Every professional sports coach is looking for franchise players—dynamic players around which they can build their team. In the business world, as in sports, going out and recruiting such players can be expensive and difficult, especially when potential franchise players are perceived as being in short supply. Rather, consider the alternative – turning your whole bench into franchise players.

This conversion has as much to do with your organization’s ability to create the right conditions for the “player” to flourish as it does with developing the player’s skill set.

Successful companies know that finding this connection is critical; Fortune’s 2015 100 Best Places to Work are named as such not just because they offer perks, but more importantly because they connect the person to both the job and the organization.

This concept is illustrated in Figure 1. Let’s take a look at each of the Four Quadrants of Job Engagement. As you read through these descriptions, consider your own team and in which quadrant they currently reside.

Figure 1 – The Four Quadrants of Job Engagement

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Bench Warmers – Low Job Engagement and Low Organization Engagement

  • People in this quadrant are working in jobs they probably don’t like and in organizations in which they have little to no investment. There is little incentive to contribute beyond the minimum to earn the paycheck.
  • High turnover is likely for this group; they may be just biding their time until something better comes along.
  • These employees probably don’t see their current jobs as part of a longer-term “career” and they get treated by the organization as being easily replaceable.

Misplaced Players – Low Job Engagement and High Organization Engagement

  • In this quadrant, employees identify with the organization’s mission and/or values more than they identify with their specific role. An example might be someone working in an organization in the renewable energy industry if environmental consciousness is high on the person’s list of values.
  • Employees in this quadrant may shift frequently from role to role, constantly seeking new opportunities, trying to find a better fit.
  • People in this quadrant have the potential to be great contributors if you can identify and harness the unique skills they bring to a particular role that requires that skill set.

Free Agents – High Job Engagement and Low Organization Engagement

  • People in this quadrant are more committed to their personal satisfaction than they are to the organization’s overall success. They’ll do what they’re asked if it benefits them personally.
  • These employees exhibit little organizational loyalty. They will seek out the highest bidder for their services or the organization that offers the most perks.
  • If the organizational mission, values and goals can be aligned with personal motivations, values and interests, there is a possibility of a great match and high contribution. Maximum autonomy or flexibility is probably paramount for these employees.

Franchise Players – High Job Engagement and High Organization Engagement

  • People in this quadrant are the “stakes” around which you want to build your team. While they seek satisfying and challenging roles, they also are willing to “take one for the team” periodically to ensure team and organizational success.
  • These employees exhibit a depth of understanding of the organization’s industry, business model and have a clear sense as to how they contribute to its success.
  • The challenge with people in this quadrant is to continue their high level of engagement by helping them understand their career path options while continuing to increase the relevance of their contribution to the organization.

How to Move (Nearly) Everyone to the Franchise Player Level of Engagement

While leaders know that developing the talent in each player, including those who are currently warming the bench, is the best way to strengthen the overall team, how do you actually get everyone to the franchise level? The key is an ongoing commitment to ensure a clear alignment between the person’s individual goals and the organization’s needs. Too many leaders make the assumption the connection is static. As stated in the title of this section, I also recognize that not everyone will fit the game plan and that in some cases separation is best route if someone is clearly not interested in making the effort. However, as a leader, be careful about making assumptions too quickly about potential franchise players.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Connect the organizational values, mission and vision to a personal driver or motivating interest.

Senior executives may get excited about goals like, “Let’s double our revenues in the next 5 years”. But what are individuals looking for? They want to know that their organization does makes a difference in the lives of its employees and others (in other words, corporate social responsibility). In a recent issue of Fortune magazine, there was an article on a new values-based approach in creating a stock market index (called the Just 1000 list by nonprofit Just Capital). Its purpose would be to value organizations based on their social contributions—not just the latest corporate earnings. (see Can a Billionaire Hedge Fund Manager Fix Income Inequality, Fortune Magazine, September 1, 2015)

  1. Be willing to take a risk.

Sometimes we have to be willing to give the internal candidate the benefit of the doubt. For example, I worked with an organization that was seeking a leader to establish a stronger marketing function.  Rather than hiring from the outside, they groomed a highly promising individual that was originally hired for an IT role by moving this person to a digital marketing role and then eventually to the overall leadership role for the new marketing function. Certainly the organization had to commit to the development of this individual, but in return they have a franchise player who has already had a successful career within this organization and has potential to grow even further.

  1. Ensure a clear connection of individual results (or output) to the greater organizational goals.

People don’t outgrow the need for recognition of their efforts, even though many of us grow accustomed to working without thanks in many areas of our lives. In addition to recognizing individual efforts, we have to find a way to let our teams know specifically how their work contributes to the overall success of the company. Demonstrate and share how the person’s results made a difference to a customer or an end user of the organization’s services.

  1. Ensure progress and productivity can be measured.

Most people find great satisfaction in seeing tangible progress in their jobs, and evidence of productivity and progress validates their efforts and often leads to greater contribution. The feedback is not always verbal. Through various analytics employees can gauge whether they’re making progress and producing results according to expectations.

  1. Raise the bar on contribution, find new and challenging ways to accomplish the work.

Don’t overlook the possibility that some of your employees might be ready to take on more responsibility. By “more responsibility” I don’t mean more “busy work” but rather more ownership for end-to-end projects, broader scope and a higher level of accountability. Find opportunities to develop the person’s breadth of relationships and understanding of the business. The more connections the person makes with the broader organization will only help drive engagement along each axis in Figure 1.

Take another look at your bench. Now that you know how to move people toward high organization engagement and high job engagement, your bench may have more potential and be stronger than you originally thought. Develop your team into franchise players, and enjoy the improved results and recognition that comes from coaching and developing a winning team.