A recent gallop study shows that only 32% of U.S. employees are engaged with their employers. It is important to pause for a moment and consider what this truly means for organizations. When employees are not engaged, employees are not delivering their best work. Imagine how bad a baseball team would be if 6 out of 9 players on the field were not engaged. The team would have so many weaknesses that it would be hard for them to compete. In an environment where the norm is for employees not to be engaged, organizations that can drive high levels of employee engagement position themselves to have a competitive advantage. Solving your employee engagement issues requires understanding why employees are not engaged. Gaining this information is best done by having one on one conversations, but some of the most common reasons are
poor clarity of expectations
lack of connection between the company's mission and daily activities
limited opportunities for learning and growth
poor job fit
employees not feeling cared for at work
All is not lost. In the next 30 days, you can implement steps to improve employee engagement within your organization. Those steps will require you to dedicate one-on-one time with employees, but that time can reengage employees currently going through the motions at work and only delivering a portion of what they are capable of.
Provide Opportunities for Professional Development:
One of the common complaints voiced by employees is that they are interested in advancing their careers, but they are unsure how. Managers of employees should talk with employees about career goals and help map out action plans to help employees develop the skills and competency necessary to advance their careers. Employees often struggle to identify which external training, education, books, podcasts, networking, and volunteer activity they should participate in to grow professionally. Holding meetings regularly where positive and developmental feedback is given is a great way to help employees develop professionally. Managers should assist employees in setting SMART goals around the skills they need to improve to excel in their current role and prepare themselves for advancement opportunities. This, along with connecting employees with mentors, is an effective way to help employees advance their careers.
Encourage Open Communication:
Employees who joined your organization because they believed you would be a good person to work for. Over time, how you interact with them will influence if they maintain that belief. When you invest time in developing a relationship with your employees, you increase the chances of them providing you with honest feedback. With this feedback, you can take actions to address their concerns. Sometimes resolutions can be found by giving a different perspective to the employees. Other times, employees will provide you with information that will result in you making changes. Occasionally a resolution will not be found, but you will have the benefit of awareness, and employees will know that their concerns were heard. As the boss, it is up to you to decide what you do with feedback, but it is critical that your employees feel comfortable communicating with you. Often employees leave jobs over problems that could be solved with open communication. As the leader, it is your responsibility to create open lines of communication.
Provide Incentives and Recognition:
Providing incentives is an excellent way to help to clarify expectations for employees. When you take the time to develop incentives that reward employee behavior, you can motivate employees to execute organizational values and strategy at a higher level. When incentives are linked to specific performance metrics, employees can work towards achieving those metrics. When incentives are around specific behaviors, employees can learn the desired values and actions and strive to bring them to life. Small steps like changes in titles, bonuses, and wage promotions can significantly boost employee self-worth, self-esteem, and happiness within an organization. As a manager, you should seek opportunities to recognize and reward employees for their good work. Your actions will create a culture of positivity that will aid in employee engagement.
Make Fairness a Priority:
As you make decisions in your company around compensation, benefits, employee development, assignments, and promotion, ensure that you do so fairly. Often time managers make decisions quickly without taking the time to consider how their actions will be perceived or the unintended consequence they could generate. Unfair treatment can create friction within an organization that demotivates employees. Particular attention should be spent considering how policies and procedures potentially disadvantage minorities and individuals of low status. Structural discrimination exists, and decisions influenced by unconscious biases frequently demotivate and alienate employees from under-represented groups.
As a manager, you can create a supportive environment that encourages employee engagement. How you engage with employees directly impacts their motivation and commitment. Improving employee engagement takes time and intentionality. It requires you to be purposeful about organizational culture, to listen, to use good judgment, and adjust how things are done to meet the changing needs of your employees. The pandemic shifted employee expectations, and there is no going backward. This, along with the natural transition of baby boomers retiring and generation z employees entering the workforce, is causing a shift in what employees want. They expect companies to be better stewards of their time and careers. The bottom line is that employees want to work for managers that care about them and their future. This can be done if you are willing to listen to your employees and provide them with the level of support they desire.
Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with your Path Coaching and Consulting. He specializes in coaching services for managers, executives, and small business owners.
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