5 Tips to Grow Employee Engagement

by Mike O'Neill

These days, "employee engagement" is quite the buzzword, and for a good reason. You'll find it all over the place on websites and podcasts that produce content for HR professionals. 

However, despite its popularity, the phrase retains a natural level of ambiguity. As a result, it's often confused with employee satisfaction, which is a different side of the coin. 

Employee engagement can be measured, much like employee satisfaction can be measured. If you take the initiative to do so regularly, you'll notice tangible shifts for the positive - but only if you're taking concrete steps toward fostering increased engagement. 

And to do that, you need to have a baseline knowledge of how employee engagement differs from the other components that make up a healthy work environment. 

Here's a basic definition to get you started: 

"Employee engagement" is defined as the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their work, team, and organization.

I've spent decades working in the HR world. In doing so, I've come to realize that the best approach to enacting change is one that is both practical and actionable. 

When company leaders succeed in taking an approach meant to increase employee engagement, there are many benefits that may arise as a result.

Some of these include:

  • Improved focus and motivation to do well
  • Improvements to overall company culture 
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Boosted productivity 

And let's not forget that when employees are engaged, they are less likely to be looking for employment elsewhere, resulting in lower employee turnover costs and more room for profit. 

All of that probably sounds great, but in order to hold space for those perks within your company, you have to know where to start. 

It's not easy to implement new frameworks. Sifting through all of the advice out there can be daunting and intimidating. That's why I've taken the time to put together this post. 

I've helped companies of all sizes navigate the process of nurturing healthy work environments.

Below you'll find five fantastic starting points to kick things off as you work toward improving employee engagement. 

Keep Your Communication Skills Sharp

Employee engagement all boils down to one thing: communication. Without refined communication skills, all of the other suggestions mentioned here will falter. Often, I discover that people are unaware of how much bandwidth communication covers. 

It's about so much more than how people talk. It's about how you speak and what drives you to do so. Did you know that there are multiple types of communication styles? 

Figuring out what yours is and learning more about it can help you to enrich your level of self-awareness. It can provide a great deal of insight into the energy we emit when discussing with others. Once you've figured that out, you can show up more effectively in all your professional pursuits. 

Here are some critical ways that you can use communication to promote more robust employee engagement:

  • It can be challenging to identify productivity barriers, as they can vary from individual to individual. However, it is vital to encourage your employees to come to you if they have any concerns. This allows you to help them overcome any struggles they may be experiencing. By doing so, you also help your team achieve their productivity goals.
  • Be specific about job duties. If employees know exactly what is expected of them, they can focus on those tasks and not be confused about their role in the company.

Involve Employees In Company Goal Setting 

Often, people in leadership tackle goal setting by themselves. This type of behavior can create unnecessary barriers to forging genuine professional connections. If you're setting company goals, do what you can to involve employees in deciding on some of them with you. 

Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • If your staff feels involved in the goal-setting process, they're more likely to OWN those goals. Your objectives become their objectives. In turn, they will naturally pay more attention to what they're doing. They will put more effort into discerning if their actions are aligned or not with the desired outcome. 
  • Involving staff in the goal-setting process also creates opportunities to align some of your objectives with your employee's natural strengths. This boosts confidence and enables you to better understand your employees in ways you may otherwise miss. This can go a long way in encouraging employee participation across the board. Who knows, they may even reveal a strength that makes them a fantastic candidate for an upcoming promotion opportunity. 

Do You Have What it Takes to Get The Job Done?

It's all too easy to fall into the rabbit holes of assumption. It's common for those in leadership roles to wrongly assume that employees are more equipped to handle specific tasks than they are. Sometimes it is a matter of simple miscommunication. Other times, it results from being blatantly out of touch with employees in non-leadership positions. 

It's important to tend to the little details, no matter how far up the totem pole you've climbed. Neglecting to confirm whether or not all of the essential pieces are there puts the employees in an awkward position. Often, employees will presume that those in leadership roles are busy and refrain from asking for what they need. 

On the other hand, if you take the time to show that you understand the nuances of what is required for an upcoming task, it shows that you're considerate not only of what needs to be done but of the full process surrounding it. It shows a capacity for empathy that is essential in allowing employees to feel safe in expending more energy engaging with your company. 

