Employee engagement – or the contribution and satisfaction of an employee – is something that can be driven, prompted, and increased. Managers and supervisors, if you don’t think you can do something about your employees’ engagement, please get on board and into the driver’s seat!
There are a few common drivers known to affect employee engagement that we’ll look at today and a few more next week. The first is employee perception of job importance. I read once that a janitor at NASA reported, “I’m putting a man on the moon,” when asked what his job was. I absolutely love this. It reminds me of bad weather and emergency response policies that many local governments have: “only essential personnel must respond.” If you ever wonder about an employee’s view of his or her importance in accomplishing the organization’s mission – consider not specifying which positions are essential! Who do you think would show up? Is it just police and fire, directors, a receptionist, and a handful of laborers? Perhaps in shorter terms, some staff isn’t as critical, but if we have any non-essential positions in our workforce, maybe we need to reconsider those for the long term! My real point is: all positions could and should be considered essential and important to achieving the organization’s mission and vision. Your employees should understand their connection to it and be as passionate about it as the man who mopped floors in the control center of the Apollo missions.
Another driver of employee engagement is clarity of job and expectations and roles. It’s so, so important for an employee to be clear about what you expect from them. While there is benefit to self-direction and even something like Google’s 20 percent time, not giving direction to your employees means potential lost time on projects, confusion between employees about who should be doing what, even leaving employees feeling like you don’t value them. We can so easily prevent these things and even drive engagement higher by setting clear expectations, often.
The best way to reinforce those expectations is through the next driver of employee engagement, which is regular feedback from supervisors and managers. According to an Employee Attitude Survey done by Kelton Research, unfortunately 68% of employed Americans said they hadn’t received useful feedback from their supervisors in the previous six months. At the least, interaction, communication, and simple dialogue should occur on a very regular basis. Daily interaction is desirable and ideal. Something as simple as a morning greeting and thanking your employees for their work will go a very long way. Beyond that, we should define together what “useful” feedback is. To me, useful feedback would include constructive criticism, ways to improve performance, acknowledgement of strengths, priority of tasks, opportunities for development, and advancement.
Just as good car drivers don’t become great car drivers overnight, good managers don’t become great without hard work and learning to balance multiple systems and tasks simultaneously. Being more strategic and regular with your coaching conversations is a necessary system to master and balance with your daily demands, so that you can drive employee engagement upward! These regular coaching conversations will allow you to help your employees see their importance in the organization, receive regular useful feedback, and have clarity of your expectations of them. Next week, we’ll take a look at more ways to put employee engagement into high gear!