Updated: Feb 27
Employee engagement is crucial to the success of your team and organization! Unfortunately, Gallup has found that 70% of US workers are NOT engaged at work! That’s a huge number. I guess the good news is that even if your employees aren’t engaged, you’re not much worse off than most other organizations. The bad news, is that lack of engagement is hurting your customers, your employees, and your bottom line. Here are seven questions to consider. Use them to reassess how you’re managing your employees so you can increase your engagement.
1. Are your expectations clear? Do your employees know what’s expected of them? I’m not talking about their job description. I’m talking about day to day, project to project. It’s easy to assume people know what’s expected of them, but people aren’t mind readers. They might have come from a job where they did things differently or just have a different approach than you. If someone isn’t living up to your expectations, the first thing you should do is step back and ask yourself whether you were clear on what you wanted. When I was a supervisor, there were several occasions where I was extremely frustrated with a staff member or my whole team because they didn’t do what I wanted. After some reflection, I realized I wasn’t clear about what I wanted in the first place. That meant it wasn’t actually the employees' fault they fell short. When you give out a new project – do you make sure your team knows all the parameters, deadlines, and the goals attached? Are you circling back to have those coaching conversations about how things are going and what you want to see? This doesn’t mean micromanaging or keeping employees from being creative. It means making sure everyone is on the same page about what the purpose and goals are of the assigned task or project. That way neither party is left confused or frustrated. Never assume people can read your mind or “should know” what you want. It’s better to clearly communicate up front.
2. Do your employees have the things they need to do their jobs? Do you know what your employees need to be successful? Your idea of what they need may not be accurate, even if you’ve done their job. Things change. People have better ideas. If your staff is always running out of inventory or can’t get the software upgrade they need, they’re going to be more likely to think, “well if management doesn't care enough to get us the tools we need, why should I care?” Even if they do care, frustration will eventually wear that away. You may already know if there are problems like this in your organization, but most likely you’re going to have to ask your employees. Be sure to really listen to what they say. If money is tight and you can’t give them exactly what they ask for or need, think about what can you give them that would at least get them part of the way there.
3. Do you recognize people’s efforts and successes? We’re all busy. There are customers to take care of, projects to complete, and bills to pay. A paycheck is important, but employees also need to know they’re making a difference. They want to be appreciated. This doesn’t necessarily mean an elaborate employee of the month program or celebrating every minor accomplishment. It doesn’t even mean it needs to be a public display. What it does mean is taking the time to let people know you see what they’re doing and it’s valued. It can certainly be some sort of award, but it can also be giving them new opportunities or letting them be the lead on a new project. It could also be as simple as a sincere note or taking the time to tell them how much you appreciated their work face to face.
4. Do you encourage your employees’ development? If you’re like many organizations, money is tight and the work is never ending, so continued training or development has probably taken a back burner. Maybe additional training or conferences aren’t exactly in the budget. Unfortunately short term savings here may negatively impact the organization in the long run. Putting time and resources into improving your employees’ skills makes them feel valued and benefits the organization in the long run. Even if money is tight, you can find inexpensive options like having people branch out to other areas within the office to learn and strengthen their knowledge base and skills. See if there are local businesses or even departments depending on how large your organization is that you could swap training services with. Webinars are fairly inexpensive. If an employee wants to know more about using Excel, pair them with an employee who’s an expert for a project. Ask your employees what they’re interested in and what they need and brainstorm ways to achieve them.People need to know you value them enough to invest in them and their growth.
5. Do you discuss employee progress on a regular basis? Annual performance reviews aren’t helpful. Both employees and manager usually treat them as just one more thing to get out of the way. Poor managers use it as an excuse to call people out on things the employee had no idea were a problem. If they had been addressed when it happened, it could have been resolved quickly and prevented from reoccurring. Even if an employee is doing well, the annual review is frequently the only time that person is told. Meet with your employees regularly to discuss their successes, what they need to improve on, ideas they may have to improve the company, and even ideas they have for building their skills. Employees want feedback so they know they’re headed in the right direction and that you care. Meeting frequently also lets them know they’re a valued member of your team.
6. Are you investing in your employees’ strengths? Everyone has natural talents – you, your best employee, and your worst employee. The best leaders invest in strengths. The best teams use their strengths every day. Know your own strengths and don’t worry about being the best at everything. No one is perfect at everything and that idea keeps you from excelling. The same is true for your staff. Employees who get to use their strengths everyday look forward to going to work, are more positive toward coworkers, treat customers better, are more creative, and are more productive…basically the opposite of disengaged employees. In fact, when employees focus on their strengths, they are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life compared with those who do not get to focus on what they do best (Rath, T. (2007). StrengthsFinder 2.0. New York: Gallup Press.) Strengths development is a win-win for businesses and employees.
7. How much time are you spending supervising? If you're a manager, supervising your employees IS your job. It’s easy to get lost in daily tasks and just assume your employees are going to perform like robots. It’s also easier to disappear into doing the work that got us promoted in the first place, especially if we're not sure how to be a good supervisor. When an employee situation comes up, we usually get frustrated and angry that we have to stop our job to get them back on track. It seems easier to put supervision on the back burner, but in the long run it’s not. Early in my career, if I thought there was a staff issue brewing I’d do my best to ignore it – hoping it would go away and I wouldn’t have to intervene. This rarely worked and caused me way more problems than being on top of the issue. Delegate all the tasks you can and spend a good portion on managing what is most likely one of the biggest expenses and resources in your organization – your staff.