Employee engagement is the “holy grail” for managers. It’s described in a variety of ways but is generally defined as when employees fully invested emotionally, mentally, and physically, so they are focused on achieving the organization’s objectives. Getting people to commit is an elusive aspect to managing people that is as easily obtained, as it is lost. And the feeling is the same for employees where from one day to the next commitment is gained or gone in an instant.
During volatile economic conditions and uncertainty employees are not as involved, passionate, and committed about their work. Employment surveys continue to show that job satisfaction and employee engagement are at record lows. This may be partly a result of the economy but it’s also a factor of deteriorating organizational culture and poor communication. Declining engagement is a growing concern for business and individuals alike since many workplace studies reveal impact on specific health personal concerns.
The term “engagement” is highly misinterpreted. Managers tend to misread an engaged employee confusing a worker’s commitment to their job with a passion for their work. Recently, a colleague, experienced in production efficiency, told me he really enjoys solving client problems. A manager may misinterpret this as a highly engaged employee without taking into account that this person has also worked for 4 different employers in six years. So, while he is “engaged” with passion for his work it does not make him a committed employee. Yes, passion for work is essential to engagement but a manager’s primary concern is an employee’s commitment to the organization and achieving its objectives.
Having fully engaged employees is ideal, but unrealistic. In good times employees are usually more committed but the need grows when economic conditions deteriorate. Whether you are a manager or employee, being engaged is worth the effort. When things go well, employee engagement for managers is typically about employee retention and equitable performance rewards for employees. During economic distress managers are concerned about employee commitment and employees about keeping their jobs. In either case, here are some tips to help you to build or be part of a more engaged workforce.
1. Do what’s right, not what the numbers say…
Chances are you conducted or participated in some type of internal survey and the results were…only numbers! Survey results are unreliable for many reasons. First, not everyone responds; second, they are anonymous and impersonal; and finally, the results are extreme or of little value, that is to say responders may over compensate a response or worse, say you’re average.
Make a personal connection with your people and colleagues. They know exactly what is required to make them more effective and committed to the organization. They are also in the best position to provide ideas on making things better.
2. Ask the Right Questions the Right Way
When employees are passionate about their work it makes the organization look good with clients. Most employers however, need more than passion to succeed. The key is to ask your employees what do they need to be more effective in their roles. Their participation will provide insight into how you can get them more committed to the task and organization. And as an employee, your actions speak louder than words. Ask the right questions and make things happen. People will take notice and you will enjoy your work more.
3. Different Things to Different People
The workplace is a complicated place. Not only are you managing individual needs but also managing and working with multi-generational attitudes and multi-cultural values. The perception of “engagement” varies within the three generations and various cultures in the workplace. Adapt your engagement strategies for each need while balancing perception differences. As a worker, be clear as to what will make you more committed. For some it’s more pay or time off and for others it may be better working conditions or job training.
4. Communicate and Implement
Finally, clearly communicate and take action on the issues and concerns impeding worker commitment. State the priority issues, what will change, what is expected to improve, and how will employees be part of the changes. Then, make it happen.
As a manager or employee, you must better understand the value of workplace engagement and commit to objectives. This is only a starting point to being part of a more engaged workforce. It’s everyone’s responsibility to improve and to resolve issues and no one solution exists to get people more committed. Engagement is about ongoing dialogue and continuous improvement. If you take it on then it’s critical to follow through with tangible actions or things can get worse.
Ajay M. Pangarkar is a performance strategist, president of CentralKnowledge.com and author of the leading employee performance book, The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard firstname.lastname@example.org