Employee engagement – it’s just one of the latest buzz words floating around. But what does it really mean? I can tell you that it’s not just performance plans, timely feedback and evaluations. We need to stop being so focused on the employee’s productivity and start focusing on their experience in the workplace. If an employee is having a good experience, it stands to reason that this will allow them to be more productive and engaged. So how do we do that? Let’s take a look at five principles to get us there…
First thing, we need to treat employees like they make a difference. If we don’t treat them this way, then it is highly likely that they won’t! In order to feel like they’re making a difference, we need to connect with them as people first, not resources. This is important because the level of personal investment they have in the workplace has a direct impact on how engaged they are. In order to connect with them as a person, we should be asking what challenges they have, what their aspirations are, what aspects of their role they find exciting and what responsibilities they feel are time sinks. And, this is not just a one-time conversation, this should be revisited at least annually, but ideally more frequently, in order to grow the relationship and course correct as people mature in their roles over time.
Now that we’ve invested some time in learning about our people, let’s be sure to share some information with them. It is equally important to be as transparent as possible with them as they have been with us, in order to build two-way trust and open communication. Share the organization’s goals, communicate the strategies and how each team contributes to the success so that they make that personal connection we’re looking for and feel a sense of purpose.
Ask them what they think! Often! Real-time iterative feedback is healthy and can be achieved via surveys, interviews, and ride-a-longs. Then share the results! This will help the individual, team and larger organization make small course corrections over time, rather than large sweeping change that most often is too much at one time. Encourage employees to share their successes and be certain to share how the company is putting employee feedback to work. When employees raise an issue, say thank you! Then ask them for input into how they would solve it. Many times the employees are close enough to the issue that they can envision ways to make things better.
Still questioning whether or not employee engagement is important? Let’s talk numbers. A Queen’s University decade long study found that organizations with the highest level of employee engagement achieved 15% greater employee productivity and 30% greater customer satisfaction levels. And, the Workplace Research Foundation found that an investment increase of just 10% in employee engagement returned an increase in profits of $2,400 per employee, per year.
When it comes to organizational structure and making the employee connection, leadership engagement is a must. Executives must lead by example in order to build trust and that two-way dialogue. Leaders need to be sure they’re building teams of people that compliment, yet challenge one another. The team members should trust one another and feel compelled to push one another to deliver excellence. As this structural alignment matures over time, leadership will be able to see where they have the right person in the right seat and where they may need to make some changes, including at the leadership level. This is important because an employee could have the talent to perform the role they’re in, but if they don’t have a personal connection to it and feel like they’re doing meaningful work, they are less likely to be engaged. On the flip side, an employee may whole-heartedly have the desire to be in a role, but may not have the skillset to perform at the necessary level. Finding the balance is key!
But, companies must continually work toward improved engagement. It’s part of the culture, the heart if you will, of an organization, it’s never “done”. Because the reality is that, employee engagement speaks to company values; and values matter to employees and ultimately to customers.
Do you have some employee engagement strategies that are working well for you? Please feel free to share them with us. Or, could you use some assistance with employee engagement, please contact us for more information on how to get started on your journey!
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