Employee Engagement – What does that mean?!?

How many times have you heard the phrase, employee engagement?

“We want our employees to be engaged.”

We’ve all heard a manager or executive say it, we’ve likely heard it from Human Resources, and we’ve maybe even said it ourselves a few times.

Employee engagement is not only one of the key management buzzwords these days, it seems to have become the holy grail for team leaders and HR managers.

Is it possible to keep employee engagement from becoming just another business cliché?

I really like how www.EngageforSuccess.com defines employee engagement as, “a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.”

The end goals include such things as reduced turnover, increased productivity, improved relationships and greater innovation.

In other words, employee engagement is about shaping attitudes and behaviours to achieve outcomes. That sounds great! But with so few workplaces scoring high on engagement in employee surveys and the numbers actually decreasing in North America†, what can we do to improve the situation?

Here are some tips our clients have found helpful:

Create opportunities for buy-in – when you’re getting ready to change something bring people together and ask for their input. More importantly, listen to their suggestions and viewpoints. Be open to challenges about your ideas and your processes. Dig a little deeper by asking curiosity-based questions to uncover what is risky about your ideas — and staff will buy-in when they see you listening to their input.

Let others solve problems – even better then bringing the group together to test your ideas is bringing them together to create the ideas. Be clear that many ideas may get passed over for now, but asking your team to help you brainstorm how to solve the problem, rather than just implementing your own solution leads to incredible engagement.

Hire for attitude – start building a culture of engagement by hiring the right people. Look for people who exemplify a positive attitude, strong character and who know why they want to work for you. (Hint: If it’s about the salary, they won’t be engaged).

Throw away the carrot and stick – Following up on our last point above, and our previous blog post, cash bonuses and good salary are a nice foundation for building a capable workforce, but they don’t get people engaged. In fact, they can backfire and the financial rewards simply become an expectation and will not drive passion.

Catch them in the act – Listen closely, walk around and ask questions when things go well and you’ll soon know who the unsung heroes are in your workplace. Thank them for their contributions, let them know you recognize them and tell them you appreciate them.

Cautionary tip: Before you jump to recognize your valued team members, remember that not everyone likes to be acknowledged publicly.

Try to get a sense of your team members and tailor your praise for them. If they appreciate recognition and look happy when acknowledged in team meetings, then use that technique.

If they look uncomfortable, embarrassed or overly modest with public praise, they are likely more appreciative when the praise is personal and provided privately.

Coach people – use curiosity-based questions to help people find their own solutions and implement their best work; try to reduce how often you direct them and increase how often you help them find their own way. The goal stays the same, but the path to it leads to much greater engagement.

Build relationships – take a moment every now and then to stop, let go of your fast pace, and ask individuals on your team, “what’s new?” and “how are you doing?” or “how was your weekend?” Show a genuine interest in your team members and you will not only develop trust, you’ll likely also get a better understanding of peoples’ opportunities and barriers.

Grow leaders – a great way to build engagement is to invest in strengthening leadership skills in every employee. A company of leaders is really what engagement is all about. Remember this all–too-true anecdote:

  • CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”
  • CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

Our Padraig coaching questions for you today are: How would a team of fully engaged staff improve your success? What are you prepared to tackle first? When are you going to start?

Care to share your thoughts on employee engagement? Have you had a great story to share? Why not share them with us and our readers in the comment box below!


† http://www.aon.com/attachments/human-capital-consulting/2013_Trends_Global_Engagement_Report.pdf

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