraces their specific contribution(s) to the company’s success. Be aware that on most teams, there is a good possibility that someone’s skills and strengths don’t align naturally to their role. Being transparent and authentic will allow for necessary conversations and adjustments to occur.
3. Authenticity Encourages Inclusivity
Authenticity in the workplace opens the door to inclusivity, which simply means that everyone has the opportunity to feel welcome – regardless of what makes an employee different from or similar to someone else. Study after study shows inclusive workplaces perform better than non-inclusive counterparts. It’s not easy to be viewed by everyone as an inclusive employer, and it requires ongoing effort to maintain. But if you’re able to utilize authenticity to create a fully inclusive workplace, it’s likely that your company’s most important resource is also your best resource.
How to Promote Authenticity in the Workplace
Lead with openness. Make an effort to be an open book to your employees; tell them about yourself, your past, your away-from-work passions, and maybe even some of the mistakes that you’ve made and learned from. Don’t expect openness from an employee if you don’t offer it first.
Ask – and listen. Be present! Ask your candidates and employees about their lives, and take cues from what they say. This may take time because some people open up faster than others – but most people enjoy having others take an active interest in their interests.
Have empathy. You’ll connect naturally with some employees, while others may take more effort. In the same way, some employees may have personalities that don’t mesh with yours. This is normal – and a positive for your company, because most teams require a variety of strengths, skills and personalities to reach their full potential. You might find that investing more time with employees who, for whatever reason, are tougher to get to know can pay big dividends. Be patient.
Encourage employees to brand their strengths. Each employee is so much more than their job title. Work with each employee to determine what makes them unique in their role. Everyone has the ability to lean into their strengths; make it your goal to elicit that personal branding and let each employee shine.
Be accountable. Beyond asking questions and listening, it’s vital to be accountable by taking action when needed. If you make a commitment, follow through. If you’re running behind schedule on a meeting, a task, or a project, be proactive in letting everyone know. And if your employee shares a question or concern that needs to be addressed, use openness and transparency as you respond to and resolve the issue.
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