Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation and its goals. This affects the level of effort they put in. The more an employee is engaged, the more they put in the effort. This will result in a better service to customers and higher retention of staff, as well as increased productivity. By enabling higher levels of engagement, customer loyalty improves and profits increase.
What is needed to encourage staff engagement?
The core of staff engagement is creating an environment where staff elect to work to their full potential and put in their best efforts. This requires you to develop a relationship based on trust and commitment to one another. Show your employees you care about them. Consider whether your actions show that you appreciate your staff or not. It can be as simple as ensuring they have a nice place to work. How can you expect staff to feel valued if they are working in a scruffy office with a leaking roof? Show them you are committed to them. How can you expect staff to be committed if they have employment contracts that leave them feeling vulnerable with no prospects? How could you ask them for commitment if you show no commitment to them?
Employee engagement is about staff members each knowing their role within the organisation, i.e. what they bring to the table. Include them in the business process so they understand their importance to the success of the organisation. When staff are in control, aware of their role, and know what is expected of them, they feel valued and part of the bigger picture. Then, it becomes easier for them to see why they are important, and that by doing their very best and connecting to the organisation, they can influence its future prosperity. By allowing staff to take an element of control and feel connected, they feel pride in what they are working on or achieving.
For example, a member of staff working in a warehouse may not see how their work affects the overall performance and profit of the company. However, when they become involved in enterprising solutions as part of a team, they will start to understand the importance of their role in providing the customer with a good experience. Then they will feel that their role is of great value to the success of the organisation.
For staff to fully take advantage of being engaged, you need to encourage them to share. Those who are not listened to will soon become frustrated and will either leave or stop making any effort. They need to feel involved, and that means as a leader you will need to keep them informed whilst enabling them to input into the organisational plans.
Trust and empowerment
You cannot get employee engagement through bribery, promise of a better future, emotional manipulation, or scare tactics. There are no shortcuts to having a more engaged team. It requires two-way trust between you and your staff, and empowering your staff to take control and make decisions.
If you don’t trust your staff members to carry out a requested action, then there is no point in talking about empowerment. Staff need to take responsibility for their actions or lack of actions. When they take responsibility and achieve something, they will begin to have an increasing feeling of pride in their work and feel more engaged in the business.
Empowerment and trust have to be built over time. Enterprise projects can enable this to happen by providing staff with opportunities to get involved and demonstrate their skills outside their usual role.
It’s important to realise that just saying that you are empowering staff doesn’t mean they will understand and value that. Many staff members fear taking a stand and doing something different. Taking a stand requires courage, as staff may fear trying something different and failing—and therefore looking bad in front of their colleagues. It’s important that employees understand trying and failing is part of moving forward. They need to be confident that no one will laugh at the failure, but will offer encouragement and support to try again. This will help employees overcome the barrier of not wishing to try something new.
Support: it needs to be more than “I’m here if you need me”
When staff are asked to go off and develop new ideas, work on their own initiative, and develop new solutions, management must consider the need for support. Each individual will require different levels of support, depending on the project or their experience. So you need to know when and how to do that.
Support in an enterprising environment is about providing light-touch guidance and high levels of encouragement and motivation. Support needs to be more about mentoring than providing solutions. When staff members are working on enterprising ideas, elements can go wrong, ideas need to be reworked and taken right back to the drawing board. Many staff members worry that they are being judged—that others are seeing their efforts as failures, not a step closer to finding the right solution. It is at this time that a supportive leader can make all the difference. The leader has the enterprising individual’s back.
|This blog is an extract from my new book “Enterprise Within” which can be purchased from Amazon or here on my web site and forms part of my talk “Developing stretchy people in the workplace”|