Anyone who leads people will tell you that employee engagement is important. Ask them what that means or how to do it, and you’re often met with a blank stare. Barbecues, team-building events (née an afternoon playing golf or gathering for drinks after work) and the tired-and-true suggestion box are usually rattled off as great ideas to engage employees.
As the French would say…bonne chance.
If you spend five minutes with Google you’ll find enough theoretical models, drivers, opinions, analyses and never-ending statistics, to make your eyes spin – enough to make most leaders feel that engagement is a full-time job on top of a full time job.
But, there’s hope! In actuality, it’s simpler than you think. So, put away the theories and drop the spreadsheets. Here are five simple things you can do to start building an engaged team.
1. Sweat the small stuff – everyday.
Everyone wants to feel that they’ve accomplished something when they leave work everyday. But as we all know, life is full of unexpected little things that get in the way and make things difficult. Ineffective processes, broken equipment, missing parts or bunt-out lights – these “nickel-and-dime issues” frustrate even the most upbeat souls.
Sweat the small stuff – change the bulbs, chase missing parts and get stuff fixed. Push back against silly, restrictive rules and processes that don’t make sense but do make work unnecessarily difficult. Nobody expects that things will go swimmingly all the time, but your team does expect that if you have the ability to listen and get things done, that you will.
2. Build relationships.
Great leaders know their people. They know about their strengths, aspirations, interests, pets, family, hobbies, the food they love and the movies they hate. And, they let their teams get to know them just as well. Trust is built from solid relationships – and leaders need to be trusted to be effective. Sure, challenges arise, fuses shorten and mistakes happen – but it’s much easier to come together and recover from the tough stuff when there’s a solid relationship already in place.
3. Talk engagement, without talking about engagement.
Engaged employees are connected – emotionally – to their leader, and to what the company does for their customers and the communities they serve. They don’t become engaged because the company set an engagement target to meet – so don’t talk about it. Talk about the stuff that gets employees excited about working with you in the first place. Which brings us to our next point…
4. Make sure everyone knows how they fit.
Everyone plays an important role – otherwise their job wouldn’t exist. Sure, some jobs carry much more risk and responsibility than others, but every job does something that fits into the company’s big picture. Talk with people about how what they do everyday is important and helps make the company successful. There’s no better way to ensure someone feels proud of what they do than to show them that they matter.
The big stuff, small stuff, team stuff and personal stuff. We spend a ton of time picking things apart to “manage the exceptions” and continually improve, without recognizing the hard work and great results that customers and teammates rely on. A few sincere and well chosen words of praise go a long, long way.
Employee engagement isn’t as much of a mystery as we think. While there’s no magic solution, these are a few simple things that leaders can start doing today to build engaged teams.
What simple, everyday things do you do to build engagement at work?
Leave your thoughts and comments below.