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Suppose you've gotten the false impression that another staff member had already purchased the tools needed for a worker to complete a job. You're watching the employee do something else instead, wondering why they're procrastinating. You've now opened an unfair door to judgments about your employee. If you had taken the time to clarify, you would have realized that they were not procrastinating but instead stuck waiting for you. 
  • With the above example in mind, it's easy to see that if you're asking employees to do something, it's critical to not only provide the necessary resources, training, and tools but to double-check that everything is in place. This prevents unnecessary confusion and frustration while also promoting peak productivity.

Are You Fostering A Cohesive Environment? 

It is critical to respect personal boundaries while in professional settings. However, the line between honoring your privacy and coming across as unapproachable is very fine. It's crucial to balance professionalism with space for workplace connection. 

When you take the initiative in doing so, teamwork naturally rises, and increased employee engagement often results. There's no need to go all out with planning elaborate employee outings. Creating little opportunities here and there to spark up conversations with coworkers during the workday is often enough. When approached from a place like this, people can discern for themselves how much they want to share about their lives outside of work without feeling ostracized for not accepting an invitation to meet everyone out at the bar for drinks. 

Here are a couple of additional key points: 

  • Staff members must feel that they're a part of the bigger picture. If an employee feels like a cog in the machine, they won't be very keen on giving their full energy to nurturing their job responsibilities. Providing simple opportunities to interact and connect can help to mitigate feelings of "otherness" that can arise when some staff members have leadership positions and others do not. 
  • With teamwork comes an inherent sense of accountability. There's an increased desire to show up fully and focus on personal and professional growth. This willingness to accept responsibility is hard to find outside of work environments outside of robust and healthy work cultures. Without cohesion and a feeling of camaraderie, healthy company culture fails to thrive - feeding an "everybody out for themselves" mindset. 

Today's Workforce Expects Feedback

Twenty years ago, things were different. Feedback was not commonplace, typically only showing up in the event of something extreme - good or bad. Today’s workforce not only values but often needs clarity. This is why today, a lack of feedback can actually result in sending a lousy message to staff. 

Here's why providing feedback is important:

  •  If you don't regularly provide feedback or insights into performance, an employee might feel that you aren't paying attention to the efforts. This can be demoralizing. Even if it's just a quick "thanks" or "nice job," letting an employee know that you're paying attention can make a big difference.
  •  Often, work policies change, and there isn't always a lot of advanced warning. As a leader, you need to be equipped to handle sweeping changes that come in fast. A part of that process entails working with employees to ensure they adjust appropriately. Without ongoing feedback, it just isn't possible. 

Show a Willingness To Assist With Professional Development

Put yourself in your employee's shoes. If you were in their position, would you give your all to a company that didn't allow any opportunities for growth in your chosen field? Would you bother to engage at all beyond the minimum of what your position required? From that standpoint, it gets easier to see how growth opportunities go hand in hand with having a healthy work culture. Growth opportunities also benefit the company itself. When employees feel they're able to grow, they're more likely to be invested in their work. They take greater pride in their projects and are likelier to go above and beyond what's required. 

Here are a couple of points to consider:

  • Offering additional training, professional mentoring, or other applicable professional development resources demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in employee growth. It lets your employees know that you see their potential. 
  • Employees are more likely to engage and put forward their best efforts when they know there is an opportunity for expansion. When you neglect to provide these opportunities, you send the message to your employees that they've reached a dead end, signaling that they should conserve their energy for engaging with more lively prospects elsewhere. 

These five methods of boosting employee engagement will, in all likelihood, boost your own level of engagement with the company. 

When working towards increasing the health of a work atmosphere, people often begin to notice little things about themselves that they had not previously seen. When you fully engage with the process, you make space for getting out of your own way - noticing little opportunities to foster even deeper engagement through leading by example. 

Would you like to learn more about how you can continue positioning your company for longevity? The process is simple. 

We can discuss what's working and what isn't and then explore some potential solutions together. 

Reach out today so we can book your free, low-pressure phone call!

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