I’ve been thinking a lot more about the topic of employee engagement. David Zinger sparked the label in my mind some time ago when he started up the employee engagement network along with his active discussions and wise words on the subject. There is a huge level of job dissatisfaction in today’s workplace and there is an equal level of disengagement from workers. Perhaps they go hand and hand? I think so.

There are a number of things that can help to get people more engaged with others and I wanted to outline some of the ones I’ve learned from my experience and what I’ve encountered reading and discussing the topic with others.

Human Diversity

There needs to be some diversity to bring about a healthy level of differences. These are everything from cultural and societal to personality and motivation. Having diversity with people will bring out questions, differing opinions, curiosity, conflict, and perhaps even personality clashes. All of these are useful at a reasonable level to promote engagement. If everyone was the same, there would be little reason to even discuss anything and so communication wouldn’t be all that important and that can’t be true since its my next item on my list.

Open Communication

Communication that is open is really about an environment or attitude about the communication that is comfortable in an organization. It should be welcoming to new ideas, disagreements and opinions while being presented with sincerity, respect and an intent of trust. If these things are not there with communication, then the employee engagement suffers as that is when communication will begin to break things down. An appropriate style and expectation for communication needs to be presented and more importantly, demonstrated by the leaders in an organization.

There are many ways to bring about more communication and they all work in different situations and with different people.  They might include any forms such as common chit-chat, sharing of stories and experiences, discussing lessons learned, collaborative tools to allow individual content, a feedback system with regular reviews, suggestion boxes (NOT anonymous), and a willingness of any leader to accept feedback from others including their directs without judging it or holding it against that person.  There is much in the topic of communication that they deserve several other articles just on there own, so I’ll leave it at this for now, but I think that open communication really has the largest impact on employee engagement and they really go hand in hand in a lot of ways.

Common Goals / Visions

When people have a common goal or vision to work together on, its easier to dismiss personal differences and specific likes and dislikes between individuals. A common goal is the easiest way to have an immediate purpose together, even with someone you don’t know and it leads to a working relationship that opens new lines for building deeper relationships. The extreme of this is when enemies can even unite to work to one goal. Enemies will quickly realize that if they are after the same thing, its more effective to work together and set aside their differences to reach the common goal.

In order to make progress towards a common goal, those involved have expectations of each other and will begin to communicate these things, whether it is encouraged or not. Getting a group of people to a common goal or vision is a whole other article (or ten perhaps) but once its truly in place, people will help each other and engage with one another to meet that goal at a higher level than if there was no common goal. Individuals will begin to look from themselves and from others the next level of engagement.

Commitment

That next level where there is an engagement between people is that of commitments.  Commitments are a way to ensure that there is discussion between each other and that true engagement is when people hold each other accountable to any commitments made.  Encourage this heavily, be true to your commitments yourself and work hard to ensure that trust is not broken where commitments may not be met.  You can salvage that trust even when commitments are not met by bringing it up early (before a deadline is past), accepting the consequences of it and by apologizing to those you made the commitment to.  All these reinforce the trust and ensure that you can stay engaged with those individuals.  Ask for help when its needed  and continue to talk about the commitments of others instead of simply ignoring them or letting them get by without a commitment. Doing this at an individual level or as a leader to set an example is a powerful way to get more engaged and engage others in your work.

Training

I’m a huge advocate for internal training in the workplace and I’ve seen how this has a huge impact on employee engagement. Internal training programs should be made as visible and public as possible with ideally, a sizable group of people.  Generally having more people discuss, learn and share ideas on a given topic will generate more discussion and engagement among that group and training is a great avenue to bring this into the workplace.  I’ve found that the best courses and training for engagement ensures that every single person in attendance has to participate and that this is done out loud and with some kind of opinion, answer or comment.  I love content that has self-reflection or questions about oneself that you share in a group.  This helps everyone learn more about each other as well as have discussion on one’s own perspective and opinion on things.

Make it Part of The System

None of these methods work entirely on their own and they are all interdependent at some level. In order to ensure that employee engagement is something that gets attention, is measured and has various methods contributing to it, its important that it is part of a system.  Not many things work on their own in business and its important to look at ways to embed it into the business practices.  I regularly read Mission Minded Management where I love I’m OK.  You’re OK.  Let’s fix the system. ”  This is true with employee engagement as well as there are always examples where individuals do things right, but unless its fixed at a larger scale, it doesn’t become cultural or lasting, which I think is crucial for engagement.

Employee engagement takes a lot of effort to build and as outlined here, has a number of methods.  To make them stick, they need to be driven on a continual basis, they should have regular discussion with various groups, they should be presented and taught to new employees, measured and used as an evaluation basis for employees, put into procedures and any relevant policies, shared with investors, clients and other business partners and in general, made to be part of the company’s business system in as many ways as possible.  The more ingrained it is into the system, the more likely employee engagement will expand and retain itself as part of the culture in the workplace.

I’d love to hear your ideas on promoting employee engagement and I hope this gives you some ideas on how to become more engaged yourself as it certainly starts with each individual.



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