Engaged is invested. For example, when a couple gets engaged, they invest in each other. They agree to work together to build a successful life.
It’s not so very different between employees and the companies they work for. If employees feel engaged in what they are doing, they invest themselves in the company’s success. Even better, they stay around.
Of course, the secret to engagement is that it works both ways. Employees won’t be engaged unless leadership gives each individual reasons that make sense to them. Paying lip service to the topic won’t suffice. Employees — especially your best ones — are too savvy.
If you want to captivate your rank and file, you’re going to need to employ engagement strategies that actually matter to them. Here are four you might want to consider.
1. Show Them in the Big Picture
Employees are hired to perform specific duties. For example, a customer service representative is assigned the task of answering calls and troubleshooting problems. For that employee, however, it may be difficult to see beyond the headset and screen to understand how that role contributes to overall company success.
It’s your job to help them realize how what they do contributes to the company’s mission and goals. A great way to do that is to utilize strategic alignment, from the bottom of the food chain to the very top. Each employee’s job description, communication structures, and performance reviews should align with the company’s goals. That way, everybody can understand how what they do for the company contributes to achieving specific targets.
It’s a sound strategy to engage your employees by fostering a sense of purpose. If you don’t, you make it easy for them to show up, do the minimum, and collect a paycheck. And that makes it even easier for them to walk out the door when a better offer comes along.
2. Recognize Performance
Employee recognition certainly isn’t a new strategy. But it has taken on a new sphere of influence now that millennials comprise the major percentage of the workforce. After all, they were the first generation to experience the “everyone-gets-a-trophy” phenomenon.
Of course, not everyone is performing at peak levels and shouldn’t be applauded for it. That’s a hollow strategy that will have the opposite effect on engagement. All employees want to matter to the company, including millennials. Recognizing the contributions of those who excel will keep them engaged and engage those who are trying to emulate that behavior.
If you really want to boost the impact of this strategy, don’t have all the recognition coming from the top down. Co-workers see a lot of positive qualities and scenarios that leadership doesn’t. Make sure you add opportunities for peer recognition to the mix. Otherwise, you might be overlooking the performance of a team player you won’t want to lose.
3. Open the Feedback Loop
Feedback often ends up being a one-way exchange. Teams complete tasks, and you tell them how they did. During performance reviews, you tell employees how you think they’re performing and how they can improve. But do you ever ask them to tell you what you could do to help them perform better?
There’s a reason feedback is referred to as a “loop,” not a “line.” Employees need to feel safe in communicating openly and honestly with you and with each other. But if this hasn’t been standard operating procedure to date, you will have to encourage them. Take the lead. Ask open-ended questions and be patient while employees ponder and formulate their answers.
When they respond, be open to criticism and willing to take a deeper look into their concerns. Once they know you’re listening, they will more often engage in conversation and their work. Moreover, you might be surprised at what you can learn from them.
4. Create a Sense of Unity
As Aristotle put it, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This is certainly accurate when it comes to business. The role each employee performs is a necessary piece of a company’s success. If one part fails, the company may sputter.
You should recognize that some employees don’t feel they are valued to the degree they perceive that others are. This can make them feel left out, if not completely alienated. To get them actively engaged, you need to create a sense of unity despite disparate education levels, genders, races, positions, and pay grades.
There are many ways to create camaraderie, through open communication, meetings, and social events. Encourage employees to work cooperatively, regardless of their roles, rather than working to outshine one another. Help them see that it takes the strengths and talents of each of the parts to make the whole successful.
Make It Matter
Engaged employees are happier, more productive, and much more likely to stay put. Just remember that they’re only going to stay engaged in something that matters to them. It’s your job to make the work matter.
Drawing the big picture, recognizing performance, keeping the communication flowing in both directions, and building unity, are all meaningful strategies. When a strategy is successful in engaging employees, it’s like when a proposal is met with a resounding “yes” — employees are more likely to stay and contribute their best to your shared success.
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