Organizations have realized the direct correlation between a highly engaged workforce and successful businesses. However, the results are still not right. This is because the wrong element is being tried to get fixed.
Engagement is a result of a host of factors which is why it cannot be treated as a sole metric. Engagement is a state of mind among employees – the way they view their work, how they feel at work and about their colleagues. These are thoughts that are formed over a period of months or even years. In order to understand engagement, leaders need to walk in the opposite route. They need to see the kind of external influences that shape the minds of the employees.
The solution lies in your culture.
If your employees are disengaged, the reason is that their thoughts and preferences do not align with your culture. Your workplace culture defines the values and principles it upholds and translates into your products, services, interactions with clients and peers. A fundamentally flawed picture of this can lead to employees being confused about their own visions, let alone understanding organizational goals. Such feelings will one day make them quit.
If culture is not paid importance to, it can create barriers towards engagement. For example, if people know that their initiatives are not going to be valued before layers of approval are sought after, they will not be motivated to go about their ideas. If culture interferes with the success of employee initiatives, it will undoubtedly create an unhappy workforce.
The answer does not lie in offering attractive benefits or giving free lunches. Even if that works, it will be short term.
What matters is if the culture is aligned to create a motivated and happy workforce.
Workplace engagement cannot be forced through some random initiative using the best in class technology. If you want to ensure a great level of employee commitment, passion, and loyalty towards work and company, engagement needs to be ingrained in your business and everyday life of employees.
Here are some ways to start:
1. Hire right
Start right from the very beginning. Cultural values of each company are carefully crafted and they need to be adhered to at all stages of an employee lifecycle. Whenever hiring takes place, the most important aspect to consider about a candidate apart from the role fit is the cultural fit.
It is highly possible that an employee who has great past work experience and records might not feel connected to the vision of a company. While a person with lesser experience with a tremendous passion and connection to the company’s beliefs and goals can be the right choice. It is up to the leaders to figure this out at the very start so that the beginning of the journey itself is well thought out, with cultural values given the most preference to over other aspects of recruitment. Similarly, the candidates should also be asked if they feel a profound connection to the company or not.
An example of a company that does it is Zappos. Zappos has a cultural fit interview. New employees are hired for a week to see for themselves if they think they will be a good fit. Employees can train for a week and decide if they actually feel connected to the vision and mission of Zappos or not. If the new employees do not see a connection, they are offered $2000 to quit after the first week of training. The ones that stick after the first week are the true cultural fits. Zappos believes that when the company culture is tunes right, great customer service and a great brand will happen on its own.
2. Onboard right
Once the best cultural fit has been hired, the next is to onboard right. Onboarding doesn’t mean a day of goodies and introductions. Onboarding is training, and like training, it is a process rather than a one-day event. A good onboarding program is crucial as it gives the new hire a handle over his responsibilities. During this, pay attention to how you are promoting your organization’s culture through the work at hand. Do not abandon them once they are hired.
Onboarding helps employees get a good grasp of their role and how their contribution matters in the larger scheme of things. This helps them define their sense of purpose, which keeps them motivated. Onboarding should be with senior members of the team as well as a warm welcome by peers. Goals should be clearly defined so that there is absolute clarity and no room for frustration or confusion. Welcome questions and ensure a mentor is assigned for feedback as well as clarifications, as and when they arise. Open communication should also be deemed as a value so that employees can voice their concerns and offer their ideas.
3. Focus on goal management
Goal management is an extremely crucial part of performance management. Without clear goals, employees will be left confused and directionless. And just laying down goals is not the answer. Managers also need to be available for their employees as and when the need arises. Be it providing learning tools for employees, coaching them on real issues, recognizing and rewarding employee performance in formal and informal ways or offering genuine feedback on activities. Only when managers define all these strategies clearly can they help contribute to achieving organizational goals.
For effective goal management to take place, hierarchy also needs to be minimized. According to David Greenberg, Founder, and CEO at Updater, unnecessary management layers serve to diminish everyone’s connection to their team goal. Setting specific and challenging goals consistently leads to higher performance. Just telling people to do their best can work till a limit. Goals need to be higher in the effort and that will most likely generate the greatest level of performance.
4. Reward and recognize employees
According to a study by Pavel Vosk, a Washington-based business, and management consultant, the biggest contributor to demotivation is a lack of recognition for extra effort.
Rewards such as bonuses, perks, monetary vouchers can work. But it need not always be something related to money. Small gestures can also go a long way. Always give due recognition to high performers in front of their colleagues. Be genuine and substantiate it with examples.
There is no one single way to this. Recognition can range from being an email expressing gratitude to walking towards your employee’s desk and thanking him on behalf of the entire office. You can also hold sessions where you can give some sort of a badge or a certificate of appreciation to those who outshine on a regular basis. Whatever is the way you choose, make sure you do it.
5. Continually develop your employees
Employees want to grow continuously in their professional career and they want to be involved in organizations which understand this aspiration of theirs. 87% of millennials say development is important in a job. Career growth is the biggest contributor to higher retention levels for employees in today’s day and age.
With the massive rise in the manufacture and use of mobile devices and the internet, knowledge can be accessed at the click of a button. Employees want to be actively learning and on-demand training and access to a pool of rich content are what can keep them satisfied. Training delivered across mediums and devices, along with flexible learning opportunities can give them the assurance that their organizations deeply cares about for their professional development and contribute to employee engagement.
6. Show empathy
According to the 2017 Businesssolver Workplace Empathy Monitor, 85% employees agree that empathy is often undervalued by their employer. Empathy as a value has gone ignored in organizations Understanding the feelings and needs of a workforce is the key to driving a better workplace experience.
Empathy and compassion are prerequisites to positive employee engagement. Empathetic leaders listen intently to what actually affects people and provide them the complete liberty to express their concerns. They try to understand people by putting themselves in other’s shoes from a neutral perspective, without letting judgment or an ulterior motive guide them. This helps them understand people better and interact accordingly. Being genuine in this entire process is a must as employees also understand the difference between fake interest and actual attachment. The amount of mutual trust should be high, with no elements of micromanaging or hierarchy disrupting the true nature of things.
Being empathetic means to be able to listen to employee concerns, not to agree to all of them. It means for managers and leaders to be available and approachable for discussion. When this happens, employees feel more comfortable and belonged. This makes them more committed to achieving excellence in their field.
Start small by looking at the larger picture, but starting with the small aspects. Hire right, trust your employees and make them accountable for their own achievements. This will help you end up with a happier workforce.