Engage Employees With These 7 Simple Ideas

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I’ve had various working stints in my life… I’ve worked with an NGO, a small business, and in a corporate environment.

Working in a small business gave me the autonomy to truly be myself… I was handed greater responsibility — even though I was only in my 20s, I led teams, and managed employees twice my age.

At the NGO, I was driven without any lure of money or position, just the fact that I was contributing to the larger cause of nation building gave me the drive and energy to do my best without any supervision or direction. Moreover, an NGO by its very nature only brings in those individuals who inherently believe in the cause… This automatically brings together like-mined people who bond as one family.

Systems don’t increase engagement

While at the corporate house, I enjoyed the discipline, systems and clear focus on growth and strategy, I often felt increasingly disengaged. Even though the role was fairly autonomous, and the projects challenging, I didn’t feel aligned to a bigger purpose. The occasional feeling of employee satisfaction was there, but the larger sense of meaningfulness was missing…often making me wonder if the problem was with the company or me.

So, as I write today, I ask: What does it really take for companies to keep people motivated and driven, to align them to one common purpose, to bring out their optimum potential, and to ensure both the growth of the employee and the organisation are happening simultaneously…

Loyalty is more than just money

The occasional fun and games don’t cut it, at best they act like breaks in the monotony of the day. Money too only goes so far… At the end of the day, jobs are more than instruments of earning money, they are essentially platforms to allow you to become a better version of yourself…to become a contributor to your family and society, and to give you opportunities that are unavailable independently, say as an entrepreneur.

Thus comes into play employee engagement, a term that is broad and with far-reaching consequences… It’s a buzz word that is gaining greater importance as most HR departments struggle to retain talent at all levels. The current times see most employees — particularly millennials — hop jobs faster than ever before. And most HR departments, no matter what they try, are wondering what it takes to bring out the loyalty factor… Surveys across the world also show that disengagement levels are on the rise.

The human factor is key

In my view, it probably primarily boils down to one thing — the human factor. Most organisations nowadays are focused more on profits and rapid growth… They overlook the fact that an organisation first belongs to the group of people who create it — its primary stakeholders. If it doesn’t serve those few people who work for it, how will it serve its customers, and the rest of the world?

The human factor is about understanding employee growth — both personal and professional — and allowing individuals to achieve their optimum potential… This approach will ultimately increase the productivity of the organisation, and benefit its secondary stakeholders too — namely, the customer and investor.

So here I list some factors that could help you add more of the human factor to your organisation, and up the employee engagement quotient in your organisation… Feel free to be creative, improvise and customize them for your organisation…

1. Make an emotional connect first

It’s easy to look at employees as a ‘resource’, but work toward building the emotional connect instead. Like any other human relationship, the employee-employer one requires you to be sensitive to the needs of the other person. This can start from the recruitment stage itself, when you understand the person’s personal and professional aspirations, and how you can contribute to them realizing those dreams… Just as they will work toward uplifting your organisation, you need to uplift their lives too.

2. Understand their professional goals

Each employee comes with their own professional goals… For instance, they may want a good position or they may want to manage a project on their own. They may wish to hone a particular skill, or gain more experience in one area of their career, for example become a better marketer, creative director, app developer etc. Sit together with them and help them map out a career plan. The assignments and teams they work with can then be decided as a consequence of that.

3. Peek into their personal lives

Yes, just ‘peek’, don’t intrude…because an employee’s personal life has a great bearing on his professional life. Issues at home like infants, troubling teenagers, health or financial problems can result in temporary disengagement. Thus, when you notice a change in behavior, ask them with great sensitivity how you as an organisation can help them. You may not be able to provide support at all times, but just showing you care, and attempting to solve the problem together, is a great morale booster for employees.

4. Empower them as shareholders

Employees are equal entities in your company…they together make your company what it is. They are not just cogs in the wheel or one element of the org chart; they are stakeholders who can take your company to great highs. Beyond just employee stock options, give them an inherent sense of ownership in the work they do. Remind them about the role they play in creating the bigger picture… Take moments to openly acknowledge and reward their performance, and communicate how the successful completion of their individual projects adds value to the end profits or customer experience.

5. Enhance individual capabilities

More than just increasing the number and complexity of the tasks, the idea should be to entrust employees with a greater sense of responsibility. This can happen in multiple ways: by giving better roles, more resources, more prestigious projects, and even greater autonomy in decision-making and execution. This approach will encourage them to become leaders rather than just efficient managers or employees.

6. Provide avenues for growth

This goes beyond the workplace environment, and taps directly into the learning and development of the employee, both personal and professional. In the case of professional growth, you can support employees with some time off or by sponsoring online or offline courses that will also benefit the organisation. Additionally, you could support a paid mentoring program. Within the organisation, employees can be given the opportunity to move laterally, so as to enhance the other areas they need to work on.

Personally, ensure individuals have enough time to pursue their passions too. For example, some employees may need time to play in tournaments if into sports, or perform at concerts if into music, etc… Make those concessions, as it will help them become more all-rounded individuals and retain the work-life balance.

7. Encourage alternate working styles

Every employee comes with his own unique capabilities and working style. It is important thus to create an environment that allows him to utilise his strengths for the benefit of the company. Understand how employees work, and give them the space and freedom to be themselves, and work in the way they feel best. Once you have given the broad outline of a task, don’t micromanage…instead allow them to experiment and figure out systems on their own.

Also, be open to failure, in fact, encourage it. When employees feel secure in the knowledge that they can fail at times, they are motivated to be more creative… Innovation is rife in such spaces.

This article was first published in Yellow Spark — a unique management consulting firm with an expertise in the people side of business.

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