It is human nature to overcomplicate and overthink things. Especially when it comes to employee engagement. Probably because it is a little bit of a black box when you are dealing with the soft side of the business.
What most people do when faced with trying to improve employee engagement is start by researching how to motivate their team. You may even hire consultants to help analyze and devise a plan, and you will probably end up with a “Total Rewards” thesis that is complex, expensive and time-consuming. And in the end, it may miss the mark in meeting your team’s needs.
This is a classic Occam's Razor scenario: when faced with the complex problem of how to improve employee engagement – the simplest solution is usually the right one. In Maslow’s Hierarchy, once a person’s basics needs are met – they are fairly paid and work in a safe environment – what they want most is to feel connected, proud, appreciated and energized. All key components for employee engagement.
Here are the basics and a few ideas that are simple, effective, won’t break the bank or require a Herculean effort to implement and manage:
Communication – Creating a sense of purpose and community through consistent communication where you share news, events, and successes is an integral part of building a positive workplace. You do not need to be the New York Times but publishing a few updates through a newsletter or intranet and having town hall meetings is always a good way to keep people up to date on your vision, mission, and values, as well as highlighting all the good things that are going on in the company. Invest a little time to keep people informed and connected to your company and culture. And who doesn’t love their picture in print? My guess is you have a couple of aspiring bloggers, photographers and videographers in your ranks, so create a communications team.
Empowerment – The more employees feel like they have the authority and autonomy to make decisions about how their work is done, the more engaged they become in their work and the company. A simple solution, when faced with a challenge or problem, is just ask the individual what they think should be done and then let them do it. Now that was easy. Empowerment and autonomy also lead to greater collaboration and sharing of ideas. And that can lead to productivity gains and increased performance. Avoid the urge to micromanage but also hold people accountable. That is part of the deal.
Trust – Trust is the main currency in the workplace. Trust is a two-way street and comes through transparency and respect. If you want to be trusted you must first give trust. The first part of giving trust is to ensure people feel informed and “in the know” – see point one – and if people feel respected, empowered and heard, you will build more trust – see point two. The simplest way to build trust is by giving time to those you lead. Weekly or monthly one-to-ones where you ask about how they are doing, what the team can do better, and what you can do to help them. It is as simple as having regular conversations where you listen more than talk. Most importantly, follow through or follow up on suggestions, ideas, and requests whenever possible and practical. If something is not possible just let them know why.
Growth Opportunities – An employee’s perception of internal growth and development opportunities is one of the most important predictors of employee engagement. Financial, career, professional, and personal opportunities for growth provide more reasons for employees to go the extra mile. Some simple things you can do to enhance engagement are:
- Provide training to improve skills and advance knowledge.
- Provide opportunities to work on special projects and meet key clients.
- Provide opportunities to lead teams and or meetings and work on committees.
Then throw in a little coaching and mentoring and you have a solid learning and development program your team will value and appreciate.
Recognition – Last, but not least, is recognition. Recognition is the easiest place to start if you want to build a solid foundation for engagement. A recognition program and system can be implemented at a low-cost and provide the high impact. Implementing a social peer-to-peer recognition platform will also allow you to create a universally consistent practice throughout the organization, creating a culture of appreciation. A good peer-to-peer recognition system that has the right social components will also allow you to check the boxes on the first four essential elements.
- Increase communication by highlighting and celebrating individual and company successes through recognition and publishing news, events and updates.
- Empower your team to give recognition to those around them, so they can help be keepers of your culture.
- Gain trust through recognition transparency, timeliness and increased frequency, which will build stronger connections between managers and team members.
- Encourage and recognize those who pursue personal and professional growth goals and highlight their contributions and accomplishments.
By implementing a peer-to-peer recognition system and social network focused on your company culture, your team will feel valued them and know that you are paying attention to their contributions.
All the research clearly shows employee engagement is a top issue for business leaders. If you are reading this blog post – it is obviously top of mind for you as well. To help you build a business case, here are a few reports and a white paper you can reference.
- The Deloitte Review Issue 16 – Becoming irresistible: A new model for employee engagement – Bersin clearly highlights employee engagement is a top issue for business leaders. Bersin also highlights how you need to move beyond surveys where you are just monitoring culture and engagement. You need to have proactive strategies and programs, like those mentioned above, to really make an impact.
- Gallup also published a great report that highlights how recognition is your quick low cost win in their June 2016 Business Journal – Employee Recognition: Low Cost, High Impact. Enough said.
- You probably have noticed that the word “rewards” was nowhere to be seen. That is because rewards are not what your team really needs. We go deep on that discussion in this white paper – RECOGNITION CAN TAKE YOU TO THE MOON.
Enjoy and good luck. If you have any questions, give us a call.