Engage! Its a powerful word we use in the Human Resources and Talent Management work we do each day. Employees engaged at work are passionate about their jobs, committed to their organization’s success and will go above and beyond to meet expectations. This extra effort leads to increased productivity, creativity, loyalty and happiness for employees. And these outcomes are better for the organization’s customers and ultimately the bottom-line.
How do organizations engage individuals to get these outcomes? When coaching leaders, I focus on exploring their development needs from three perspectives – their mind, their body and their emotions. When all three are in sync, there is a much better chance of achieving the desired outcomes. Looking at employee engagement from these three perspectives is crucial.
A basic condition for engaging employees is to ensure individuals are in jobs well suited to their skills, knowledge and abilities and are provided with challenging work. Employees need to make decisions, solve problems and take on increasingly more difficult assignments. Employees need to know their career aspirations can be met over the long term at the organization.
When employee’s minds are engaged in challenging work, and the connection between the work and the organization’s strategic goals is clearly communicated, the employee will be more engaged. Effective hiring, onboarding, performance management and development programs can provide the elements needed to support this aspect of engagement.
Managers who consider the emotional angle can dramatically impact employee engagement. This is why so much time and effort is spent on management training and leadership development. We know a key driver of employees leaving a position (or organization) is an ineffective manager. How managers, at all levels of an organization, interact with their people on an ongoing and consistent basis will be the critical element of an employee’s engagement. Managers can dramatically increase employee engagement by demonstrating a set of behaviors that shows their commitment to an employee’s success and a sincere caring of them as individual.
This commitment is communicated to employees through words and actions representing respect, honor and trust. Respect, honor and trust are embodied in behaviors that connect managers emotionally with their employees and include 1) sharing gratitude and appreciation for work well done, 2) spending time and being fully present to listen, have dialogue, and provide positive and constructive feedback, 3) taking time to mentor, coach and teach, and 4) ensuring support and guidance can be counted on through good times and tough times. Leadership development programs need to teach these behaviors and organization’s need to hold leaders accountable by valuing and rewarding these behaviors.
Lastly, considering physical elements can create additional support for employee engagement. It is important to provide programs for employees to learn how to manage the ongoing stress of working and simultaneously managing responsibilities outside of work. Telling employees they can achieve work life balance isn’t being realistic, nor honest. A better message to send is that there will be ups and downs with the demands of work and life, and learning how to be organized and manage stress is critical over the span of a career. Teaching employees how to take care of their physical and mental wellbeing is critical to enable them to persevere.
Providing incentives and support through Wellness and Benefit programs can be effective but these are now expected by employees. Going beyond and offering training programs on meditation, organization and time management, and using technology to increase work efficiency can impact the levels of stress experienced. Other programs that address physical needs can include flexible schedules, work space design and ergonomics.
Solutions for increasing employee engagement are not fast and easy. Solutions that promote engaging employees holistically are the solutions we need to advance and advocate in our work. Only by engaging an individual’s mind, emotions and body will authentic and lasting employee engagement be achieved.
How do you engage employees holistically?