HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones has taken the world by storm. An epic on the scale of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the show unites soap-worthy drama with gritty violence against a backdrop of a world so well-crafted that even the CG dragons feel real.
Over the past seven seasons, we’ve seen kings come and go, major houses fall apart and the distribution of power shift wildly in the face of political turmoil and supernatural threats. The show isn’t just a fantastic escape, though, it’s also an examination of human nature, leadership and the gray area in between good and evil.
In fact, there are some solid lessons to be learned about employee engagement.
Here are 5 lessons to be learned from Game of Thrones.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones and don’t want important plot points to be spoiled, we suggest you stop reading now!
1. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” – Ned Stark
House Stark lives in the cold, unforgiving environs of the north. Tasked with protecting the rest of Westeros against the enemies from beyond The Wall, their daily concerns are more along the lines of staying alive than playing politics in the capital city of King’s Landing.
When Ned was leader of House Stark, he placed honour and duty above all else. While his expectations were high, there was nothing he asked of others that he would not ask of himself. He led by example and inspired loyalty because of it.
Nobody needs to swing a sword these days to make a point, but leading by example never goes out of style. Having senior management or even the CEO respond to employee reviews on Glassdoor is a key tool for engaging employees and attracting top talent – by showing them your company embraces authenticity and transparency.
2. “Winter is coming.” – House Stark
In Westeros, seasons aren’t an annual occurrence: they are years-long events. And when winter comes, running out of food is the least of your worries. House Stark’s motto, “Winter is Coming,” is a reminder to all that no matter how good the summer is, winter and all the bad things that go with it – like the Night King and his terrifying army of the undead – are on their way.
How you prepare your company and employees for the future is an important avenue for employee engagement. When you have a culture that embraces transparency, people feel included, which in turn boosts their job satisfaction and morale.
Company newsletters, all hands and other such company-wide channels are important tools for keeping employees updated on what’s happening. Shining light on major decisions or events shows employees that you respect them; it also engages them in the decision-making process.
3. “A Lannister always pays his debts.” – House Lannister
Ruthless in its pursuit of wealth and power, House Lannister has a bad reputation for not playing well with others. And its current head, Cersei Lannister, Queen of Westeros, isn’t doing much to discount this image. Cruel and vindictive, she’s ready to kill anyone who stands in her way.
House Lannister has one thing going for it, though: a dedication to repaying its debts. For Cersei, this often takes the form of death and torture. But in the real world, paying your debts can actually be a powerful cornerstone of a successful employee engagement programme.
When people contribute to your company and show up, reward them for it – via a bonus, perks, or an old-fashioned note. Incorporating a gratitude or recognition scheme into your company culture can have huge rewards for your company, including improved productivity and retention.
4. “Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” – Tyrion Lannister
Shunned and ridiculed by his family for being a dwarf, Tyrion has spent his whole life using his great intellect to survive. Now Hand to Queen Daenerys Targaryen, he’s on a mission to help her claim the Iron Throne and overhaul the political system in Westeros to be better for all.
In a poignant speech to Jon Snow about embracing his status as a bastard, Tyrion counsels him to accept his flaws – because only then can they become strengths. “Never forget what you are,” he says. “The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour and it can never be used to hurt you.”
The same goes for your company. Owning your unique culture and embracing what might look like flaws to certain job seekers, but plusses for others, paves the way for you to better attract right-fit people who’ll stay for the long haul, thanks to having realistic expectations about your company.
5. “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” – Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion is highly aware that in a society which values physical strength above all else, his mind is his most powerful asset. So he keeps it sharp by reading voraciously. He’s not the only character for whom knowledge is power: Samwell Tarly’s love of learning helps him cure Ser Jorah Mormont’s life-threatening greyscale (a disease which turns its victims slowly into stone).
People are more likely to stay with companies who nurture their professional growth. In fact, employee education can be a valuable component of a successful employee engagement programme. Showing employees that you appreciate them enough to help them grow encourages them to stick around and invest those new skills back into the company.
Offering opportunities to attend conferences, trainings, or even continuing education says to current employees and job seekers that you take your relationship with your people very seriously. Plus, it boosts job satisfaction and productivity. What’s not to like?