Gallup found that organizations with highly-engaged employees outperform the competition by 147 percent in earnings per share. And when we talk about employee engagement we often talk about the benefits and perks that show employees their companies care about their well-being.
There’s another element of employee engagement to consider, however. The actions of management have an important role as well. In his recent Inc.com article, Martin Zwilling outlines actions for management:
1. Top management must be the role model for engagement. That means a visible and timely acknowledgment from the top to change "business as usual," with specific actions to improve the culture and resolve known issues. Asking HR to fix the problem won't work. Don't be the manager who can't be found, or is "too busy" to focus on engagement.
2. Provide positive feedback and rewards to engaged employees. Take daily time to provide genuine and specific feedback on things done well, as well as items needing attention. Praise alone, especially in front of peers, is one of the most powerful engagement motivators. Monetary awards and bonuses are good, but not sufficient.
3. Add a higher purpose to your vision and shared values. Today, every employee wants to feel a sense that they are bringing more than profit to a company - they want to feel a sense of positive contribution to the environment and society as well.
For example, Whole Foods and Patagonia raise engagement by focusing on health and sustainability.
4. Measure your investment in engagement as an asset. Too many companies think of employee development efforts and benefits as an expense that must be minimized.
They don't recognize that employees drive customer growth, improve productivity, and drive company success. They, like you, are the key assets of every thriving business.
5. Share business realities and issues with employees. Keeping employees in the dark on business problems and customer issues is a sure way to lose their trust and their engagement in the business. You cannot ask workers to take on more responsibility without demonstrating full transparency and treating them as a key part of the team.
6. Hire and mentor people who show engagement in prior roles. People willing to engage are actually more valuable than those with deeper skills or prior experience.
After the hire, the keys are mentoring and continuous training, as well as providing growth opportunities to retain the best. The result is a culture of engagement and performance.
7. Promote a more collaborative leadership style. Of course, top leaders must retain the final say, but efforts to work collaboratively will encourage and reward engagement, and expose the ones who are not engaged. When employees feel they are not heard, or have no say in the business, they have no incentive to take risks or do their best work.
8. Admit and demonstrate that you have learned from them. Active listening is the key message here. You can't learn while you are talking, or not engaged yourself. Great leaders have found that mentoring works both ways, and taking the time connect to each employee, over lunch, or outside of work, will pay big dividends in their engagement.
In his article, Zwilling points out that many employees are also overwhelmed by the rate of change they see in business today, making them hesitant and fearful of fully engaging. Sometimes the best thing you can do is not to try to force them to change, but simply be there for them as they struggle to change themselves.