How to improve employee engagement? Leaders, listen up.

Are your employees engaged? Hopefully the answer is yes, but how can you tell? And what is the answer to the question of how to improve employee engagement?

Organizations that have highly engaged employees are at least twice as likely to be top financial performers in their industries as ones with low engagement, according to HR.com’s 2019 report, “The State of Employee Engagement.” Of the 532 HR professionals surveyed, more than 90 percent said they saw solid links between engagement and employee performance.

Are your employees engaged? How can you tell? And what is the answer to the question of how to improve employee engagement? It all starts with listening!

When we talk about employee engagement, what do we mean? Engaged employees have an emotional connection to their work — and they give their best effort to their work.

In that report, 60 percent of those surveyed thought employee engagement should be a top priority for senior leaders, as well as direct supervisors. But only 29 percent said they have leaders who prioritize engagement.

That’s sobering, isn’t it? If leadership listens to what the HR pros are telling us, they can teach us a lot about how to improve employee engagement.

2 important factors for tackling the question of how to improve employee engagement

First, measure it.

Establish metrics and get some data, just like you do with other aspects of your business, so you can set good strategy. A survey can tell you a lot about how your people feel about their jobs if the questions are well designed. If you’ve never done an employee survey, it will establish a base line. But don’t stop there. Highly engaged organizations measure their employees’ engagement in multiple ways more often than once a year. Exit interviews, measuring and comparing retention rates year over year, and one-on-one meetings with managers were other insightful methods cited in the HR.com report.

Keep in mind that some people on your team may be wary about answering a survey if they don’t trust that their responses will be anonymous. There are tools that can help human resources pros and managers solicit anonymous feedback, including officevibe and EngagementMultiplier, to name a few.

Second, lead by example.

It’s commonly said that people don’t leave jobs; they leave their bosses. That’s because, as author and speaker Simon Sinek has said, “A boss has the title. A leader has the people.” Leadership holds the key to encouraging employee engagement.

Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, cites decades of research to identify three elements of human beings’ true motivators – autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Leaders who want to know how to improve employee engagement will do well to prioritize these values and corresponding leadership behaviors into their company-wide management style.

Purpose: Provide meaningful work. Communicate to all staff why their individual contributions matter. Don’t treat them like minions. Rally employees around common corporate values. Acknowledge specific successes and traits like perseverance, creativity, and integrity.

Mastery: Provide opportunities for employees to develop themselves to their full potential. Invite them to stretch into new skills. Clearly communicate plans, goals, and milestones, and recognize each step achieved. Ensure your team has the tools and other resources they need to be effective.

Autonomy: Communicate clear expectations, as well as trust, that people will rise to them. Encourage them to try new approaches, and create safety to take a risk. Discuss as a team what is learned from failures, as well as successes, and how to act on those learnings in future initiatives. Support their decisions and express respect for their judgement.

As former U.S. President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” Employees will be emotionally engaged and put forth their best effort when they have leaders who inspire, rather than bully or control.

Thinking about how to improve employee engagement requires long-term effort

It’s not about a one-time employee engagement campaign or a focus on length of service awards. The HR.com report concluded that the key is paying attention to the overall employee experience and leaders prioritizing it – and living it. HR pros recommend supporting leaders with a steady flow of related resources: books, white papers, webinars, videos, and discussion groups to share behaviors to improve employee engagement within each organization.

Keep asking. Keep listening. Keep respecting and trusting. And watch employee engagement grow.

Hiring employees that fit your corporate culture well is another way to improve employee engagement

Bradsby Group has a track record of finding talented individuals who are good matches for our clients. The right person will bring leadership skills to benefit your whole team. Contact us today with your needs and let’s get started.

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