changing the conversation about employee engagement

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Every new employee enters a workplace with fire and energy, ready to work hard. They want to see what this new opportunity can offer them and what skills and talents they can offer the company. But for some crazy reason, I’ve seen over time that fire often begins to die and with it goes productivity.

The age-old question, “How can I increase employee engagement?” has been beaten to death. The internet is riddled with lists of ways to increase employee engagement. Some suggest creating a better company culture or giving employees more freedom with their schedule. Others say it all comes down to better management.

I’m not here to say these suggestions aren’t valid. They are! We want our employees to put out great work, and dozens of factors play into that.

But changing the question we ask will give us better results.

A little background.

Research tells us high engagement scores do not necessarily mean employees are actively engaged in doing great work. So even if we were to check every box on the endless list of “How to Engage Employees,” it wouldn’t do much for the bottom line.

But what about flipping the question around? Does great work lead to high employee engagement? Absolutely. The study shows that being involved in meaningful work, like innovating or improving things, is highly likely to increase employee engagement.

This is simply human nature. We all have an innate desire to feel valued. When we are part of something great, we are then naturally inclined to be engaged to satisfy that desire.

The new question we need to be asking is, “How can I get my employees involved in meaningful, great work?”

Here are 3 things you should know as you set out to answer this new question:

1. Know your employees. Look at what they’ve done in the past. Where did they shine? Where did they go the extra mile? What are they naturally good at? What do they enjoy doing? Know their potential, and then utilize it! Put them on projects where you know they will succeed. People want to be part of great work, but only when they feel like they’re making a meaningful contribution.

2. Know the 5 SkillsThere are five behaviors that, when practiced together, are proven to cause great work outcomes dramatically.

  • Ask curious and provoking questions.
  • Investigate what’s working, what isn’t, and where you can make a difference.
  • Have engaging conversations with people outside your “circle.”
  • Make an ongoing process of improving things.
  • Don’t stop until you see a meaningful change.

Put these skills into practice as you’re working to get employees involved in meaningful work. Better yet, let your employees be part of that process, and teach them how to develop these skills.

3. Know your vision. Before you can create great work, you must (to pull from Stephen Covey), “Begin with the end in mind.” Ask yourself: What does success look like? Why are we doing what we do? Without a clear vision, the work you create loses purpose and meaning, which we now know is essential to employee engagement.The only thing more important than having a clear vision is being able to communicate that vision to others in a way that inspires. Show them your excitement, and let that excitement be contagious.

So let’s start changing the way we think about employee engagement. Begin by creating greatness and everything else will fall into place.

By tim brown
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