Unleashing the full capacity of your people

More Thoughts on How to Engage Employees

We gathered a collection of articles (here and here) that dealt yet again with the ‘epidemic’ of disengaged employees and offered interesting ways to deal with the problem.

Most articles on this topic start by pointing out that at least two-thirds of your workforce would identify themselves as disengaged from the company. The key additional insight to gain is that this level of disengagement holds true even while about two-thirds of employees declare themselves “satisfied” with their job.

Satisfaction ≠ Engagement

This means a great percentage of your disengaged employees are not showing outward signs of their lack of attachment:

  • They show up for work promptly and regularly
  • They get their jobs done, and perform their assigned roles properly
  • They share no frustrations or disgruntlement with peers and bosses

That makes it kind of hard to spot and correct the problem doesn’t it?

The simplest mindset for a leader to adopt is to assume disengagement until proven otherwise, and actively engage with all your employees regularly to probe for their state of mind. Here are some questions to ask seemingly happy employees to divine their true level of engagement:

  • You say you are content with your role in our organization, but how connected do you feel to our overall mission? How do you see your job helping us get where we are trying to go?
  • How hard would it be for you to leave our organization if a slightly better job came your way elsewhere? Why? What would make it hard to leave? What could the new job and/or company offer that this one doesn’t?
  • Do you think I care about your success? Do you think the organization cares about your success? How could I or the company make that more clear to you?
  • What would make you more satisfied with working here? What is missing from our relationship that might generate more passion for your work?

You get the idea. You will notice I am trying not to guide the conversation towards specific areas of engagement like career advancement or recognition programs. Let them articulate those. But, challenge your employees to open up and share hidden frustrations or desires that, if addressed, could raise their engagement with you, their job and the organization’s mission. Remind your people that you are not a mind-reader. Make it a habit to train your team that communication has to be a two-way street!

There is gold to be mined in this process. Imagine if everyone raised their day-to-day contributions by just 10%. How much more could you and your team get done without hiring anyone else?

Make engagement your #1 leadership priority!


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