Building a strong culture within your firm is essential to keeping your team motivated and rowing in the same direction. However, it takes more than just having each person know their professional roles and being technically skilled—it requires engagement.
Businesses in every industry invest a lot of time and money to foster engagement in their team members. But, unfortunately, their efforts sometimes encourage camaraderie rather than engagement, and that's a whole different thing.
So what's the difference between engagement and camaraderie? And how can you focus on the one that really matters?
Engagement vs. camaraderie
Employee engagement and camaraderie can both positively impact an organization, but they are not the same thing. Employee engagement is about employees feeling connected to the company and their work. It means they are motivated, enthusiastic, and willing to go above and beyond what is expected of them. Camaraderie, on the other hand, is about the relationship between colleagues. It's often based on shared experiences and feeling part of a team or group, but it doesn't necessarily involve feeling connected to the company or its mission.
If your employee engagement efforts involve the following, you might be focused on camaraderie instead of engagement:
Organizing an office sports team
Proving a ping-pong or foosball tables in the break room
Encouraging employees to share jokes or share personal stories
Promoting gatherings outside of work hours
Celebrating holidays with parties, potlucks, or gift exchanges
Instituting theme days
To be clear, there's nothing wrong with encouraging camaraderie amongst employees. In fact, according to Gallup, employees who report having a best friend at work are more likely to engage customers, get more work done in less time, support a safe workplace, innovate and share ideas.
But employees can still be engaged, productive and highly valued members of your team, even if they don't count their coworkers among their closest friends.
How to foster true employee engagement
So how can businesses focus on building genuine employee engagement? Here are some ways they can foster meaningful connections between staff members and their work.
Set expectations. Having a vision, mission, and strategic plan is essential for any firm looking to foster true employee engagement. When employees' professional goals are clearly tied to the firm's strategic plan, they better understand their role in the company's success and know what they should work towards.
Support personal and professional growth. Learning and development are essential to keeping employees engaged in their work and the company. Organizations with a strong focus on learning and development have higher levels of engagement than those without. Employees who feel empowered to pursue new skills and knowledge gain confidence in their abilities and are more invested in their work.
Build trust. Building trust with employees is essential for fostering employee engagement and creating a successful organization. Trust is built by being transparent about the company's goals, acting with integrity, and telling the truth in all situations. When employees trust firm leaders, they're more committed to the organization and willing to give their best efforts.
Encourage people to be themselves. Focus on creating an environment where employees feel heard and valued. This means allowing them to contribute to decision-making, offering recognition for their efforts, and giving them a sense of purpose. It also means creating an environment where employees can communicate openly and feel comfortable disagreeing without fear of retribution.
Ultimately, it is essential to remember that engagement and camaraderie are two different things. While both can positively impact your firm, you should devote more resources to fostering engagement, as this will truly motivate employees to feel connected to the company and work towards the firm's goals. When you have engaged employees, you have productive employees—whether or not they attend happy hours or play on the firm's kickball team.
Are you ready to upskill your team and transform your firm?
The Boomer Learning & Development Circle is a peer group of learning and development professionals in the accounting profession who share tools and resources to properly support their firms' learning and development goals. Apply now to ensure you're focusing on the right skills, engaging learners and demonstrating value to other firm leaders.
Sandra Wiley, Shareholder, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is a leader in the accounting profession with a passion for helping firms grow, adapt and thrive. She is regularly recognized by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her expertise in leadership, management, collaboration, culture building, talent and training.
Sandra’s role at Boomer Consulting, Inc. includes serving as co-director of the Boomer Leadership Academy as well as the Boomer Managing Partner Circle, the Boomer Talent Circle and the Boomer Learning & Development Circle. Her years of experience and influence as a management and strategic planning consultant make her a sought-after resource among the best and brightest firms in the country.