As a manager you know that keeping employees engaged is important, but what exactly does it look like? According to best-selling author Kevin Kruse, who wrote Employee Engagement is for Everyone, engaged employees are those who use “discretionary effort” and are willing to go the extra mile. They have an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals.
Are you looking to build a team with that type of commitment? The game plan, not surprisingly, starts with you. Here are practical ideas you can implement immediately to help build a team of dedicated players.
Communicate Clear Expectations
Does your team know exactly what you expect of them? According to a study on employee engagement, 71% of respondents said that “communicating clear expectations” was the linchpin to improving engagement. When you talk with your team, focus both on the measureable result expected (“increase sales by 5%") as well as the ethical guidelines that surround the task (“while maintaining our integrity in the sales process”). By framing your expectation with both of these elements, you demonstrate not only what you expect of your team in terms of tangible results, but also what you expect of their behavior while striving for those outcomes.
Describe the Rationale
To feel buy-in to a project, people need to understand the reasoning behind what they’re being asked to do. One experienced leader who understands this is Bob Richards, who is the global director of operational excellence for a Fortune 500 company. Richards’ team has won industry awards, and Richards himself won a management award for having the team with the highest employee engagement scores in the company. He says: “The most important thing any leader can do to engage employees is to spend as much time explaining the why behind the task or project as the what to be accomplished. I am always amazed by the creativity and positive emotional engagement it generates.”
Ditch the Micromanaging
Do you know the single biggest factor that would improve an employee’s level of engagement? According to research, it’s “control over how I do my work.” When people feel they control how they perform a task, they have a greater sense of ownership, which leads to feeling more connected to the work they do. A micromanaging boss is a huge drag on employee engagement, and chances are, you don’t even know you’re doing it. Whenever you feel the need to step in to correct an employee, first ask, “Am I redirecting this person because there is a problem, or am I stepping in because it’s not how I would do this task?” If the reason for your intervention has more to do with personal preference than actually fixing a potential problem, let it go. There are multiple “right” ways to achieve a goal.
Stay Connected to Maintain Trust
Engaged employees trust their leaders. The challenge for most leaders is that building trust is a time-consuming process. Trust is diminished when employees feel they are disconnected from their leadership. Therefore, leaders must put a priority on consistent team interactions. Staci Miller, Director for Global Health Safety & Environmental at The Elliot Group, recognizes the importance of frequent check-ins. She says: “I have learned that you really need to spend time with people. In our busy lives with a million emails and tasks to complete, a true leader has to constantly stay engaged with their teams all the time.” Miller, who leads a team of professionals who reside across the globe, says she makes a consistent effort to stay connected to her team through impromptu “praise” emails, scheduled phone calls, and handwritten notes.
Creating an environment where employees feel involved in their work isn’t rocket science, but it does take effort on your part as a manager. Invest time in these four management practices, and you’ll see an improved level of commitment from those you lead.