How to make Employee Engagement Work - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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employee engagement

How to make Employee Engagement Work

Job satisfaction is lower than it has ever been in the past two decades. Recent studies have shown this to be true all over the world. Human resource consulting firm, Willis Towers Watson posits that almost 70% of the modern workforce is psychologically disengaged from their occupation. This lack of interest and engagement from their employees is causing corporate profit to take a major hit. Companies are losing nearly $500 billion in earnings every year.

Despite this, studies have shown that industry leaders don’t realise just how much disengaged their workers are. They believe employee engagement is higher than ever. This is because leaders aren’t looking beyond the surface to the root cause. They assume that busy employees must translate to high productivity. But overworked people are not as engaged as their employers assume, leading to a lower performance which their leaders fail to notice in time.

The engagement of the leaders themselves is crucial in fostering a high productivity work culture. If the leaders are detached from their employees, preferring to focus their attention on getting work done rather than connecting with their own staff, it results in increased indifference from workers. Both employee morale and performance take a hit. So, when a company’s work culture breeds disengagement, it’s the job of the leaders to steer it back to the right course.

Foundations of the Engagement Mindset

In his book on leadership, Clint Swindall remarks that it’s the responsibility of the leader to pay attention to people, figure out their needs, and then incentivise them to increase their engagement and performance.

The problem is that most people in leadership positions don’t understand the true value of engagement. They don’t see the relationship between employee disengagement and issues of incompetence, low performance, or plummeting profits. They assume that the real influencers are market forces or competition, whereas studies have proven that employee engagement ranks as one of the most immediate factors affecting the company’s bottom line. The emotional well-being of employees can strengthen an organisation as nothing else can.

The equation is simple. The more engaged employees are, the more satisfied they are with their work. Dissatisfaction breeds poor performance and a general mindset of carelessness about giving their best to the job. These employees will not invest more than a bare minimum of effort or concern in their dealings with customers or any other aspect of their work. And when more of a company’s staff are disengaged than engaged, grim results are inevitable.

When leaders do notice signs of disengagement in their employees, they prefer to get rid of the workers, believing that the problems will end with their departure. This method might seem like the most efficient way of dealing with incompetence, but often separating the bad apples do not address the root cause of the problem. Some times the issue might be one problem worker, but dismissing an employee should always be a last resort and not the go-to approach. High turnover rates in companies indicate weak relationships with their employees. This can further deteriorate staff morale and job satisfaction. The only way to inspire loyalty and trust in an organisation is to form strong bonds with the employees, creating lasting relationships with workers takes a lot more hard work than simply dismissing them.

The first step to creating a new mindset in leaders is to narrow their attention to two key tools: learn to care and learn to connect. The work culture in a company can improve by leaps and bounds if leaders pay attention to the practical and emotional needs of their employees and try their best to meet them. It’s essential to accept that the old approach of leaning on programs and processes cannot build a strong, productive work culture.

Using the Organisation to Encourage Engagement

The interesting thing is that employee satisfaction and engagement can easily rise just by noticing that the company cares about them. Leaders who understand this are always a step ahead. They foster a positive, supportive workplace culture, where staff feel valued, and with access to resources necessary to make their life easier.

It’s not enough to accept the idea of putting people before the bottom line, employees must see the company actively implementing this thought process. Finding out what your employees need to improve their productivity is a crucial step. Whether it is capital, manpower, or transportation, make the tools available, so your employees know that their efforts are valued.

Frustration with the inadequacies of workplace resources often leads to employee disengagement. Make sure that your workers have all the necessary instructions and plans, that every member of the team is well trained and informed of procedures guiding their tasks. Involve your staff in the foundations of an assignment. Ensure that everyone understands their role and why it is necessary to get something done. When such basic guidance is lacking, employees lose interest in the task allotted to them. When leaders fail to provide a supportive environment, workers feel lost, resentful, and disengagement becomes the norm.

Without the right training for the right task, people cannot succeed or contribute to the growth of a company. Workers must have faith in their ability to do a good job. And this creates a positive cycle where doing their job well increases the workers’ confidence, which in turn encourages them to be more creative. Your employees’ success will boost the company’s productivity. Therefore, you must ensure that they have access to the training and tool they need to succeed.

A workplace that encourages feedback from its employees and puts their suggestions to use naturally fosters a sense of ownership towards the company. This is an excellent motivator for raising engagement. Involve your people in improving the workplace. Give them authority suited to their skills, but have them actively find solutions and then carry out its implementations. Watching their actions make a difference in their work environment empowers your employees, while still keeping them accountable.

Prioritising the success of your employees by providing all necessary resources will help create an atmosphere of positivity where people will attribute their successes to your leadership. This method of looking after your employees raises their satisfaction and engagement by creating a lasting bond of gratitude, loyalty and mutual respect.

Partnership Motivates Engagement

The worst way to treat your employees is to make them feel like a replaceable cog in the wheel. The less valued they feel, the less they will care about the company’s well-being. If you treat your employees like they are sub-human or just a means to a profitable end, then you create distrust and disillusionment in their hearts.

