This blog post is an excerpt from our e-book, Getting Real About Employee Engagement. Download your copy here.
In a previous article, we showed why the lack of trust in an organization is the biggest culprit for why employees mentally check out. In this post, we’ll share five tips on how business leaders can foster an environment of honesty and trust that results in a more productive workforce.
1. Take the Pulse of your Employees
To figure out where you need to improve, you’ll want to get a handle on the current state of employee sentiment. Start with employee engagement surveys – you can send them out on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. The key is to keep the questions focused on the areas you want to gauge the most, take real actions based on what you learn and keep track of progress over time. There are many easy-to-use tools in the market to help you administer the survey, collect real-time feedback and visualize the data, such as OfficeVibe.
2. Practice Open and Honest Two-Way Communication
People need to feel like they know their objectives and understand the WHY in order to do their best work. When people are confused on the goals (or when roles aren’t well defined), they lose momentum. When people don’t feel it’s safe to voice their honest opinions within their organization, they keep quiet but mentally check out.
As a leader, strive to be as transparent and open as you can and solicit feedback from all corners of the organization when you make key decisions. Trust that employees will be committed to your organization as long as they understand your mission, values, goals and challenges and can raise their concerns without fear of repercussion.
There are lots of ways you can facilitate this. Having weekly one-on-one check-ins with employees, soliciting ideas from employees before making decisions and having regular monthly town hall meetings where C-level execs answer questions openly are a few ways to get started.
Business leaders can foster an environment of honesty and trust that results in a more productive workforce.
3. Invest in Personal Growth
Make sure your employees know that you’re investing in their personal growth. Below are some ways by which people evaluate their own growth:
- Autonomy: People want to feel like they have the space to do their work. When employees are encouraged to explore, learn and come up with their own solutions, they gain new confidence and become willing to put in the extra effort to get the job done.
- Accountability: People are motivated by scores and they like to know where they stand. You can design a scoring system that motivates desired behaviors. Setting clear and realistic goals for your employees and incentivizing them to achieve those goals can amplify engagement. On the flip side, if employees feel that your goals are irrelevant, unrealistic or arbitrary, they become demotivated.
- Momentum / Mastery: People want to feel like they are continuously making progress and gaining new skills. There are milestones throughout the employee lifecycle where employees can gain or lose momentum. For example, onboarding is a critical time for building momentum. To ensure a seamless first day experience, you might treat your new hires to a free lunch with their new team.
Think about how you can keep employees engaged through changing work situations, whether it’s how they transition from a long-term project or mapping out an employee’s career path in the organization as roles and needs change. Giving employees timely, specific responses to their feedback in both words and actions will help them feel that they’re making steady progress.
- Contribution: Employees want to feel like they have an impact. As a leader, think about how you can make the impact vivid in their mind. Connect the dots for them on how their individual role is impacting key organizational goals.
- Relationships: The level of one’s engagement and satisfaction at work is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of relationships a person has at work. Make sure that your employees have ample opportunities to connect with one another and get to know each other — as soon as they join the organization.
- Renewal: The energy and creativity within your employees — your biggest assets — are depletable resources. For people to do their best work, they need enough time to rest and recharge. Do you have any health and wellness program your employees can take advantage of? They don’t need to be expensive (e.g., weekly yoga classes) — but they send an important message that you’re invested in employees’ well-being.
Remember that personal growth is, well, personal. Some people will care a lot about some elements (i.e., autonomy), and less about others (i.e., renewal). For others, it’ll be the reverse. There’s a unique formula to each person. As a leader, it’s your job to get to know each individual and what makes them tick.
4. Build a Culture of Appreciation
For your employees to feel valued at work, they need to hear “thank you” for a job well done. Many times, managers and leaders confuse recognition with rewards or incentives. They say “I don’t have the budget to reward everybody for doing their jobs.” Recognition is not about rewards; it’s about acknowledgement of great performance. Recognition can and should happen in many directions, from peer to peer, from manager to peer and from peer to manager.
The most important things to remember are:
- Recognize frequently
- Be specific
- Align with your core values
- Encourage participation
- Seek continuous feedback
- Use technology to help
- Communicate a lot
5. Act and Make Decisions as a Company with Your Core Values in Mind
To build trust, employees need to feel that the stated values of the company inform how decisions are made and how people behave. When values and behaviors don’t match, cynicism and resentment creep in, and that’s hard to recover from.
Want more creative ideas on how to cultivate employee advocates? Download our ebook, Getting Real About Employee Engagement.
Tell Us What You Think
How have you improved employee engagement in your organization? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments.
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