Based on the countless surveys, consultants, strategies, and team activities that have permeated the lives of corporate employees.
Every company wants more engaged employees.
• Why, then, does engagement continue to dwindle?
• What about these strategies isn’t working?
• Why does it seem like the companies with the highest levels of employee engagement are trying the least?
The answer is fairly simple – the companies struggling with engagement are all about changing policy and practice, but not about impacting company culture.
Here are three ways to foster the kind of change that will boost engagement in any company:
People want to know what’s going on, plain and simple. When bureaucracy and “need to know” information stand in the way of an employee getting a clear view of what the company is up to, they feel like an invisible cog, moving the machine toward an unknown destination. If an employee isn’t even aware of the end result of their work, or what goals they are helping the company achieve, how can we expect them to care about it?
Instead of keeping employees in the dark, why not share information across the board? A big contract or new project on the horizon might drum up some excitement. If employees know why a program excelled or failed, down to the gritty details, they will be more likely to take personal responsibility.
This isn’t rocket science: the more people know, the more they care.
2. Recognition and Gratitude
People also want to be recognized for a job well done, or really, just for a job done. This doesn’t mean incentivizing every employee or throwing a party every time a project is completed. It means real, genuine thanks for each individual’s contribution to the company.
This is something that doesn’t really function as an official policy – no one wants to be thanked because it’s required. There doesn’t even need to be a big show made of it – simply thank and employee for contributing to the company’s success in a personal and individualized way.
Managers and supervisors must also understand the cultural shift involved here: express gratitude genuinely because the employees are the lifeblood of the company, because you actually appreciate their contributions, not because it’s required or because it will boost engagement. A genuine thanks goes a long, long way.
Independence can be scary for some employees, and particularly for managers, but studies (and successful companies) show that the more freedom we give our employees, the more productive they become. Allowing employees, no matter what kind of environment they work in, to have some control over their own professional lives is hugely empowering. Even small steps, like choosing your own lunch break or slightly flexible scheduling, puts the responsibility on the worker – they will take lunch when it fits with their wants, needs, and workload, not when the whistle blows.
Some companies take this concept further, allowing employees to determine their own schedules, or focus on task/project completion, not hours on the clock. This kind of autonomy puts the ball in the employee’s court – they are responsible for maintaining their own standards of productivity. Allowing employees to self-manage indicates two very important things: that they are trusted by the company to make decisions and maintain their own projects, and that their workload is no one’s responsibility but their own.
When people are micromanaged or feel like someone is always looking over their shoulder, they shut down. Constant supervision restricts creativity. Allowing employees to find their own methods, to apply their own unique perspective to the needs of the company, promotes independence, stimulates “outside the box” thinking, and of course, boosts engagement. People tend to rise to the challenges presented to them.
Employee engagement is not rooted in policy or surveys, nor can it be gained overnight. Real employee engagement comes from working in a place that is enjoyable, where individual ideas and strengths are embraced, and where the employee feels like a valuable component of the company. This is a culture of engagement, and the businesses that get it right will continue to enjoy success, both internally and externally.
HOW DOES YOUR COMPANY CULTURE FOSTER ENGAGEMENT?
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.