In our April blog, we wrote about why having engaged employees—folks who are happy, confident, and motivated at work—is good for productivity and retention. We noted that leaders directly influence workplace engagement and it’s up to managers and supervisors to ensure employees feel valued and supported so the company thrives. (With so many things beyond our control these days, like a tight labor market and unpredictable costs, it’s nice to know there’s something you can truly influence!)
Today, we dig deeper into the topic of engagement and offer three strategies every leader can embrace. First, some context. In Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World, researchers Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall identify eight aspects of engagement, all of which are disproportionately present in highly successful companies. They break out the eight factors into two buckets: “Me” (four factors influencing individual engagement) and “We” (four aspects of team/organizational engagement). This blog will focus on “We.” (The “Me” post is coming soon!)
The power of “We”
“We” statements focus on the interactions of the team and the experience employees share. Here are the four “We” sentiments engaged employees are likely to agree with:
- I am enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
- In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
- My teammates have my back.
- I have great confidence in my company’s future.
Let’s pause for a moment to notice what’s NOT on the list—perks and benefits like higher pay, ping pong tables, and fancy nap pods. Because genuine engagement isn’t purchased, it’s fostered—thoughtfully and intentionally—by leaders who know that having happy, confident, and motivated workers is good for productivity and retention.
Because if all your employees gave a thumbs-up to the statements above, your business would be humming. We’ve got three strategies to make it happen.
Reimagine your business updates
Business updates are standard fare for many companies—leaders typically check a few items off an agenda before sending everyone back to work. We suggest going beyond a purely tactical meeting to create a meaningful “We” experience that leaves people feeling excited about what they’re accomplishing together.
Start by rethinking the agenda. Are you including information that makes employees feel enthusiastic or proud of what your business is doing? Or leaves them confident about the future of your business? You should! Here are three more ways to connect and celebrate during every meeting.
- Talk about what you’re doing. “I’m really excited to work on __ this week!”
- Share what you’re observing. “I’ve been noticing a lot of great __ lately, so I’m confident we’ll meet our delivery deadlines.”
- Ask questions from the group. “What are you excited to be working on right now?” or “What do you feel is the most important thing that we do?”
Focus on values
When people are aligned around the same values, they want to help each other out, cheer each other on, and do their best every single day. Let’s say your company prides itself on great customer service. When “Bonnie” carries a customer’s heavy feedbag to the truck, she shows she cares about the customers and takes pride in her work. She’s upholding values that resonate with her team and the company. Hurray!
On the other hand, if “Clyde” never offers to help and rolls his eyes when asked, there’s a misalignment between his values and those of his coworkers. Others may resent his lack of effort. The team feels fractured because of their divergent values. In these situations, someone usually ends up leaving—and it’s often the higher performing employees, not “Clyde.”
Another reason to be clear about values: It’s easier to hire people who fit well with an existing team because everyone’s on the same page from day one.
Read this post for more on connecting behavior and values.
Hold people accountable
Recognizing good work helps people feel inspired and energized. But it’s just as important to hold employees accountable for less-desirable behavior. First, it helps you nip a problem in the bud. Second, it reminds employees that their work matters and that you care enough to notice what they’re doing. Third, when feedback is part of the company culture, everyone can feel confident that problems will be addressed, not ignored.
Read this post for an easy way to give meaningful feedback.
Our coaching clients tell us that employee engagement has improved thanks to these seemingly simple strategies. People feel seen, heard, and appreciated; they know they’re supported (and surrounded) by teammates who share their values and are committed to achieving business goals. We hope you’ll give these tips a try—and let us know what happens next.
We help businesses develop and use simple, practical HR processes to create a thriving company culture, engagement, and boost their bottom line. Email us to learn about our customized services.