I walked into the office of a client and I could instantly feel a low level of energy and morale in the office. The air was thick with uncertainty, change fatigue and employees sitting in clustered groups of their functions, whilst other teams weren’t connected at all. The office energy was low with little talking, laughter or engagement with other employees. Does this sound familiar?
I began the discovery phase asking questions at focus groups; one on one interviews and interviewing leaders within the business. As an outcome I was able to identify the biggest kept secret… And what was missing that resulted in low engagement and morale.
It was a great eye-opener. It became clear that everyone controls their attitude and engagement levels, individuals are responsible for their own level of engagement on a day-to-day basis. The only person controlling how you feel and think about the company is the individual employee.
However, by interviewing a number of individuals and groups, it was evident that the missing elements to achieving high levels of engagement were found not in how the individual approached their work, but more in the environment, atmosphere and spirit of the business set by the leaders.
So what are the key drivers that leaders can have an impact on to achieve increased levels of engagement and productivity? So what are the “secrets fir every Leader” to know creates strong employee engagement?
As a leader you create the environment that stimulates engagement from employees. A Leader does not have any control over how engaged an employee is directly.
A recent survey undertaken by Monster.com’s 2017 US Workforce Talent Survey of 6,000 employees showed the top 5 motivators of employees to be:
- Use of Skills and abilities, was ranked No.1 at 97%
- Respect and appreciation from their Leaders also ranked equal No.1 at 97%
2.Job Security ranked 2nd at 95%
- My Leader ranked 3rd at 92%
- Training ranked 4th at 91%
Performance Feedback (regular) ranked 4th equal at 91%
So what are the Top Secrets you need to know?
As a Leader you have a direct impact on creating an environment that fosters high levels of engagement, through the values you role model and the trust you build with your team, among other core leadership practices.
1.Autonomy: Human beings in general are motivated by making their own decisions and being in control of their life. Employee’s in a workplace can be motivated and build confidence through encouragement by their Leader to make decisions in their role where they can without having to check regularly with their Leader. Employees thrive in an environment that breed’s autonomy in roles where they have the ability to self-lead in their role.
2. Recognition and acknowledgement is an extremely important practice for leaders. A simple “thank you or well done” is all it takes; and yet I am still surprised by the lack of recognition given by leaders in some companies. Recognition could take many forms.
Here are 3 Tips:
a. Leadership team: the following question could be part of your team agenda when meeting on a regular basis – “Who can we recognize this week for a great work?” “What are the rewards for great effort”? Create some criteria around this and then begin to implement.
b. Increase responsibilities for employees whose performance exceeds company expectations, and who are hungry to be stretched and are ambitious.
c. Competitions: This is a great strategy to increase collaboration and engagement. For example: As the L&D project lead for one of my clients, we wanted to name a project and went out as a competition to every employee asking for submissions. We had a panel of judges (Working group) and chose the top 2. We then went back out to everyone with the top two and asked for their vote for their preferred name. The winner received a reward.
Employees are enthusiastic and excited about what they do when they are recognized for their contribution to the success of the team or organisation.
3. Transparency: As a Leader, being transparent and consistently communicating changes, updates on projects, WIP and other business information, is essential to high engagement. Create an open and strong trusting relationship with your employees and wider organizational community. Even if you need to communicate bad news to your employees, what employees want is to know! Transparency builds trust and respect from employees, who in turn will stand by the company, continue to be productive in tougher times and be engaged in striving for business results.
4. Planning: I’m astounded at the low amount or no planning some Leaders engage in. I’ve seen Leaders drive their team without a tactical plan or strategy and if they have a plan it’s very vague and unclear. This typically results in confused and frustrated employees who don’t have clarity of purpose or direction and even more detrimental is this results in inconsistency in all areas of the business. As a leader spend time to design a strategy, create a plan and get the team involved. Communicating a draft plan and asking your team for their input ensures everyone feels they belong to the big picture and goals of the organization.
5. Engagement surveys: Ask your employees how engaged they are. No matter whether your company has 50 or 500 to 5000 employees. Ask for improvements that can be made to increase productivity and outcomes. And take action. This is the most effective practice that will ensure you 1. Understand how engaged your employees are, 2. What can be changed and improved on and 3. How effective your leadership team is in creating an environment that stimulates high engagement. Get an expert consultant in to set this up and then present the results.
6. Building relationships: Building employee trust and confidence in the company’s leadership team is a sure shot strategy for improving employee engagement. Employees who feel alienated or distant from day-to-day operations or strategic decisions are likely to be or become disengaged.
7. Discipline and Rhythm: Ensure you have a solid business rhythm in place. How often do you commit to 5 minute stand-up meetings? When do you have “fun meetings” or “learning meetings”. How often do you recognize and reward? How often do you as a leader walk the floor?
8. Your leadership identity. Who are you BEING as a leader, as opposed to what you DO as a leader? Employees today want to be lead by a leader who is empathetic, caring, able to listen and receive without judgment, bias and who able to be lead and yet be vulnerable at the same time.
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