No matter your specific business, if your employees aren’t engaged, your customers won’t be either and that is going to negatively impact productivity and your bottom line. Employees who are happy and excited about the work they’re doing have an infectious energy that makes people unable to resist doing business with you. Emotions are more contagious than Covid! You can employ these employee engagement ideas to improve workplace satisfaction and increase all sorts of business metrics.
1. Get involved with employees’ projects and goals
Don’t ignore your employees after assigning projects. Instead, take a genuine interest in them and learn more about what they’re doing by being curious, not micro-managing. Check in regularly, ask them what they need from you or others to meet their goals. Engaged leaders model behaviors that demonstrate they care, and that the work their employees are doing has value, is appreciated, and truly matters to the leader.
2. Get personal
Emails., texts, and even phone calls can never take the place of face-to-face (even if virtual) conversations. Personal interactions help increase engagement because people can better sense your commitment and care for them and their work. We all have to cope with way too much email, and today more than ever, we need more real connections.
3. Provide regular and constructive feedback
If the only time an employee gets feedback, it’s critical or negative, they’ll likely cringe when they see you coming. When you give your employees constructive feedback about what they are doing well and at other times, what is getting in their way, feedback becomes the norm. Employees want and need to know how they are doing in your eyes, and they must be doing more right than wrong or they wouldn’t still be there, right? Make sure you catch them doing well for more than you provide information about a need for improvement if you want more engagement. Check your own motivation before you offer feedback. Strike the right tone for the right reasons – be specific and do it often.
4. Be intentional about engagement
When you are a leader, it IS your job to pay close attention to the state of employee engagement. No one gets engaged without being inspired to be engaged one way or another. Smart leaders make employee engagement a key part of their employee development strategy. Get to know your people - what motivates each person, their passions, talents, fears, and hopes. Use climate/satisfaction surveys to learn about what’s working and what’s not working in your culture with employee engagement’s four key factors:
1. Credible leadership
2. High Performing Organization
3. Job & Career Satisfaction
4. Supportive Co-Workers
5. Hire right and then get out of the way
When you hire the right people and give them the resources and ongoing support to excel at what they do best and keep learning, it’s time to get out of the way and encourage them do what they were hired to do. While delegating well increases engagement, micromanaging people is a death knoll. Everyone is at different stages of their careers. Calibrating the right balance between being involved in a project and letting go is key to maximizing engagement and commitment.
6. Be explicit
People need to know exactly what is expected of them, not ‘maybe’ or ‘sort of’ expectations. Employees who are expected to read their leader’s mind often make a lot of erroneous assumptions and then are dismayed when what they thought was right, wasn’t and then it’s often too late in the game. This causes a lot of frustration and results in creating disengaged employees. Communicate with your employees clearly and regularly – as much in person as you can. Take your time to make sure each person is on the same page with you, and has all the information they need to deliver on shared goals.
7. Say what you mean and mean what you say
Keep your promises – every single time, and don’t make promises to appease people when you can’t or won’t keep that promise. It’s about TRUST! Lack of trust leads directly to lack of engagement and much worse. Powerful trust leads instead to steadfast loyalty, creativity, high productivity, and sustainable engagement.
8. Be a learner with your staff
When you hired each employee, it was because you believed that person was value added, and would bring something to the table that you needed and wanted. Beyond the obvious, people have wisdom, talent, and skills you may know nothing about. Learn about your employees’ interests and what additional skills they have and ask them to teach you something they know and you don’t. This sends a clear message that you are curious, value them for more than just the specific role they play, and also models being a continuous learner. You signal a positive vulnerability by sharing that you don’t actually know it all and will engage your staff at even higher levels.
9. Be a coach, not an answer machine
People are complex and often have the answers they are looking for within themselves if you give them a chance When your employees come to you with a question or problem, don’t be the “answer king or queen.” Instead, coach them by asking open-ended questions that start with words like ‘what’ and ‘how’ to help them discover their own wisdom and answers. People feel stronger and more self-sufficient when they aren’t dependent on the leader for answers. They are also far more committed to a solution they come up with vs. one someone else provided for them. This is empowerment, and also signals that you trust them enough to engage with you as partners or teammates to solve a problem. It tells the employee that you want to hear their ideas and work together on challenges.
10. End meeting madness!
Every organization experiences a huge energy sink and loss of resources when people hold deadly meetings that don’t engage the people in the meeting, bore people to tears, and worse – don’t get the job done. Imagine how you’ll feel when your people can’t wait to have a meeting! Ok, now, what can you and they do to make that a norm and their reality? Take the time to learn how to create terrific engagement in virtual or in-person meetings. Plan well, create productive agendas, consider logistics. Don’t simply talk at people – instead find interesting ways to CONNECT before CONTENT. Ask opening questions that connect people and remember – they are 24-hour people, not just 1-hour-in a-meeting people. Find new ways to express yourself, break groups into dyads or triads to encourage participation by all. Above all - have fun together, learn together, break bread together (even virtually). Get your team members involved in designing meetings and facilitating them. All of this and more will encourage your employees to show up in mind, heart, and soul, and you’ll all experience much higher satisfaction and engagement.
Increasing employee engagement is at the top of the list for most CEOs and should be top of mind for every leader. It’s just plain old common sense – engaged employees are retained much longer, work harder, are highly productive, happy, and loyal. Disengaged employees are none of those things. It’s a slam dunk when you get it right.