The 4 Core Needs

How many of yours are being met?

Several research studies have shown a strong relationship between employee engagement and company performance.

For the accountants reading this, companies with the most engaged employees had a 19% increase in operating income, while those with the lowest level of engaged employees had a 32% decline.

Employee engagement is defined as “some blend of an employee’s commitment, passion, focus, motivation, morale and job satisfaction.” *

It seems to me that where many consolidated radio companies fall well short of the mark is employee engagement.

And now that (most) radio companies have survived the Great Recession of 2008-10, maybe one or two can focus on meeting the multidimensional needs of their employees.

Think of it this way, if you must: This is an opportunity that could be good for the stock price and the bottom line.

Let me show how simple this is if you just decide at the top corporate levels to make it a priority…

All humans share 4 core needs, beyond mere survival, even in our work lives — especially in our work lives — because work consumes so much of our time and energy now.

Here. Watch this. It takes 2 minutes…

I’ve written before that the primary value most radio companies offer is money, and the sad truth is, consolidated radio companies have been finding ways to offer less and less of that to fewer and fewer people.

For me, it’s a moral issue when a few people at the very top of the executive food chain get bonused tens of millions of dollars for the very act of cutting the income, or even eliminating the jobs, of thousands of front-line employees. But very few companies have a Chief Ethics Officer, and we live in an age of unprecedented greed and hubris.

It’s not like Radio is the only industry that has this problem. And, it’s not like every radio company acts like the very worst.

Assuming you pay your employees enough to live above the poverty line, there are still ways you can invest in the health and well-being of your team that will improve their work performance.

There’s a reason Google provides free, healthy, freshly prepared food to all their employees. It’s the same reason they have fully equipped, staffed gyms in their facilities, along with low cost massage therapists, napping pods, free daycare and kindergarten, and on-site medical care. Google knows the healthier you are, the better you perform.

This isn’t a perq; they’re investing in your performance. I don’t expect radio companies to be as generous as Google, but finding ways to encourage and reward healthful practices is in your best interests. Providing great health care insurance for all employees will help you stand apart and attract the best talent.

Fulfilling our second core need, that of emotional security, is possible in every radio company. Come on, how tough is it to work on making your employees feel valued, recognized and appreciated? I just spent a week with a company that does a great job of this.

It requires you to focus outwards, on them, instead of inwards, on you — and that may be an adjustment for some — but the payoff in employee engagement and loyalty will be more than worth it. And you’ll actually like doing it.

If asked, how many of your company’s employees would describe themselves as “vital” to your company’s success? How many would say you, or your executive team, are genuinely interested in their well-being and success?

I don’t say this as an indictment; it’s an opportunity! Seize it.

Think about how you feel when you’re performing at your very best: confident, optimistic, positive, valued, secure, trusted, happy…

Now think about how often you, as a leader, help evoke those feelings in your employees.

When your VP of Programming visits a station, does he leave the PD and air staff feeling confident, optimistic, positive, valued, secure, trusted, and happy?

When you meet with or speak to your GMs, do you leave them feeling better able to perform at their very best level?

Be honest. You’re talking to yourself now, so if you can’t be honest with yourself, you need more help than this blog can provide.

IF that’s a problem, it’s easily fixable once you make it a priority. Just admit it, and start changing, now.

The third core need of all humans is self-expression, the “…opportunity to use our unique skills and talents…to figure out for ourselves how best to get our work accomplished.” *

I know very few radio companies that understand this core need. Most treat their employees using a parent-child dynamic: I’ll tell you what to do, how to do it, and discipline you when you don’t meet my expectations. But lots of GMs get this, and practice it with their staffs, and it has to help performance.

You don’t have to be Carl Jung to understand that disempowered employees lose the confidence and will to take initiative and think independently. So, the more control you exert, the lesscreativity you can expect.

Exactly what I hear in every market I visit. Again, though, this isn’t difficult to fix. It’s an attitude adjustment. It doesn’t cost anything. Use the best of your GMs as models for the rest. Reward their behavior, publicly recognize their management style, and watch the other GMs begin to change.

Finally, humans need signficance in their work. I write about this often, because it’s important. We long to feel that what we’re doing truly matters.

That requires leaders who stand for something beyond profit.

Can any of us honestly say that those leading the largest consolidated radio companies today care about anything more than profit? If they do, they aren’t doing a very good job communicating it.

Don’t misunderstand: Profit is not a bad thing. Profit is the goal.

Apple has become one of the world’s most valuable companies, but not through cutting costs and slashing employee rosters. Rather, Apple’s success stems from the passion Steve Jobs instills in each employee to create products that amaze and delight us every time we see or use them.

Jobs’ goal was not to become the richest guy in the high tech field; it was — is — to use technology to create beautiful products that change the world.

There is a void in Radio right now waiting to be filled by a leader who will inspire through example, who will treat employees as the most valuable asset in the company.

I know dozens of super-talented, super-creative, super-energized professionals waiting to be challenged, hoping to be fully engaged again in a cause bigger than boosting the bonus of the CEO this year.

We have really smart people at the top of some of our radio companies. Please. One of you, remember your Robert Frost…

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.




*What It Takes To Be A Great Employer – Harvard Business Review – Tony Schwartz