We know that it is tough right now for companies to keep engagement high. Between higher prices for everything, coming out of a pandemic, a focus on everyone’s mental health and just getting through the day, it is hard to be “engaged” at work. But there are some simple things that leaders can do right now to start building employee engagement. I want to give you 3 ways to do this starting now.
Meet Your Employees Where They Are
The first way is to meet your employees where they are and understand what is going on with them at this moment. Doing simple check-ins with your team or direct reports routinely can help an employee feel like they are valued and considered. Asking a few questions can go a long way:
How are you doing?
How can I support you?
Are there any challenges that are occurring that we should discuss?
What am I doing well that I should keep doing? What can I do better? What should I stop doing?
By taking the time to get to know what’s happening in their world and engaging with them, you establish your ability to make it about where they are at this moment. We know that so many people are carrying a heavy load and they don’t always share - and sometimes it's just because no one asked. As their manager, make sure you are engaging with your team to understand where their challenges are - both in and out of work. Additionally, asking these questions allows your employee to share some immediate feedback about you as their manager that may be impacting their lack of engagement.
But here’s the thing - you need to come from a place of authenticity and active listening. The answers you hear may surprise you. Otherwise, you will come across as disingenuous and you will do more harm than good. So make sure you go into this conversation with a truly empathetic ear, so you can truly listen and respond to what you may hear.
Say Hello and Thank You
The second way to build employee engagement is to say hello and thank you. Yes - I know this seems simple, but the impact can go a long way when it comes to increasing employee engagement. The number of times I have heard from individuals who talk about how their manager or leaders do not say hello or ever say thank you is mind-blowing. Acknowledgment shows you care and in return, they are likely to reciprocate. Many times when I speak, I talk about an employee who I managed many years ago who thanked me for saying good morning each day. He stated that his prior manager who sat next to him for years would pass by his desk and never say anything to him when she came in. I was thanked for saying good morning! This increased his engagement. While we think this isn’t important - it is.
Now, I know the argument of saying “thank you” for doing your job is controversial. There are those who say - why would I thank you for doing your job - the one you get paid for? Well, the other side of this - because it can go a long way for someone who is working hard, managing a family, having issues they aren’t ready to talk through or life is just lifeing. A thank you can make an employee feel valued in a moment when they are in despair and just need a word of encouragement.
The third way to build engagement is to provide timely feedback. For a lot of employees, we have just come out of the annual performance review cycle. I have heard from a lot of clients who were surprised by what they heard and saw in their performance review. This is disheartening and clearly impacts employee engagement. There is nothing more frustrating as an employee to hear feedback about something that happened 3, 6, or 9 months ago. As a manager, your role is to ensure that you are giving timely feedback. This allows you to share growth opportunities as well as what your employee is doing well. This has a direct impact on an employee's engagement when they truly know how they are doing. At a minimum, if you have direct reports or are working on a team project that you are leading, get into the habit of at a minimum meeting at least once a month to give direct feedback. Consider talking through 2 items: I want to provide some feedback on what you are doing well. I want to provide some feedback on what you could work on. This doesn’t have to be hard - just consistent - then no one is surprised at next year's annual performance review. No one appreciates surprises. And more importantly, providing stale feedback is not an effective way to lead, period.
That’s it. Not too hard - right? I want to be clear - this is only 3 ways. However, there are many more. But, for now, start here - today. You may be surprised at what happens with those who you work with and for you. In a world that is filled with so many challenges and responsibilities, let's make our workplaces one that cares for its employees and has leaders that understand an empathetic ear can not only increase employee engagement but can also create a culture of caring - day in and day-out which we know can improve our health overall! I believe that true leaders create more leaders and to do so, you must understand how to increase employee engagement - and it starts now with you!