Keeping Employees Engaged: Start with Them!

August 12, 2016 | H. E. James, MBA | HCI
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start with employee engagement

Has the C-suite sent you a directive to improve employee engagement?  Great.  Now what?  It’s safe to say that if you practice the standard employee engagement tactics, you’re going to fail.  Sending out a leadership-curated survey on engagement once a year just doesn’t cut it anymore.

So how do you solve this problem?  It’s really much easier than you think: start with the employees.  They’re the ones who want to be engaged.  When they are ignored but once a year, what signals are sent?

Putting employee engagement in the hands of those to whom it matters most can be scary, but it can be highly rewarding for all involved.  Following a few simple directives can ease the pain of letting go of control of employee engagement.

A Scary Rep

Giving feedback in the workplace, while an essential part of employee engagement, is not an easy thing to do, no matter the culture.  Even in organizations that have had the forethought to implement an internal social network, employees can still feel like they’re on the virtual schoolyard.

Whether the feedback is given among peers or two an HR rep, if the organization has stigmatized feedback in any way, no one will want to give it.  Dispel the scary rep of giving feedback by encouraging it to happen on a regular basis.

If your organization does have an internal social network, use it to encourage dialogues about company decisions and policies.  Of course, don’t just buy a Slack account and turn it loose on your teams.  Parameters will encourage valuable feedback and collaboration from your people.

Let Go

Once the parameters have been set, it’s time to let go.  When management and leadership let go of control of things like feedback, employees become more motivated to engage.  Thus employee engagement grows to something greater than a once-of-the-year survey.

If those in the middle or higher are always driving feedback discussions, employees have no sense of ownership.  That sense of ownership leads employees to defend their organization, even to each other.  This level of engagement will not come from the top, down.  It will only come organically from those producing the work on a daily basis.

Ask for Help

As managers of the talent capital in your organization, you likely feel motivated to be the problem-solver.  Just like letting go of control of engaging the employees in discussions and collaboration, it’s time to let go of this hat as well.

If you are always managing the problems, how will employees know the outcome?  Chances are, if an employee has expressed concern over an issue, that same employee will also have a solution.  The problems of an organization are the employees’ problems.  They should be engaged in solving them

When someone who is disconnected from the issue is solving it, an employee is going to feel left out; this immediately disengages an employee. 

Your employees’ stake in the organization is just as critical as that of a shareholder.  In fact, it’s greater.  Your employees’ engagement begins with them because the organization begins with them.