Employee Engagement is Really Simple – But Does Take Energy and Focus
Too many organizations overthink employee engagement. Grand plans and “strategic initiatives” really get in the way of progress in connecting employees, and their energy, to the organizational mission:
- Set impossible expectations of raising overall engagement to 100%, when moving from 60% to 80% is the more realistic goal.
- Make employees roll their eyes and disconnect, as these grand gestures come and go with predictable frequency.
- Make the problem worse rather than better, as starting and stopping can be more disengaging than sticking with the status quo.
Let’s keep the program simpler in scope:
- Embed employee engagement as “Job One” in every manager’s performance criteria.
- Leave the specifics of how to accomplish it open. Let managers experiment with constructive ideas of their own.
- Keep it tactical – Have senior managers focus on developing and communicating a vision that clarifies the mission, and leave the details of how to engage each team to the team leader.
- Provide leadership training that strengthens the interpersonal skills of every manager, as those are the skills that they must habitualize to effectively raise employee engagement.
- Don’t obsess about getting the measurement right first. Engagement is a universal good in which you should be investing all the time. You don’t have to wait for survey results to come in to get started!
Employee engagement happens best between people, one interaction at a time. It is strategic in intent, to foster aligned passionate action focused on the organizational mission. But it is a day-to-day tactical challenge to implement. It happens between people every day, in every conversation in every office and hallway. It is also independent of specific operational goals. You need an engaged workforce whatever your mission is.* *An engaged team of people is primed and ready to deal with change, because they are going to tackle it together, and the organization has already taken the engaging steps of involving its people in the change development process.
The most meaningful boosts to engagement happen in the relationship that grows between boss and subordinate. It is telling that most people cite “a poor boss” as their primary reason to quit a job. We would translate that to “a poor relationship with their boss”: The two of them could not forge a positive working relationship:
- The boss fumbled his or her engagement efforts (through ignorance or lack of desire).
- The subordinate did not clearly communicate his or her frustration in a way that motivated the boss to find constructive solutions.
Go ahead and run surveys to measure the current state of engagement in your organization, but don’t wait for the survey results to be gathered and analyzed before kicking off the initiative to make all of your managers better leaders. You know it has to happen. You don’t have to wait for a survey result to confirm what endless industry research has already confirmed!
- We already know that most organizations have not yet embedded good employee engagement mindsets in the heads of their managers, and need to do so if they wish to maximize the contributions of their employees.
- Don’t waste a lot of time leveraging the results of surveys to justify the need for employee engagement skill development
- Without habitualizing effective employee engagement skills in your managerial ranks, we guarantee that you will leave a lot of employee energy and creativity untapped.
The best employee engagement techniques are pretty darn simple to outline. They boil down to:
- Treat people with respect
- Demand that they treat others with respect
- Keep work issues separate from ongoing relationships
- Involve employees in program development beyond their particular role. Get their valuable input infused into the decision-making process
- Tie their role clearly to the future success of the company
- Recognize their contributions early and often
How you do all this is less important than simply making it a priority that you stay focused on making sure these factors happen consistently.
The hard part is making these approaches become habitual leadership behaviors, which takes nothing but practice, practice, practice!
Have you struggled to embed the leadership habits that naturally foster higher employee engagement? Are you effective in some areas, but still fail to focus on the others? What progress can you report in raising engagement within your own team?