It’s no secret that our world is well-connected. We receive instant news updates, send quick messages, video chat with remote users, and essentially manage our lives through a single device. As exciting as it is to be able to manage work virtually, it opens the door to assumptions that employee’s needs are being met. While remote communication has eliminated many gaps in time and distance, it hasn’t eliminated the need for face-to-face communication, fellowship and, in this case, employee engagement.
Employee engagement is critical for companies seeking to encourage passion with the right perspective. A Gallup poll found top performing work units in employee engagement outperformed bottom units by 10% on customer ratings, 17% in productivity, 20% in sales, and 21% in profitability.
If we desire for the workplace to promote collaboration, creativity and strong employee engagement, communication must be fostered from a top-down strategy. What is and is not acceptable must be exemplified by leadership through the four engagement tactics of learning more about employees, equipping them to handle their work, communicating clearly, and supporting growth recognition and discipline opportunities.
Getting to know your employees on a personal level is a simple and effective way to build a lasting relationship. Asking them about their families, their hobbies, and what bothers them outside of work shows that you care about their well-being and that you’re open to talking about important aspects of their life.
This means setting aside dedicated time to catch up and make sure their goals and expectations are met. It’s one thing to speak over the phone regarding day-to-day work, but the temptation is high to multitask in the background. Schedule regular face-to-face interactions focused on their needs. More than likely, you will learn a lot more about what your employees like and don’t like and how to better communicate moving forward.
As a leader, you have the unique insight into understanding how the company works and what your employee’s responsibilities will involve. When someone new begins with the company, tasks can seem overwhelming and a bit confusing, especially if they haven’t handled this work before. Make sure you clearly outline expectations and ensure training is appropriate while troubleshooting alongside them. Work can halt quickly when employees are uncertain of what to do or who to approach. Develop guided interactive situations where questions can be asked before letting them fly.
Equipping will often involve hands-on training, but don’t forget to provide your employees with the hardware and software they will need. Pens, pencils, and erasers will only go so far. Prepare before new employees begin so you can have them set up so you aren’t left scrambling during orientation. As a general habit, it might be good to consider regular check-ins with the team to discuss and try out new tools like project management software or shared documentation. This will encourage you to listen, collaborate and foster an attitude of engagement.
Listening is the golden rule of effective communication. Provide employees with a regular touchpoints for voicing opinions, expressing concerns and sharing successes. This can be accomplished through regular meetings, and should be completely free of your well-intended meanderings. Let them talk and address their items. It’s one thing to tell your employees that you’re listening, it’s a completely different story when you respond and take action. Engagement is enhanced when all team members have the ability to express needs and receive feedback.
Be sure to also keep employees posted on company development and change. Transparency in company planning (or lack thereof) is a high reason for turnover. Sharing a company’s success is noteworthy, yes, but sharing a company’s failures and struggles will encourage employees to step up and take on projects that they may have otherwise not known about.
Communicating transparency in your own schedule is also valid as your time may be swallowed up by leadership or client projects. Talk with your team and alert them to the fact that you might be a bit more strained for time. Even if it doesn’t directly affect them, keeping the lines of communication open will keep them from guessing and making assumptions as to what could be taking you away.
Support can take on many forms, but often the best tactics are the most straightforward. A simple “good job” and “thank you” go a long way. Acknowledging helpful and well-executed work with employees will show individuals that their work does not go unnoticed and that similar work is desired for the future. If projects or tasks were performed at a higher than expected level, don’t hesitate to reward the individual. Whether it’s an awards ceremony, promotion within the company, or monetary thanks, recognition will leave employees with something to strive towards.
An overlooked element of support is the element of encouraged growth. Sometimes employee engagement fails, not because they don’t like the company, but because they don’t have direction. As a leader, talent recognition and cultivation of strong skills will point people in the right direction. Provide open opportunities for these skilled workers to step into new roles. If confidence is lacking, guide until they are able to repeat actions without your assistance. Even if the result isn’t perfect, provide the critique they need and encourage hard work.
Lastly, supporting employees may mean identifying problem children and disciplining appropriately. As a good director overseeing growing employees, be watching for bad habits. When employees come to you with concerns about those they work with, ask important questions revealing the issue at hand. If you are already in the business of employee engagement that seeks to communicate, you should hopefully know which employees are being honest with you and which ones are tattling. Support your employees by addressing the problem immediately. The longer you wait, the more frustrated they become. When disciplining, come with the right attitude of hope for change in the behavior. Extend grace where warranted and be more direct with consequences if it happens to be a repeat or serious offense. When you don’t let offenses go unnoticed, employees will feel validated and encouraged to exercise good behavior.