One of my greatest frustrations as I have progressed through my career has been the experiences I have had – thankfully few and far between – of working alongside people who haven’t cared. People who just haven’t been bothered about the end result, who don’t care about where we end up.
The reason this is frustrating is twofold. Firstly, when people don’t care, we are less likely to achieve our goals. And secondly, when people don’t care, we are more likely to lose our good people. More likely to lose those people who really do care, who really want to make a difference, but gradually, over time, become worn down by the apathetic approach of their colleagues around them.
Too quick to dismiss
This is why ensuring our collective workforce cares about what we are trying to achieve is so important. As managers, we are sometimes too quick to dismiss the importance of “caring”. It is unlikely to incite much excitement as an adjective or a verb. Society has conditioned us to want people who are “engaged”, or “dynamic”, or “driven”. Those who “care” are seen to be, at most, a poor second best.
But caring is ultimately what will make or break us as an organisation. Those who care will form the heart of our business. And that heart of the business will make the difference between us delivering, or failing to deliver.
What can we do?
The challenge then, as managers, is what can we do? How can we force people to care? How can we persuade them to make that emotional investment in our organisation.
The answer is surprisingly simple. Because while – much like our culture – caring about what we are trying to do is not something that can be forced… it is absolutely something which we can nurture. And, in fact, it is not something which we can nurture… it is something that we must nurture.
We need to make it clear to our employees why they should want to care. What is it about what we do which should excite them? What is it about our mission, our vision, our values, that should drive them to engage with them and make them want to deliver? How will they personally benefit when we achieve our goals and exceed expectations? Why, ultimately, is it that they should care.
Leading by example
We need to make this clear to them from before they even join our business. Why they should care should form a vital part of our recruitment process, our induction process, and should then be an inherent part of what we communicate to them every single day. And we have to lead by example, too. If we don’t care, why the hell should they? We need to demonstrate that caring is both a vital and an expected attribute from absolutely everyone within our organisation.
“Caring” is never going to be a piece of HR jargon which is going to headline the front page of the industry press. “Engagement”, “EVP”… these are sexy, designed to grab your attention. “Caring” seems rather stolid and second rate by comparison. But, I can promise you now: if your employees don’t care about your business, about their role within your business, then, frankly, everything else is pointless. “Caring” needs to be the cultural foundation of your organisation. Get that right, and everything else can start to follow.