The Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem begins with “How do I love thee” and continues with “let me count the ways”. In organizations, each employee is asking how do you engage me? But, most employers are finding their list of ways in which they do, contains far too few to count. How do you engage employees to do their job, stay longer, complain less, and produce more? In short, you lead them more effectively. In more detail, let’s count the ways and perhaps even change some of your non-engaging behaviors.
Get Their Attention
If the only way in which you get employees attention is through negative feedback or bad performance reviews, or even threats, you’re sending the wrong message. No wonder they’ve chosen to disconnect and they appear as loyal to the company as the next call from a head hunter. Get their attention by attaching meaning to what they do. Explain the bigger picture. How is their job connected? Why does their job, their role, or their output have value?
Give Them Attention
The not so funny joke in hiring is “Around here if you can fog a mirror, you’ll get the job.” Most employers now realize this is a fast way to fill a role and then spend the rest of that person’s tenure digging out of that nightmare or hole. However, what is quickly becoming an equally grave problem is the amount of attention a great candidate gets once hired. Perhaps there is a week or two with HR. Maybe there is some sort of new hire orientation that most of the employees complain about because it doesn’t tell the whole story. And in more cases than not, employees are brought on board, shown around the building and tossed of the proverbial deep end of the pool and told to “go, go, go”. The concept is “show us what you got” and then what you get is reflective of the minimal attention you gave them to create a strong foundation. They disengage because you were never engaged in their job in the first place.
Bring Life to Their Work
Very few employees can do the same repetitive task for days on end without becoming bored out of one’s mind. Breathe some life into what the employees you lead do. Find out what that means for them. Are they big into the holidays personally, then celebrate Halloween, Christmas, Hanukah, and Easter with contests, decorations, and the like. (Wow, you should have seen some of the décor in offices in which I’ve worked this week! Great stuff! ) Though it may appear to reduce the amount of work that gets done, let employees have a life that includes their work. Allow them to have fun AND get their work done. Remember the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” It does. Jack, and all your other team members only produce a very dull figurative saw if you ask them to constantly cut down figurative trees without ever stopping to sharpen their tools, or in this case, their mental capacity, relationships, sense of humor, and stress management capabilities. Engage them with a dose of fun, downtime, or simply mental breaks for which they don’t feel like they have to pay a price later.
Connect Work to Their Life
Connecting work to their life is not the same as requiring they answer their company phone after hours. Recent cases say that is likely something for which you will have to begin compensating, so be careful. What this engagement method means is that people are one whole person. They are not someone at work and someone different at home. They do not leave the role of mom or dad in the parking lot when they show up for work. They do not forget that they love to write when they walk into your office. Acting as if all they are and all they do is work for you is a recipe for a disengaged and later resentful workforce. Find a way to connect with them, understand them, accept them and engagement will soar. Long gone are the days of treating people like intangible entities, soon to be gone are the days in which we refer to people as human capital or merely a financial burden. Much as when you marry someone you marry their whole family, when you hire someone you hire the whole person, but where we fail is in finding out who that is, while wondering why they appear to be disengaged. Ask questions about their likes, dislikes, and interests; connect; BE interested and engaging, if you expect them to be engaged.
Companies are spending millions of dollars on elaborate employee engagement programs much as they did in the mid 90’s on cheese moving and cheese chasing (your welcome Gabe!) programs. The reality is employee engagement can be improved more than ten-fold with a simple class on emotional intelligence, more than 100 fold with the use of a profile that helps people be authentic and managers understand the authentic nature of the employees they lead. Yes, it really is that simple. Oh, that and if you want employees to be engaged, be engaged in them and what they need from you, their leader. Employee engagement simply means getting employees interested in doing their job with the company to which they provide services in exchange for pay. Thus, the person with the most influence over whether or not employees stay engaged, is you, their leader, their boss and their primary point of contact in most companies for effective and sincere engagement.