Employee engagement (EE) has now become vanilla. It is so common and regurgitated everywhere that many people are simply missing the point and making big mistakes. So the theory is sound. 87% of employees are not fully engaged. So what? Well research states that those with EE scores in the top percentile achieve 30% higher performance across all business measures than those in the bottom percentile. So bottom line it makes good business sense.
We already know this
But we know this already. We are all more likely to commit, achieve, create, lean in, be loyal, succeed… when we feel motivated, engaged and a sense of belonging. We know the opposite is true, when we are stressed, anxious, burnt out, unappreciated and not happy, we don’t contribute fully.
We probably all know how to increase engagement too, but still business leaders are making some fundamental mistakes.
- You don’t engage. Err the clue is in the title surely. I still see the downward cascade of super excited Leaders and Managers vision, mission and objectives, who then expect their people to be equally as excited as them. It doesn’t work like that. Instead, engage with your people and ask them what the biggest challenges are and how they should be approached. Ask your people what the company values should be and how people should behave. Perhaps you are rolling out a new product, but how about engaging with your people to see what the product should be, how it should be marketed, and ask if they believe it’s a good product.
- You forgot why you are in business. We are all sales people. To engage and create a sense of belonging, a tribe mentality, you need a common purpose. Many businesses still struggle to understand why you are in business. If you can’t see the bigger picture, how can you possibly expect your people to see it either? Purpose driven businesses add meaning to people’s work and help them feel part of something bigger than themselves. This in turn creates pride, loyalty and engagement. Take Ford motors purpose is clear and feels far more engaging than we make cars. “At Ford, we go further to make our cars better, our employees happier and our planet a better place to be. Learn more about the work that makes Ford a company that we’re proud to be a part of.”
- One hit wonders: Once a year you send out an employee engagement survey and jump into action on the results. You send a communication saying that you will give more feedback, or communicate more. You might book training sessions on goal setting, because your people say they want clear goals. Phew, you’ve fixed that problem. Only you haven’t, you have probably disengaged your people even more. Listening to your people matters, putting their suggestions into practice takes daily, even hourly repetition. EE isn’t an initiative, a process or a system, it is a way of being, a culture. If you really believe in it then you need to role model it everyday and make it a habit, top, bottom, horizontally and diagonally.
- You can’t measure it so you can’t invest in it. Huge mistake. That is like saying you can’t invest in water machines for the office because you can’t correlate water intake to bottom line results. Water is essential to life and keeping our bodies and brains functioning. It’s a no brainer. Sure you can’t equate happy employees directly to decreased sick days, fewer grievances, more productivity, better ideas, but we know it is a basic ingredient for it. You can of course measure performance over a longer period. Happy employees have less unhealthy conflicts, speak up, care, become your brand ambassadors, your employee brand increases, you attract more talent, which in turns yields higher results…. it’s an upward spiral in every area of the business.
- You don’t trust your people. So many bosses still believe that their people can’t be trusted so they have to withhold information. Transparency builds trust and trust builds the engagement. As a leader is starts at the top. I loved a recent Elon Musk statement to his people after an employee leaked data (huge violation of trust). In it he is completely transparent about how he feels about a member of staffs sabotage after not receiving a promotion. He knows everyone is talking about it anyway, so why not come out and talk to his people rather than creating more mistrust. Transparency creates trust and minimises second guessing, gossip and rumours, the killer of engagement.
But my final tip is to remember what employee engagement really is.
Employee – person, human, peer, friend, colleague, person I know, team member. Be human about it and treat people like people.
Engagement – taking part, participating, involved, sharing. It basically means having a relationship.
So perhaps rather than thinking employee engagement, start thinking human relationships. How successful you are in your relationships will give you a clue as to how successful you will be in leading your people.