How To Improve Employee Engagement: 6 Ways To Go Beyond Lip Service And Plaques On The Wall

When you walk into the doors of your workplace, what’s the vibe? Is it buzzing with people that can’t wait to dig in or is it a bunch of daytime zombies going through the motions. Do you feel the desire to contribute or endless watching the clock for 5pm from your team?

Strong employee engagement is what sets exceptional organizations apart from good organizations.

In my team’s 178 plus years of combined work experience, we’ve seen a lot of cultures and seen first hand how the best improve employee engagement and the worst ignore the need for it.

 

Here are some best practice ways you can help your team improve employee engagement:

 

#1 Go Beyond Lip Service

This may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked into a team’s workplace to see that plaque on the wall that highlights the employee of the month or the mass, usually non-personalized email that spotlights someone’s performance. The challenge is, that point-in-time and non-personalized recognition feels like nothing more than lip service. If you want to truly improve employee engagement, your efforts need to go beyond the town hall meetings and email announcements. They need to be a daily priority for the organization and for leadership.

 

#2 Connect The Dots

One of the greatest things you can do to improve employee engagement is to show each and every person how their efforts contribute to the bottom line. I once saw a leader list out one action that each of his team took that led to the implementation of a new idea. He mentioned everyone from the receptionist to the lead salesperson to the janitor. Not only was it impressive, it was meaningful. All those people walked away that day feeling acknowledged and valued. In a very authentic and heartfelt way, he made sure everyone on his team understood how their efforts, regardless of how high or low profile, contributed to the team’s success. Connect the dots for your team and watch employee engagement shoot up.

 

#3 Invest Back

I recently heard that in today’s marketplace, people will have 7 different jobs by the time they hit 35 years old. Crazy right?! So why invest in your people if they are going to take all that training and walk out the door? Because employees that get training, stay longer. Every time I’ve met an employee that’s been with a company for 5 years or more, I ask them why they stayed so long. The answer always includes something about how the company invested in their development. Trained employees are better at and happier with their jobs, and feel invested in by the organization they give so much of their time and energy to. That training can range from inexpensive book clubs to individual development plans. The point is to invest back in the people that invest their energy in you.

 

#4 Ask

As management guru Peter Drucker once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” While I believe that to be true, the first question you have to ask yourself is, “what do we measure?” and that boils down to another question, “what do your teams care about?” Often times we measure things that we as the president or c-suite care about, but perhaps that’s not what adds value to your employees. I’ve seen companies spend a lot of time improving things that their employees didn’t actually care about. Things like the number of drinks in the cafeteria. No joke! Leadership thought that endless beverage choices was fun for their teams. But, do you know what they cared about more? The ability to personalize their workspaces. Before you go improving employee engagement find out what makes your employees happy, what gets them excited about their work, and then innovate and improve against that.

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#5 Enabling Infrastructure

Do you know what’s more frustrating than having a tough task to accomplish? Not having the tools to tackle it to the best of your ability. If you want to improve employee engagement you need to ensure that you have what Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report calls “Enabling Infrastructure.” Think of it as providing the tools and resources to allow people to perform at their peak and do their best work. If employees have six passwords to remember, seven approvals for every decision and eight times they have to share their work because there are no collaboration tools, you better believe that frustration will be high and engagement will be low. Take stock of your enabling infrastructure and, at the bare minimum, make sure you aren’t creating unnecessary roadblocks and at the best, invest in tools that will support and elevate your employees.

 

#6 Don’t Reward Outcomes

Rewards are essential to improving employee engagement. But, how and what you reward for is as, if not more, important than the reward itself. As leaders we are given the advice that we need to give rewards, but, then we fall into the trap of only rewarding successes. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to start rewarding failure too. I actually don’t want you to reward either, the successes or the failures. Instead, I want to take a big step back and instead of rewarding the outcomes, I want you to reward the behaviors you are looking for, regardless of where they lead. Think about it from your team’s perspective. If my only two options are success which leads to cake on Fridays and company announcement or failure which leads to a long conversation about what we learned and the failure shelf, am I going to bring my most innovative ideas to the table? The ones that get me jazzed to come to work? No, of course not. That’s like playing Russian Roulette with my ideas. The organizations we’ve worked with to develop a real culture of innovation, recognize that in order to do that you have to reward behaviors, not outcomes. Reward that junior staffer for speaking up in the meeting even though everyone else wanted to go a different direction. Or thank the manager that went out of their way to solve a customer challenge. If you want people to show up and be fully present at work, reward the behaviors you want to see more of. This is so important, rewarding outcomes actually squelches the creativity in your workplace, but rewarding behaviors allows creativity to thrive.

 

Whether you work in an office with a toxic environment or in a super cool downtown warehouse, improving employee engagement is about your teams feeling like the leadership and the culture support and foster their growth. And, when employees feel like they have the permission and the tools to bring their best selves to work, everyone gains the competitive advantage.

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