In our previous article, Performance Unlocked, we discussed the increasing and alarming trend of worker engagement decreasing worldwide. A staggering 87 percent of workers are not engaged at work, according to the latest Gallup survey.

Many leaders know it’s an issue that hurts their business, yet they remain perplexed and paralyzed on how to fix this complex issue. At WhyNot Partnering, we believe embracing three critical keys – making performance why-based, removing interference and applying truly human leadership – makes increasing engagement achievable.

There are a few companies we admire that have unlocked performance consistent with these keys. Here’s how they did it:

  1. Barry Wehmiller is one of the companies at the top or our list. They used the radical and highly successful approach advocated and presented in CEO Bob Chapman’s recent book, “Everybody Matters.” In fact, our title to the third key “Truly Human Leadership” is adopted from Barry Wehmiller’s highly acclaimed leadership development approach. Chapman’s commitment to creating a company that treats people like family has put the philosophy to the test, prioritizing people over profits in tough times and then returning to record profits over the long haul.
  1. Another example worthy of admiration is Paul Tolman, CEO of Unilever, one of the largest companies in the world. As he took the over the reigns from his predecessor in 2009, at the depth of the world financial crises, he told Unilever’s shareholders that he would no longer be providing quarterly returns because the company “was now taking a longer view.” Tolman’s purpose, his Why, was to create a company that could make a difference in the world’s sustainability challenges, including climate change. He knew short-term thinking driven by quarterly returns was forcing the wrong decisions when it came to their most valuable resource, people. He told investors if they didn’t like the strategy, they should find another company to invest in.
  1. Finally, we are ever-inspired by one of our heroes, Virgin Brand creator Richard Branson. For decades, Branson has been willing and courageous, ante-ing up his many successes to reinvent himself and his companies in service of higher goals. Virgin is the epitome of a purpose-based brand in our estimation, and we are always on alert to see what he will do next. Currently, Branson is leading a number of projects to support businesses and entrepreneurs in creating a purpose beyond just making money.

These are just a few examples of companies and leaders who unlock performance by focusing on their people. They don’t focus exclusively on making money (they don’t confuse purpose with making money) but they do make money while focusing on sustainable models for business.

Can companies succeed without embracing this approach? Of course they can and many do. But would you want to work for them? If the 87% low engagement statistic is any indicator, most people don’t want to be employed at these types of companies. We don’t either.

As more and more companies embrace a people-first model and reap the benefits of higher engagement levels, history will look back on these companies as pioneers of a better way to do business.

To read part 1 of this series, click here.

WhyNot Partnering is an organisation that works globally and was established to help organisations create breakthroughs in performance by connecting with purpose and enabling people to be and do their best work. Please click here to follow us on LinkedIn, to hear more about our work.