Driving Employee Engagement – four areas of focus

Engagement is about connecting employees both rationally and, most importantly, emotionally to your organization so that the success of your organization is as important to them as it is to you. In a nutshell, it’s about ensuring that every employee who walks through the door at your workplace doesn’t see what they do as ‘just a job’.

It’s that connection, and how invested they feel in the organization, that means they will go the extra mile in what they do.   That in turn drives organizational performance; organizations with high engagement levels have higher retention levels, better customer loyalty levels, better safety records, higher productivity and higher profitability.

But…

According to Gallup, only 1 in 5 of the workforce in Canada is engaged.     If engaged employees are on average 50% more productive than disengaged employees, how do we sustain their engagement and, how do we go about increasing the engagement levels of the other 4?

There is a huge amount of research out there about what drives engagement, with some clear commonalities and patterns in the responses.    At ethree we have bucketed these commonalities into 4 pillars that organizations should address to support high engagement levels.   We phrase them as questions that an employee would need to answer a resounding ‘YES!’ to in order to be engaged.

 

  1. Do I know why I am here?

    Ultimately, this is about contribution.  Ensuring that an individual understands what is expected of them, and how their work contributes to the overall success of the organization.    You are working to help them be clear on the mission of the organization and what objectives or goals they need to achieve in that context.   You want them to feel proud of their contribution and proud of the organization as a whole.   You want them to think: “I, we, make a difference”

    If you only do 2 things:

    • Be clear what your business stands for; make sure that every employee can articulate how your business makes a difference, and how they contribute.
    • Set clear task and behavioural objectives, and, most importantly, hold people accountable for delivering on them, otherwise you are signaling that their work doesn’t really matter….

 

  1. Do I feel like I fit in?

    This is about belonging.   Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something, and that they are appreciated for who they are (not just what they delivered for the company).    You are working to involve them in what happens beyond their job, and demonstrate a concern for their overall wellbeing.  You want them to feel they belong.    You want them to think: “These people, this organization, cares about me”

    If you only do 2 things:

    • Support structured team development and make sure you address team conflict quickly and effectively.
    • Ask for employee opinions frequently and about a range of things and make sure they know what you did with their ideas and feedback.

 

  1. Do I have what I need to succeed?

    This pillar is about taking away all the barriers and distractions that prevent employees from achieving everything they can.    It includes the right tools, systems and equipment but also includes support, mentoring and the right relationships.  You are working to set them up for success.  You want them to feel equipped, not frustrated by issues.   You want them to think: “No distractions, just opportunities to be my best”.

    If you only do 2 things:

    • Find out what gets in the way of people delivering and find ways to minimize those things.
    • Ensure that employees have access to the right relationships and stakeholders for information and to get decisions made.

 

  1. Do I know how I am doing?

    This pillar is about progress and development.   It’s about ensuring that each and every employee knows what they are doing well and where they can develop further. It is about regular feedback, meaningful recognition and plans for development and growth.   You are working to ensure they are constantly progressing.  You want them to feel valued for their potential.   You want them to think: “They invest in me and I can grow here”.

    If you only do 2 things:

    • Give regular and frequent feedback and/or recognition to every person.
    • Find ways to support growth and development, formally or not.  You don’t have to have formal career paths, in fact, on the job learning is the most effective form of development, so look for tasks you can delegate, stretch assignments and projects to ensure people feel they are progressing.

 

A final word.

Engagement can seem complicated, and I have worked with many leaders who are not sure where to start.   Don’t mistake the impact a leader can have with where the responsibility sits.  Employees are as responsible for driving their engagement as their leaders are.

So, if you were looking at the pillars and thinking, “I am not sure where to start”, ask your employees.    It’s likely that you already know who may have lower levels of engagement in your team.   Sit down with them and have a conversation.  Or if you have a larger workforce, run a survey or some focus groups to ask your employees for what they need.

Just make sure, whatever you do, you action the feedback you receive and you share back what you do as a result, because that in and of itself is a great step for driving engagement.

 

Jessica_ChapmanJessica Chapman is the owner of ethree Consulting, an independent consultancy that helps organizations drive performance through people.  With over a decade of experience in organizational effectiveness and change,  Jess specializes in ensuring that culture and structure support strategy,  building strong leaders,  developing effective teams, and leading change.    Learn more about how ethree can help you at www.ethree.ca.  You can also connect with Jess on Twitter and Linkedin.

 

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