5 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a two-way street; the responsibility of both the employee and the leader.  Recent studies show employee engagement is at a historic low, and while most workers are dissatisfied with their jobs, they have largely accepted their fates and have settled into a zombie-like work ethic, opting to punch the clock rather than strike out among the vast sea of job hunters.

5 Ways to Increase Employee EngagementIronically, many employers have reduced efforts to improve employee engagement and utilize a motivational approach that sounds something like, “do what I tell you to, because there are plenty of people ready to line up for your job.”

This toxic relationship is taking its toll. Disengagement is like a virus in an organization, and spreads quickly throughout a company’s rank and file until it ultimately spills into the customer experience.  There are things the employee can do to take engagement into their own hands, but effective leaders need to actively engage in the process as well. Here are 5 ways to help get engagement back on track.

  1. Start Right – Like any relationship, first impressions are everything, and in organizations, no day is more important than a new hire’s first day.  Set expectations immediately, but not just the expectations you have related to performance.  Share your confidence in the new employee and how the entire team will benefit from his/her inclusion. Make sure the new employee knows what to expect from you as a supervisor or manager, and what to expect from the company.  Then stay on top of it.  Engagement requires constant nurturing.
  2. Offer Recognition – It’s easy to take good work for granted.  If a job is well done, acknowledge it. Every time. Many organizations make the mistake of offering praise once a year, as part of the yearly review process, but as most employees will tell you, when something is wrong, they hear about it right away. Every time. Avoid this trap by having frequent conversations with team members, and let them know just how valuable to your success you think they are.
  3. Inspire Ownership – Ownership is important on two levels. The first is task ownership. This involves setting clear expectations and measurable success points, and then letting go. Don’t make an employee just your extra set of hands, recognize all they have to offer, channel their innate talents, and reap the rewards. The next step is organizational ownership. Your employees are critical to your organization’s success. Be sure they know it. Their engagement is critical to more than task completion, it is essential to the very future of the company. Share the big picture with them. Be sure they see where they fit in and why they are so critical.
  4. Develop Leader Coaches – The best way to boost engagement is to link an employee’s values, vision purpose and mission to that of the organization.  A coaching culture is vastly different than a mandating culture, and far more effective when gaining employee buy-in.  Effective coaches engage in meaningful conversations and ask questions more than offering directives. What is important to the employee? How does that relate to the job at hand? By mining for significant meaning in someone’s life, we are better equipped to translate that into everyday business success.
  5. Collaborate – Many managers try to tackle problems on their own, then sell the idea to their team members. When working through a situation, get employee input.  Different ideas, opinions, and perspectives only benefit the decision making process.  You don’t need to (nor should you) implement every suggestion, but when communicating a decision with your team, you can address what you heard, and why you landed on the solution you did. Even if your final position is contrary to the input you’ve received, by acknowledging what you’ve heard, and detailing why you landed on the decision you did, employees will recognize that their opinions were seriously considered.