Learn 7 actionable ways that leaders can boost employee performance and productivity with engagement.
The dream of nearly every leader is to inspire their employees to treat the business as if they owned it.
We want our employees to care enough to go the extra mile for customers and fellow employees. We don’t want them to just do their tasks to minimum standards, but to do them to the best of their ability. Employees that reach this state, where they consistently put forth extra effort, are known as “engaged employees.”
This type of employee is actually so important to the U.S. economy that Gallup, the polling company founded in 1935, measures employee engagement on a daily basis, alongside real unemployment and consumer spending.
So, the number of employees engaged? It hovers right around 30 percent. Only 3-in-10 are at this ideal level. The other 70 percent cost the U.S. economy more than $450 billion per year.
The employees who are engaged, however, have fewer accidents and fewer sick days. They’re more productive, and easier to retain.
So, what can you do to get your employees to reach this golden state of engagement? Here are 7 tips you can use that will really work.
1. Set them free.
One thing that consistently correlates to better engagement is employee autonomy. When employees feel they have some control over their work lives, they’re more likely to be engaged. That doesn’t mean you have to go full Zappos and establish a holacracy, but if there are places where you can loosen control and give employees more freedom to make decisions, it will help.
Maybe this means letting them have more flexibility in their schedule, choose where they work, or how they tackle their projects. Look at your business. Is there any place you exert control where you really don’t need to?
2. Catch them doing something right.
Another big influence on engagement is recognition. When employees feel recognized by their leaders and peers for their work, they tend to be more engaged. It makes sense right? When you go above and beyond, it feels good to have that recognized.
Zappos has a cool and easy way of doing this that doesn’t require a radical overhaul of your company’s organizational structure. Each month, employees get to vote on who they think has gone above and beyond for the company. The winner gets $50. It’s obviously not a ton of cash, but that’s not the point. The recognition is the point.
3. Make time for meetings.
This has been shown to be especially effective with millennials. Having regular meetings – even just short ones – helps. In fact, millennials who meet with their employers on a regular basis are twice as likely to be engaged at work.
The important factor here appears to be feedback. Millennials, according to a Gallup poll, want feedback from their managers – but are unlikely to ask for it.
4. Don’t throw money at the problem.
Several studies have shown that paying employees more money does not correlate to higher engagement. Not that there aren’t good reasons to pay employees what they’re worth, just don’t expect a raise to boost engagement.
5. Build employee bonds.
If you’ve build strong bonds among your employees, they’re more likely to be engaged. There’s no easy way to do this of course – team building exercises are fun, but time working together and building trust is the surest way. Strong teams are more of a journey than a destination – something to always keep in mind as your company moves forward.
6. Give them a sense of purpose.
This, to me, is the most important part of improving engagement for leaders. Think of a time when you’ve gone above and beyond and put in your absolute best work. I’m willing to bet you felt some sense of purpose – that there was some meaning in the work you were doing.
So how can you pass this sense to employees? Some employers do it directly by donating to charities, making it easy for employees to volunteer, or matching an employee’s contribution.
Others do it with inspiration. Steve Jobs famously inspired Apple employees to shave seconds off the Mac’s boot up time by pointing out that millions of people would be using the computer, and booting it every day. He pointed out that shaving a few seconds off the boot time, multiplied by millions of people over a few years added up to a few lifetimes.
7. Get employees started right.
From day one, foster engagement by writing a job description that encourages autonomy and regular meetings, and outlines a sense of purpose for the job.Emphasize these points through the onboarding process, while you encourage new hire strengths and recognize their early achievements, and you’ll help establish engagement from the start.
OK, ready to get out there and inspire engagement on your team? If you’re strapped for time, you’ll find that tip #2 is the easiest to implement on short notice. Give that a shot, and go from there.
Photo credit: garagestock/Shutterstock
Adam Seabrook is Co-Founder of Betterteam. Before Betterteam Adam spent 10 years recruiting for companies like Google, Atlassian, Dell, Symantec, Coca-Cola, Bigcommerce, and Oracle. He lives in Sydney, Australia.