Increasing Employee Engagement

I am concerned about the lack of engagement that I perceive from many of my clients who work for mid to large sized organizations (by the way non profits aren’t immune). From my vantage, it seems that a disturbing large number of workers these days feel “trapped” by this recession and are desperately looking for an “exit” strategy.

Few organizations can afford a mass exodus of talent. Yet here is a brief list of common complaints I hear daily as a coach: resentment about being micromanaged by a “toxic” boss, feeling under-appreciated and/or undervalued, weighted down by too much work, too few resources, a lack of autonomy and a mountain of processes/minutia that suck the life out of them!

Employee engagement matters greatly to performance and organizational success. One study by the Corporate Leadership Council found an increase in employee engagement can generate an increase of 20% in performance and an 87% reduction in employees’ probability of departure. The same study looked at the top drivers to employee engagement and determined the most important is a connection between the employees’ job and organizational strategy and an understanding (by the employee) of how important their job is to organizational success. Other top drivers were manager characteristics (as well as cultural traits) chiefly, good internal communication, a reputation of integrity, and a culture of innovation.

Most workers leave bad bosses not “bad” companies. Workers who like their boss and who feel their boss cares about them are more productive and less likely to fly the coop. We go the extra mile for bosses who we feel appreciate us and demonstrate respect for us.

My coach’s tips for increasing employee engagement:

  • Conduct an employee survey. Take the temperature of the organization and determine how they feel about morale, culture and management. Get input about what they would change. One suggested survey resource– the Gallup 12 question engagement survey.
  • Assess the strengths and career aspirations of your people. Ask them what they do best—what are they doing when they are in the “zone” or in flow. Find out how they think they can best contribute to the team or business. Help design their day-to-day work to maximize their potential to deliver their best.
  • Assess whether or not your processes/systems are helping or hindering your people’s success and performance. Ask them what they would change and how they would change it. Often manager’s get too far from the action to know what is working or not from the vantage of those on the front lines. Ask them!
  • Delegate and “coach” vs. micromanage. No one likes having someone look over his or her shoulder all day! Talented, committed people want (and deserve) autonomy and decision making authority. If they aren’t growing, improving and allowed to captain some of their own ship, odds are they will bail as soon as they have an opportunity.
  • Appreciate and recognize your people when they deliver for you. Reinforce what you want done again. Call them, send an email or better yet, go shake their hand, look them in the eye and say thank you. Sadly, most American workers report very low levels of workplace recognition (one Gallup survey reported 60% of workers saying they receive no praise or recognition in their workplaces!) If the only time your workers hear from you is when they do something wrong—you qualify as a bad boss.
  • Set clear goals and expectations. Define what success looks like when delegating projects.
  • Give and receive constructive specific feedback. Offer helpful feedback regularly. Most people want to know how they are doing and if they are behaving in a way that is problematic for the business or coworkers. This gives them an opportunity to change and improve. In turn, bosses need to go out of their way to create safe conditions for their people to give them reciprocal feedback (this means the boss should NOT get reactive or defensive when they do!). Ask your people what they want more of or less of from you.
  • Involve your people in creating a culture of innovation. Facilitate brain storming sessions and opportunities for them to contribute to improved ways of delivering for customers/clients.