You’ve probably heard a lot lately about this idea of employee engagement. There are some scary statistics being thrown around; two-thirds of workers are less than fully engaged in their jobs (Aon Hewitt, 2013) with 18% “actively disengaged” (Gallup, 2013).
I know when I read those stats I think, “Well, big businesses are like that. Lots of folks wandering around not doing much…” But then I think about the businesses I work with every day. Maybe it’s not two-thirds, but I’m confident that there are people in your organization who have more to give, who are surfing, or loafing, or even actively working on outside projects, when they should be producing value for your firm.
I know. Just reading this is giving you hives. Some of you are paranoid. You are tempted to spy on your employees, identify the slackers, and root them out. Or, you may take a more aggressive stance: “Fire everyone. Clean house. Yeah, that’s it.”.
But let’s pause for a minute and look a little closer at what our responsibility in employee engagement is. How do we contribute to the malaise of some (or many) of our employees?
1. What about trust and respect?
Think about a team you were on where you were totally engaged. How did it feel? What were the relationships like between team members? If you were really engaged, I’m just going to guess that it wasn’t an unpleasant experience.
For me, I remember being most engaged on a team of high performing peers. We each thought of ourselves as the weak link on the team and, consequently, all of us worked really hard. When you’re on a team where skill and performance levels are high, it can inspire everyone to up their game – just out of respect for the other team members. It’s hard to say which comes first, do you trust people you respect? Or do you respect people you trust?
In any case, I was on a team where I trusted the people I worked with to do good work, and I wanted to prove myself trustworthy.Have you built an environment of respect and trust? An environment where each team member is respected and and valued? How do you know?
2. Is there a clear call to engage?
Teams that have great engagement have clear goals, and a visible scoreboard that shows team members how the organization is making progress toward those goals.
How do your team members know that they are making a difference? Can they see the effect that their extra effort is having on moving the organization toward it’s goals?
3. Are we inviting our teams into a clean house?
When we are inviting our team members to engage with our organization we invite them to join with us, with our values and mission. Whatever values we are demonstrating to the team are the values they are evaluating. They look at us and ask themselves, “Is this what I want to be a part of?”.
Have you berated your team members? Do you tell off-color jokes or make discriminatory or judgmental comments? (These are all habits that violate trust, by the way.) Whatever the habits you have, do they reflect a culture that your team wants to be a part of?
4. How have we shown our team that we are willing to go the extra mile?
Think again about that team you were a part of — what were the “little things” that showed people that they were an important part of the team? In what ways did people get noticed, recognized or supported? What are your team members asking for that would make their lives and jobs easier? What are some things you can do to show them that you are going the extra mile?
These things are not always big ticket items, there are lots of inexpensive or easy things you can do to demonstrate that you value your team members. Things that would inspire respect, appreciation and a desire to give back?
Real leaders go first. If you want to improve employee engagement on your team, you need to demonstrate that you are fully engaged and trustworthy. And you need to live by values that others would want to engage with. Do that. And watch your team’s response.
Photo Credit: US Department of Education