What actually is “commitment”?

Director Max Eberl was surprisingly dismissed from Bundesliga club RB Leipzig at the end of September because he had not shown “commitment” to the club. The journalists immediately asked what exactly was meant by lack of commitment. This term is often used in sports, but of course also in the corporate environment. Employees who are truly “committed” achieve more, have creative ideas, think outside the box and go the famous extra mile. Normally, this commitment is shown when employees really identify with the company.

An attempt at a definition

The term commitment has become just as established in the German vocabulary as meeting, fun, feedback or roadshow. However, it has different meanings depending on the context. Commitment can…

  • generally be understood as a firm commitment or obligation to something or someone.
  • also be an active commitment or participation. So not just a passive promise, but an active effort to really make a difference and achieve results.
  • be understood in psychological or social contexts as an emotional bond or loyalty.
  • in some cases also be described as a deep dedication or passion for something.

In the end, it is always about a deeper bond, engagement or obligation. Commitment to the company is therefore definitely much more than just showing up on time or completing the daily tasks. Rather, it is the obligation that you feel towards your employer, in my case also towards your client, your colleagues and, above all, towards yourself. It means accepting challenges, being fully there even or especially in bad times and, above all, viewing the company’s mission and vision as your own.

Commitment in sports and in the company

I would dare to say that genuine commitment is rarely seen in professional soccer today. At least in terms of loyalty, emotional attachment or dedication. As always, exceptions prove the rule. Clubs like 1. FC Union Berlin or players like Thomas Müller can be taken as examples. For me, Intel Corporation in the 1990s was an excellent example of genuine employee commitment to the company. Without hesitation I would subscribe to all four of the above meanings for myself and most of my colleagues at the time. This was certainly one of the reasons why one success story followed another. And if there was a small crisis creeping up, it was quickly overcome because the workforce was 100% committed. Of course, a corporate culture and management that values, promotes and rewards this commitment is very important here. And employees must really identify with the company.

Identification with the company

In our fast-moving times, which are characterized not least by rapid technological developments, companies have to constantly reinvent themselves. Transformation processes are becoming more the rule than the exception. Here, the emotional bond of employees with their workplace and the company is often underestimated. However, identification with the company is a value that goes far beyond salary or job title. It is strongly linked to the following terms:

  • Passion: employees who identify with their company not only bring their skills, but also their heart along. They are motivated to go the extra mile because they believe in what they are doing.
  • Loyalty and consistency: Employees think long-term and are less prone to headhunting attempts. They build deeper relationships with colleagues and customers and are often the best brand ambassadors.
  • Innovative thinking: When employees see themselves as part of the bigger picture, they will contribute with new ideas and find creative solutions to problems.

How can companies promote this identification?

Identification with the company does not arise from a modern office in a good location, expensive desks, a gym membership or free drinks. These are the extras that make working more pleasant. Identification is created through:

  • Transparent communication: employees want to know where the company is heading and how their work contributes to this.
  • Recognition and appreciation: A simple “thank you” can often create miracles.
  • Participation and having a say: Employees need the opportunity to share their opinions and ideas, and above all they want to be really heard.

Employees who truly identify with the company do not see transformation as evil or even a threat, but rather as a great opportunity to develop themselves and the company further.

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