Promoting Employee Engagement – A Leadership Challenge

Earlier I discussed the large percentage of our employees are typically disengaged at work and worse those that are actively disengaged and probably having a subtle yet destructive effect on our mission and profitability. Now we have to look how to counteract this by creating the environment for engagement by our employees.

Here are the needs the Gallup’s Q12 survey on employee engagement found are significant perquisites to build a work culture of engagement:

1)     Knowing what is expected of me and having the materials to do the job

2)     Recognition for what our employees do (emphasis on frequently)

3)     Their supervisor cares about that and supports them

4)     Their opinion matters and there is a purpose or mission to what they do

5)     Quality matters and there is a safe environment – both physically and intellectually

6)     There is a plan and opportunity for the employee to learn and grow

Employees with more education and millennials are also going to be harder to keep engaged than older generations that have been in the workforce longer. Millennials are generally less sticky and more likely to move jobs or careers if they perceive a short-term advantage. The leadership challenge then for us managers is to actively promote engagement by addressing these needs in the workplace. Promoting engagement has been found to eliminate active disengagement in the work culture!

I think there are two primary ways to focus on addressing these needs: 1) supervisory style; 2) promoting strengths of our employees.

What is a strength? Simply put it is a knowledge, skill, or ability that you are good at, in the work place it is a resource that should be harnessed. Our supervisors should understand what our employees strengths are and we has leaders should understand their strengths as well as our own and play to them. How can we do this? Take an inventory. Ask your supervisors to identify the strengths of their team members, spend some time thinking about your key management employee’s strengths as well as your own. Identify them, label them, debrief them in a group format, appreciate them in each other. If you are looking for a formal approach you could use Marcus Buckingham’s Standout approach. Buckingham is the author of Standout2.0, for the cost of the book $20-$25 you have each employee complete an assessment which will provide you and them with an evaluation of their strengths in the work place. Have someone from your Human Resources team or an outside facilitator map the results and debrief them with the group – I did, and we laid the foundation for engagement.

Supervisory styles can have a major affect on addressing some of the needs. A supervisor with a consultative or participative management style is more likely to have employees who think their opinion is valued, have a connection to their work, and care about the quality and purpose behind what they do. A good side effect of these styles is that it is likely to encourage team work both within and between functional work units. Autocratic supervisory styles are more likely to have the opposite effect. Encourage your supervisors to build positive habits like seeking input from their employees on addressing important projects and problems, making a point of recognizing people for their contributions and giving them weekly feedback on what they do.

These are a just a few simple things that can be incorporated – at the center of this change in approach though is the concept of employee autonomy. A topic I will talk about more in the next post.

#leadership #servantleadership #icma

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