The Difference Between Compliance and Commitment and How to Create Committed Teams

Leadership Employee Commitment

All employers should ask: Do I have a compliant or committed workforce? After a number of major ethical and criminal scandals in the corporate world, business leaders realized that employees complying with laws and corporate policies aren’t the same as employees committed to corporate values and goals.

The eye-opening scandals became a leadership call-to-action to develop a positive workplace culture in which employees take pride in ethical behavior and the quality of their work, and embrace employer success as their own. The level of employee commitment to corporate goals reflects the ability of leaders to motivate employees to deliver their highest level of productivity and quality work, and develop a workforce that embraces its role in creating a positive workplace culture and a successful company.

Compliance: It’s Just a Job

You can’t make the mistake of assuming that compliance with government requirements — and corporate policies and procedures — equates to employee commitment to business success. If true, Wells Fargo & Co.’s employees wouldn’t have opened thousands of fake accounts. There’s probably no type of business subjected to more intense scrutiny by private and government auditors than a bank.

Compliance programs are designed to ensure employees follow rules without regard to the reason these rules are put in place. The bank complied with reporting requirements, but fraudulent activities were committed by employees interested in their own, and not the company’s, success. Compliance encourages people to dutifully meet minimum requirements and to wait for instructions from their managers. Compliance programs without engaging leadership suppresses self-motivation, manager-employee collaboration, the employee’s feelings of ownership of work and interest in business success. Employees believe, “It’s just a job.”

employee conflicts

Commitment: Working for Personal and Business Success

Committed employees embrace corporate values and strive to make ethical decisions. They take ownership of their work and productivity, develop creative solutions, accept challenges as opportunities to innovate, develop new skills and value teamwork. A committed workforce exceeds management’s expectations because personal success is equated with company success. This is the most important element of a committed and engaged workforce – people own their work and want to help others succeed because they’re not focused solely on self-interests.

Engaged Employees Are More Productive

Develop a culture of accountability that engages employees and places high trust in their ability to make good decisions, and your workforce’s productivity will increase. The McKinsey Global Institute found that improving communication and collaboration through the use of social technologies raises employee productivity by 20-25 percent. Regular communication increases engagement, and higher engagement increases productivity.

Gallup’s research shows that high employee engagement produces 21 percent higher productivity. Engagement depends on effective leadership skills. Wells Fargo employees, explaining the ethical and criminal failures, talked about unreasonable sales goals, managers who regularly yelled at employees, punishment for failing to meet sales quotas, and employees who were fired or demoted for refusing to participate in illegal activities.

RELATED: How Employee Engagement Can Lower Turnover

Process of Engagement

How do you convince employees to care about their work and to feel like business owners?

Engaging employees is a process comprised of multiple activities. Leaders must regularly share company goals and communicate the importance of each job in achieving those goals. No employee should believe his or her work is inconsequential. Managers from the C-suite to the front line should acknowledge employees who make good decisions, pointing out how their accomplishments contribute to the corporate mission, team progress and/or innovative problem-solving. The employees selected cannot always be the highest paid or ones with the most responsibility. The point is to regularly engage all employees so they focus on achieving business goals in the right way.

Other strategies include instituting a recognition and rewards system that enables supervisors and co-workers to praise employees who collaborate, meet goals and help others succeed, and developing collaborative and accessible managers. Above all, leaders must be consistent in engaging employees through ongoing dialogue.

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