By Curt Redden
We all seem to get it by now—more engaged employees perform at a higher level. The organizations that get their strategy right in this area provide a superior customer experience; have lower levels of employee churn, higher morale, and ultimately much higher financial performance. Their customers love them more! What are some things you can easily implement that will give you big lift in your levels of employee engagement with the lowest investment?
First, hire right. Making the right hire is well over half of the battle in your employee engagement levels. Hire people who believe what you believe, and have the attitude you want. Get that right, and the following ten ideas can help them thrive.
1. Embrace and Adopt a Strengths-Focused Culture. People excel in their areas of talent and strengths. You can find many assessments to help you in this area. But the key is focusing on people’s strengths first. Identify them, and then figure out how you can stretch them in those areas. Once it takes hold, it impacts decision-making, structuring project teams, and the particular talents are required for a specific project. It does not mean you ignore their weaknesses, but your people become more engaged when doing what they naturally do best.
2. Volunteerism and Company Support from Top-Down. It’s important to help the communities in which you serve. You cannot underestimate the impact of allowing your people to volunteer (yes, even on company time). It is beyond giving back, it is team building, networking, and uniting around a common problem to overcome obstacles. In regards to engagement levels, this is one of the highest-rated items on many Employee Engagement surveys, and it is a multiplier in terms of return on happier and more satisfied employees.
3. Make Friends At Work. Some of you may be skeptical, but according to the 2017 Gallup Study of the American Workplace, having a best friend at work has a high correlation with engagement and higher productivity. But how can your organizations help support this? Formally, you can embrace deeper mentoring programs and relationships. This should be aligned in initial onboarding so the mentor can assist and facilitate introductions, networking, and group activities. Informally, the more in and out of work activities that you can schedule aids in bonding, networking, and ultimately friendships.
4. Establish “Fun” Committees! Whatever you call or brand your internal efforts to schedule fun stuff, give it to the people who are passionate, and let them run. Never underestimate the impact of happy hours, food trucks, bowling and other fun activities to help your people get to know each other better on a personal level, and perform better in teams.
5. Flexibility. Wherever possible, err on the side of providing more flexibility for your people. You hired them so hopefully you trust them, and if you don’t you probably should not keep paying them. It is about the “job to be done” and not where it gets done from. Working from home a day or two a week or extending flex time goes a long way in helping people better balance their lives.
6. Contact with Senior Management. Leadership by simply walking around is a really big deal. Have your senior staff pop in on random employees to just see what they’re most excited about working on. Top organizations in engagement consistently show that access and informality with senior staff drives employees to feel more comfortable, enjoy their work more, and provide more discretionary effort.
7. Really Celebrate Successes and Wins. When someone does something awesome, find ways to recognize and reward the behavior you want. It is amazing how many employees still only get feedback primarily when they have done something wrong. So many leaders simply expect great performance, and then think they are providing fantastic coaching and leadership when they rip apart someone’s performance that screwed up. That management style is already going the way of the dinosaur if you are really looking to attract and retain the top employees of tomorrow.
8. Extend Trust to Get Trust. Play a game of “What Rule or Outdated Process Can We Kill?” Once a quarter, include in any regular scheduled meetings, “Keep it, or Kill” it as an exercise. Employees get to nominate rules or processes they believe do not add value. Leadership still has veto authority, but the goal should be able to kill at least one (and you can’t add one to replace it). There are so many areas you can see this have impact. Often times, entire rules and procedures are put in place to avoid a few exceptions. Again, if you trusted them enough to hire them…
9. Extend Trust to Get Trust (Part 2). Your people are on social media. While there are some specific instances of needed prohibition of access to some sites and/or personal devices, the best companies are moving towards the understanding that people are increasingly not separating their work and personal lives. Embrace this! Regarding social media specifically, encourage and help your people to be brand ambassadors on all platforms, not just the ones you think are for business.
10. Let Your People be Authentic and They Will be Their Best for You. We have finally reached a tipping point where the vast majority of organizations understand the value of diversity in their teams. They not only get it, they strive to leverage it for a competitive advantage. Appearance standards have shifted drastically of late, as many companies are now not only allowing, but encouraging, unique looks and individuality in their employees. Some companies are hesitant to permit their staff to work with visible tattoos, facial hair, or body piercings—especially if they are seeking to maintain a carefully curated brand—but where possible allow your people do be themselves. The key is getting and keeping the best talent, not the talent you thinks looks the best (unless that’s your goal). You should seek employees who are passionate, talented and believe in what you believe. Those are the ones who become truly engaged and deliver the ultimate customer experience and help build the brand you deserve.
All ten of these tips can help you immediately in your employee engagement efforts at a relatively low cost. The key differentiator for organizations moving forward will be in how they become an employer of choice for pool of top talent. It is not just about happy and satisfied employees—it is about those who are able to bring their best effort and energy to work each day. Those are the ones who become truly engaged and deliver the ultimate customer experience and help you build the loyalty you deserve.
Curt Redden is a speaker, talent-development expert, and co-author of Going PRIMAL, A Layered Approach to Creating the Life You Desire. Curt has spent more than twenty-five years working to support and encourage employees as they strive for success. He currently is the head of global talent development for a Fortune 50 company. He is also certified by the Association for Talent Development as a master trainer and performance-improvement consultant.