It’s the leaders who focus on fostering an environment of equality and teamwork who inspire the best efforts from their employees. Workers are highly engaged when they feel respected at their place of work. Treat your employees like partners and not servants. Feeling valued leads to high performance, and that benefits the company the most.

The best motivation is being included in the plans and decisions of an organisation. Leaders who familiarise their employees with the company’s vision and help them understand their roles within the larger goals of their workplace, create stakes in the minds of their workers. They become personally invested in helping the company accomplish its targets. Employees cannot be true partners until they’re allowed to understand and contribute towards the broader company goals. When leaders intentionally keep their staff out of the planning process and limit their access to knowledge, it gives rise to detachment in workers who recognise that they aren’t trusted.

Instead of closing ranks against your employees, make a path for clear communication and explain the methods and principles guiding your company’s decisions. When important decisions are made, or plans are suddenly adjusted, ensure that your staff has access to all the data that explains these choices. Give them the same information that was given to you, so they understand the process behind the decisions. Opaque policies only lead to confusion and feelings of exclusion. Your choice to communicate and share openly will raise engagement as well as your employees’ comfort level.

Sometimes it’s difficult for workers to appreciate how new policies or changes affect them. It’s your job to put these new practices in context and help them realise how they are directly or indirectly affected. Set an example for your staff to follow. Celebrate progressive policy changes by actively showing your support for it. Instead of peddling propaganda, give your employees the courtesy of accurate and timely information. The positivity this creates enhances engagement and trust amongst the workers.

Having a robust view of the path charted by their company makes employees more confident about their parts in the larger picture. They will be more ready to meet challenged and adapt to changes as a team because they will know the value of their contributions.

If you want your employees to feel like they are united with you for a larger cause, you have to be open about your progress at work. Figure out how to let them know about your status and open the field for critical and in-depth feedback from them. Depending on which method you find most effective, you can use regular meetings or messages to keep your staff updated. If your employees feel free to offer up a suggestion or bring their concerns to you, they will be far more invested in the long term success of your plans.

Engagement By Forming Connections

We have covered the basics of how to increase employee engagement levels by establishing open communication and encouraging personal investment in the future of the organisation. But these can only get you so far. To help employees engage with their work at the highest level, it’s is essential to strengthening your connection with your employees by demonstrating true care. The best leaders are always, earnestly invested in the happiness of their employees.

Swindall makes a clear case for leaders to stall the initial symptoms of workplace disengagement. He believes that while both employers and employees are responsible for this eventual detachment from work, it is the leaders who must actively prevent the work environment from becoming so negative that workers stop caring about their roles. Nobody starts their employment disengaged. It is only after repeatedly coming up against uncaring management that they become disillusioned and stop trying to do more than the bare minimum.

Engagement is sustained through strong relationships. With a highly engaged workforce, a company enters an era of productivity and achievements. So, it’s your task as the leader to initiate and strengthen relationships. Dan Crim and Gerard Seijts have listed ten key factors that influence employee engagement. And according to these company behaviour experts, personal connection is the essential ingredient in building a nurturing work environment. If your instincts are to care for the people who work for you, creating relationships with them will come quickly to you.

Leaders display their concern for their employees by learning of their life outside the workplace. This helps them understand the aspirations and responsibilities of their employees, while in turn, their employees reach a better understanding of their leader’s character. All of this strengthens the bond growing between them. Beyond showing how much you value them, connecting with your staff has many other benefits. Chief amongst them is an increase in your ability to support and understand them, which eventually earns you their trust and loyalty.

While many leaders still prefer to parse out information and deny accountability to their employees, this creates distance between them. Relationships are strengthened based on open conversations, transparent practices, and honest sharing of concerns and ideas. This gives rise to a sense of joint ownership of the successes and failures of the company. There is nothing more unifying to employees than this feeling. So, foster accountability and always keep your commitments to your people.

Smart, competent leaders know better than to show favouritism towards an employee. A culture of fair and equal treatment encourages trust and engagement. Every employee must know that they will be treated according to the same rules and face the same consequences as any other person. Employees also seek flexibility in their leaders, especially since life can often throw unexpected difficulties in their way. Allowing some adjustments to make their life easier can often be a benefit to the company. Working from home, taking a short leave to deal with a family emergency, or not disturbing them during vacations can help your employees be more productive with less stress, so you should try to allow it.

Fostering a positive environment also means letting your employees know that their work is appreciated. “Thank you” are two very powerful words and should be used often in the workplace. When you see someone doing something well, be sure to praise them, so they know their hard work was noted.

The success of leaders is the direct result of the achievements and growth of their employees. While your staff develops more skills and takes on more responsibilities, your steady support will be their pillar of strength. Shine a light on every success they achieve and celebrate it as a team. The better your employees do as individuals, the more they will do for the company. It’s a win-win.

The mindset leaders need to inspire employee engagement can be learned and applied. The underlying idea is to take unproductive employees and make them better, while already good employees finally get the support they need to become great. This builds on the existing foundation of who they are as people and what their abilities are. This is why it’s important to focus first on the individuals who’ll inspire others with their positive attitude, helping you to raise the morale of all employees naturally. The end goal is to let everyone be the best version of themselves!

Byron Conway
byron@employeeconnect.com

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect