EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT IS SIMPLE BUT YOU NEED TO WORK HARD


THE REALITY

If you believe that engaging with your employees is just about sending e-mails to them — WRONG

If you believe that engaging with your employees is just about meeting with them regularly to update them on business news — WRONG

If you believe that engaging with your employees is just about a one to one with them every month — WRONG

You might be thinking it’s a mix of all three — STILL WRONG


IT MATTERS

Now, I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with you by shouting at you that you are wrong but let’s be real and let’s be honest, it’s the best footing for us to move forward together….employee engagement is complex and requires a lot of effort, it’s the main reason why in most company surveys employees tell you that they don’t feel engaged with their employer or their boss.

I’m on this journey myself and no expert but I can share with you the things that I believe matters in employee engagement, what’s worked for me and what hasn’t. You might find it useful, if not you wasted some time you could have spent on your phone…but hey, you can go back to that after this.

I started writing this after I experienced some real frustration in a leadership team session on this very subject.

So, the conversation turned to employee engagement, we had recently had an employee survey and our people had said they didn’t feel engaged with, so as leaders we were committed to fixing this. The conversation quickly developed, people feel passionate about the subject, but I quickly realised that we were looking at this in the wrong way…we were focussing on ‘how do I give them more information’ rather than ‘how do they want to be engaged with’…if you haven’t got a clear view of what someone wants how can you meet their needs…think about it.

I should add that this will focus on individual engagement rather than team engagement, team engagement is a another subject, although there is some cross over.

I should also say that a lot of what I will write is not meant to be me preaching to you, I think a lot of this you will know, it’s not difficult stuff but I want this to be a reminder to you that creates an action for you to re-engage with your employees.

So let’s start and see where it takes us.


THE WHY

Let’s start by exploring why you want to engage with your employees and why they want to be engaged with because that is exactly the question you are trying to answer and it’s exactly the place you should start before even starting down the road of attempting to engage with them. I say attempt because if you don’t know the question you are trying to answer…

So why do you want to engage with your employees…? That’s not rhetorical, think about it…why do you?

I would hazard a guess that you thought about…

  • employee performance
  • motivation
  • maybe loyalty

…and you would be absolutely right, for the leader it is about driving individuals, teams and organisations to deliver the optimum performance.

But why does the employee want to be engaged with…?

The employee looks at this more broadly:

  • they are looking for a connection with their manager that is continuous (engaged with leader)
  • they want strong relationships with their teammates (engaged with team)
  • they want to have a wide network within the business (engaged with other employees)
  • they want to feel part of the business and be aware of business performance, news, changes, etc (engaged with the business)
  • they want to feel that the business is invested in them both in their career development but also in their own personal wellbeing. (business engaged with them)

This all forms part of an employees engagement with you as their leader and with the business that you are a leader of.

Basically, the employee requires a lot of investment from you and from the business as a whole to feel engaged with and perform to the maximum level that you want them to perform at AND you need to work hard to make sure this happens.

If you don’t three things happen:

  • The good employee leaves, they can find a leader and an organisation that sees the value in them and will deliver the engagement they require
  • The average/bad employee stays and they don’t perform to the levels you require and they are a detractor across the team and organisation and that impacts other employees performance
  • You become a bad leader, look if you don’t want to do this or de-prioritise this for other priorities then that reflects on you.

So that’s a reminder on why you need to engage with your employees which I know you already knew and obviously want to reconnect with otherwise you would have stopped reading when I told you that you were wrong…so the question is now how to deliver the engagement for your people that we identified earlier.


THE HOW

We identified why it’s a good idea to create strong engagement with your employees and we identified what engagement means for them.

Now, let’s explore how you can meet their engagement needs.

Let’s go back to the components of engagement we identified when looking at the what an employee looks for in engagement and take it component by component.

  1. Continuous connection with their manager

When we looked at engagement we asked ourselves why and what this means to the individual employee, let’s follow this process with each component to ensure that we know what we are trying to answer before we develop an answer.

Why

What is the employee looking for:

  • Feedback on their performance from their leader
  • To download on their week, to let you know how they are feeling
  • To discuss specific pieces of work with you and gain your contribution into this
  • Hear what is going on in your world and an opportunity to input into it
  • They want to see that you care about them on a personal level
  • Discuss development with you and how they can achieve develop
  • Instant support when they have a problem or they need something from like, the same as you require from them but sometimes forget its a two way requirement

How

What can you do:

  • Regular 1–2–1 meetings (weekly or fortnightly) that you NEVER cancel, remember this is your most important meeting. I like to alternate between formal in a meeting room environment and informal over a coffee offsite to enable different discussions and keep it fresh.
  • The text message approach, if they need to talk to you about a matter urgently, get them to text you to let you know it’s important. If it’s an e-mail, you’ll get to it when you get to the others but if they tell you they need you for something you will do it. If you follow this approach you have to make sure you deliver your commitment.
  • Dedicated development conversations. I never mix performance conversations or 1–2–1s with development. It’s too important, take the time to have a full and proper discussion, set aside the time and you get more out of it for both them and you.
  • Be open, share what you can both in terms of your own issues and what’s going on in the business, allow your employees to see a level of vulnerability in you. It allows them to connect to you and have input in your life. Discard the thoughts that this is a bad thing and you can never show weakness. Think about your own experiences with leaders, the ones you admire and look up to are the ones that have this attribute.

2) Strong Relationship with Teammates

Why

What is the employee looking for:

  • They want supportive teammates, they want to feel help is there if needed
  • They will look for strong performers, people they can learn from to develop themselves
  • Sharing is an important area here so they know what is going on across the team and business
  • A fun environment to enjoy their day regardless of work stresses
  • Building personal relationships outside of work
  • They want to feel part of something, not an individual, as being an individual is vulnerable being part of a team has protection and gives you purpose

How

What can you do:

  • The initial recruitment is a big factor here in terms of the behaviours that you look when you build your team. I favour a personality based recruitment method in all my recruitment. It is the single most important factor in delivering high performance teams.
  • Encourage sharing, call it out all the time, force it if you need to but ensure that your team live this way. We have created ‘focus huddles’ where if someone is having an issue on something they call a 15 minute huddle to get input from the team to support their thinking. Creating the culture around sharing, means the important little things happen to and they talk to each other about what they are doing and gain closer relationships and improvement from leaning on the experience of each other.
  • Team meetings, Team call, regular Team touch points, make sure you take time out together as a team. I’m not going to go into the subject of team engagement here but it’s fundamental that these happen frequently and are purposeful from a work agenda perspective and that you also mix fun into this to bring the team together. You want these to be sessions that your team look forward to.
  • Agree a vision don’t dictate one. Engage with your team on what your purpose is, write it down together and commit together that you all own it and stand behind it to create your common goal.

3) Wide network across the business

Why

What is the employee looking for:

  • They need to feel connected to the business as a whole not just their team or function
  • They want to have a greater understanding of the business as a whole
  • It’s important to them to grow their social circle within the organisation

How

What can you do:

  • Don’t let their induction to the business end on the first day (although make sure they have one), open the opportunities with your peers around the business for your employees to have regular sessions across the business to learn what’s going on and share what’s going on with them. Broadens their business understanding, builds relationships and opens up possibilities that aren’t created otherwise.
  • Ensure your team meetings involve other business members, it’s important to bring people to you as much as sending out your team. Make sure you use your team meetings as method to engage your team in something from outside their current environment but also to increase their exposure to another leader in the business.

4) Awareness of Business Performance, News, Changes, etc

Why

What is the employee looking for:

  • To have a good understanding of how the business is performing and how they directly contribute to this
  • To feel constantly connected to key business topics both in their specific work area and the wider business
  • To be as up to date as other colleagues on important business news
  • To feel connected to the company and want to and be able to tell their friends about the company that they work for and feel positive about that

How

What can you do:

  • Business briefings are a common way to update employees on the financial and general business performance on a monthly basis. If this is not done company wide, then you are able to instigate this for your team and they will appreciate the general business awareness.
  • E-mail updates are a useful way of disseminating key information of new joiners, leavers, key updates and these should be done but this should always be followed by an update face to face communication in team meetings, etc
  • The important point here is you can never communicate enough of the general business news that’s available and use all mediums available to you to ensure that your team feels engaged on the business performance

5) Investing in them

Why

What is the employee looking for:

  • to feel that there tenure with the company is an equitable relationship
  • to feel that the company cares about them
  • to feel that they have grown their career as a result of working for the company

How

This is a really important area in ensuring that the employee is engaged with the company and takes everything that we have discussed before which provides the employee with engagement to their leader, their team and connects them to the business but to engage them into the business and create loyalty and commitment the business needs to invest in them.

What can you do:

  • We touched on it briefly earlier but a deep commitment to the personal development of the employee is huge. I see a lot of companies with half baked approaches to personal development, as a leader you have a duty to ensure that you develop your people and engage them in this. Their is a level of responsibility that lies with the employee but leaders are duty bound to encourage this to of course development the employee but also increase their engagement in the company through this. It’s also important to recognise that development is a very broad topic, this is not sending an employee on a course, this is so much deeper than that, encompassing skills, behaviours, exposure and drive to name a few.
  • To increase engagement, individuals need to progress within a company. Clearly this is tied to their personal development to enable progression in their career…but again this is a responsibility of leaders to discuss talent and open opportunities within the business for their high performing team members. How do you share your high performers, do you actively promote them in open forum with your peers and bosses….if not, you should be.
  • If you are doing the above and all is going well, DO NOT, undo it all by then not openly advertising opportunities for career progression. I have seen this so often, that companies turn off high performers by hand picking someone for a progression opportunity (which engages one person further but turns off five, so negative overall impact) rather than open it up formally to all and then you have a positive engagement score overall.
  • Lastly, make sure there is reward in the system as your team members develop. The employee needs to know that there work efforts and development efforts are being recognised and if they do all of this and don’t have career progression and then don’t have their salary and bonuses matched to the market there engagement drops and they leave after all your hard work, doesn’t seem worth it really for an immaterial increase in cost versus losing a high performing employee but time and time again people gets puzzled by % increases rather than doing the hard maths on what’s at stake.

That’s it.

So my reminder on employee engagement ends here.

It’s all very simple but it requires hard work to keep it live and continuous. Engagement is not a one-off or monthly exercise, it is a daily process that forms part of how you work as a leader. Instil it as a component of what you do and you will see the rewards of a highly engaged, highly motivated and ultimately high performing team — exactly what you said you wanted at the start.

I hope that you have found this an interesting and thought provoking read and can take the reminders back into your workplace to help you.

Good luck and be the leader you want to be.

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