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LEAD. GROW. INSPIRE.
The past couple of years have been challenging and have required every organization to quickly shift to remote work, shift again to hybrid, and most recently bring people back to the physical workplace. While we all accept that these measures are necessary for survival, the added stress on rank-and-file employees and their managers has been extremely painful.
Just when we thought we were making progress, the newest Gallup report shows we took a step backward in 2022. Their study shows the number of engaged workers held steady at 32% but the number of actively disengaged employees rose to 18%.
Thankfully most businesses have gotten past the pandemic-related challenges of the early 2020s, but now is the time to return the focus to employee engagement and address the structural, operational, and cultural issues that create disengagement in your organization. It’s good for your talent and your bottom line.
The difference between engaged and disengaged employees may seem to be a matter of style or personality, but the distinction is based on decisions rooted in loyalty and commitment to one or more levels of the organization. Disengaged employees not only negatively impact the bottom line, but also misrepresent an organization and its culture.
When you take active steps to listen to employees and address problems, positive business outcomes follow.
Here are some ideas to address engagement and motivate your employees to be more involved and passionate about their daily work and the long-term goals of the organization.
3 levels of engagement
There are three different levels that represent “locations of engagement” in the workplace:
1. Organizational engagement. Improving employee engagement at the organizational level is about defining the mission, core values and overall strategy of your organization and then communicating them to everyone involved. This obviously requires a serious commitment on senior staff to execute some deep soul searching: Whittle it all down to what matters and then act in the best way to bring in everyone else.
Take inventory of your engagement by conducting an Engagement Survey or Employee listening sessions to assess and evaluate the level of engagement and pinpoint where the gaps are. Surveys are great but ACTION will speak volumes to your people. You must be prepared to show simple, actionable plans to increase engagement by connecting people to your mission-critical plans, core values, leadership, and norms that align with the vision and strategy of your organization. All of this adds up to your organizational culture.
Simply put, engagement at the organizational level can drive your success forward and give you a competitive edge.
2. Managerial engagement and enablement. A healthy manager and employee relationship is essential for any business. A good manager takes the time to understand the needs and motivations of their direct reports as well as form connections and communication that bring out the best in their teams. But what happens when the leader/managers aren’t engaged?
Ever heard the phrase, “people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers?” A manager who’s burned out is a problem for any business because an underperforming manager impacts critical business metrics, including engagement, retention, and revenue.
And when a manager isn’t engaged, this creates a disruptive situation that Gallup calls the cascade effect — where a disengaged manager creates a disengaged employee, impacting the business even further. Thus, it’s worth it to pay attention to how bad managers affect employees.
Another research report from Gallup found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, and only 35% of managers are engaged with their job.
So how do you solve the problem of unengaged managers, manager burnout, and falling levels of employee engagement? Focus on manager enablement.
Even managers need direction and development. But don’t just plug them through the same tired tracks. Focus on developing skills like delivering feedback, setting clear expectations, delegation, and more business-focused skills such as interview techniques or financial planning to help keep managers engaged with their role.
Our clients have been providing manager enablement to their leader/managers through the comprehensive LEAP-Leadership Acceleration Program. Giving their managers a Fortune 500 development, which includes assessments, 360-degree feedback, 1:1 Coaching from a certified Executive Coach, and customized learning & tools they learn to develop the habits of leadership over 12-months with other leaders/managers.
By upskilling managers, you create a culture of continuous learning and improvement and allow managers to expand their competencies and skill-sets. Not only does this give managers an opportunity to advance their professional and personal development, but upskilling improves engagement and performance which impact the success of your business.
3. Employee engagement. A basic premise for increased engagement at the employee level is to make sure people are in positions they enjoy and have the opportunity to excel as much as they want. Doing so will result in greater productivity and commitment to the organization. This is where the work done at the organizational and managerial level pays off because now you know what success means in terms of what each individual employee should bring to the table and what the organization needs to provide for them.
You should be able to identify “target employees.” A target employee is one who is a good fit for their current job, is fully engaged in the job and whose performance exceeds your expectations. The target employee not only achieves goals, but also has the ability to elevate the performance of other employees, team members, departments and divisions.
You also need to be able to think differently about challenging your employees. Research shows that managers are up to four times more engaged than front-line employees. This is often because of the additional challenges managers face.
Provide your employees with stretch goals, avoid micromanaging and let them learn from their mistakes. In order for workers to remain engaged, they need to be continuously stimulated. Every new experience you create for your staff members is an opportunity for professional growth and enhanced engagement.
Hit the road with us
It’s impossible to create a culture of engagement without knowing the personality and characteristics of your organization, your managers, and your employees. Leaders must be aware of the engagement levels of their workers, whether each staff member fits the company culture, and how to take effective action to address any discrepancies.
Think of it like planning a long road trip. You need a map that will show you where you are and where you want to go. You must plan your route, pick an appropriate vehicle, stock up on supplies, identify stops and assign tasks to your fellow travelers with the appropriate skill sets to complete them. You need to keep everyone focused and encourage good morale. You must plan for contingencies and, yes, even disasters. You’re on a journey with a purpose. Maybe even an adventure.
If you’re looking for a guide to help you on the road-trip, we have a large toolkit, 25 years’ experience and effective methods to help our clients strengthen and improve engagement, leadership, and organizational effectiveness. Or if you’d like to talk about how your journey is going, pull into a rest stop, grab your phone out of the glove compartment and give us a call.
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.