The Roles of a Leader – Building Worker Commitment

Openmet People Organizational climate
Confianza en el líder

How to build trust and put to rest the doubts that workers may have in times of instability are big question marks that companies face and attempt to resolve through a leader who can contribute value and trust as well as knowledge. In this article, we are going to outline some of the key factors in rebuilding the trust of our workers. So what are the means available to companies for earning this commitment from their workers?

Article published in the specialist magazine “Equipos y Talentos”. Iñaki Orbegozo Sierra (Openmet) and Roberto Angrehs (D y OR)

When leaders create trust and understanding, people want to work with them. Experts in building or killing commitment? This is a question that leaders – who aren’t necessarily bosses – need to ask themselves on a regular basis.

Some people think that workers should show commitment simply because they are lucky enough to have a job in these difficult times. But often times we forget that people are not constantly thinking about the risk of losing their job or, what’s worse, the burden of uncertainty created by these thoughts, and they either ignore it or adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
This is why leaders play such an important role in building commitment among workers. However, what often happens is that the manager has not been given this task as part of their duties; it may have got lost along their professional path in the company for various reasons or they may never have been assigned it. As we reach the more senior positions of decision-making, both formal and informal, we find different ways of looking at the same information, depending on who has issued it. Nonetheless, we should remember that workers always have the possibility of asking for clarification. We must not lose sight of the fact that employees are reviewed based on the results obtained by third parties and if these third parties do not see commitment in the worker, it will affect their performance. Workers may feel that it is impossible to be committed to their work after seeing wage cuts and working longer hours and on different tasks. And yet, despite everything, some still produce good results and others not so much. Enough is enough! We need to realize that worker commitment does not always depend on the leader, although it is easier, more comfortable, more straightforward or simply liberating to pass the buck on to others. However, when people understand themselves and understand the personal benefits of working to achieve the aims of the organization, they eventually commit. Similarly, when leaders build confidence and understanding, people want to work with them; they are prepared to listen to them and act accordingly. Therefore, creating or developing new knowledge, skills, abilities or competencies so that people know how to do what is asked of them better, gives them greater confidence in themselves and they become more open to new challenges. Changing old habits for new, more effective ones or simply ones that are better suited to the new circumstances requires persistence and discipline. To help with the adoption of these new behaviors, the leader can support workers in persevering until it becomes natural. It is vital to know how to take people to a higher level of development where they feel that they can easily do a better job; however, the key to consolidating commitment – and results – lies in creating a working atmosphere that makes them never want to leave. So it’s time for leaders to reflect: is it being done or are we telling ourselves that there’s no time for anything with today’s hectic pace?

I sometimes hear comments like “it’s very difficult to build commitment in people” and I usually correct them with this: “it’s not difficult; it takes effort, which isn’t the same”. Because building commitment is a way to ensure that good intentions translate into real changes in work, results that go beyond standard or simply what is expected.

Not only is creating this state possible, it must be done because the future is at stake. Remember “people do not run from their organizations, they run from their bosses”. A study was conducted during the Vietnam war to find out why soldiers completing their tour of duty stayed on for a new one and… what do you think the most common answer was? : I do it for the chief and my team!

But… how do I know if my employees are committed? Am I encouraging commitment in my team? What tools does my company give me to do this? What do I need to keep in mind? How do we quantify commitment?

Commitment does not only involve the leader. The environment, the company, the team and the type of work are all factors that affect worker commitment to some degree. Social environment, however, is the factor where we can least impact on commitment. The economic situation, the worker’s personal situation and the situation of the industry are all aspects that affect it.

The foundations of a work commitment are the employee’s relationship with the organization. Without the company’s support, leaders cannot be engines of motivation and commitment. They need tools and a comfortable environment.

It is important to align the culture, mission, values and philosophy of the company as intangible links to foster commitment and motivation in the company. Equally important are fluid and transparent communication, work environment, available resources, recognition, flexible working arrangements, clear goals, social benefits and salary and incentive policies.

The group of workers around us and their characteristics, such as the type of communication, leadership style, and teamwork culture are also motivating or demotivating elements.

And lastly, the work itself, our duties, the competencies to carry it out, our satisfaction with the job done, and identification with individual goals are additional generators of worker motivation and commitment. In this regard, there are encouraging data to indicate that most people enjoy the work they do (8 out of every 10 according to our Work Environment Survey Spain 2012-2013). The problem is the environment they are in or how they perceive it.

So the question arises again… What next? At Openmet, we propose working on continuous improvement: planning, acting, measuring and reacting.