It’s no secret that employee engagement is vitally important for improving productivity in the workplace. A disengaged team is an underperforming team and, on the reverse, a team that is fully engaged is capable of unprecedented performance.
As a leader, you should want to improve your employees' engagement at every turn and you must not be satisfied with anything other than high engagement and high-performance.
However, inspiring engagement is easier said than done and, like any element of business, it needs a clear strategy to be successful. I’ll show you how you can measure and enhance engagement in your teams to create an environment where your employees want to engage.
- Measure & Set Goals
- Give Your Teams a Voice
- Challenge Your Teams
- Reward Innovation
- Lead By Example
- Make Your Vision Clear
1. Measure & Set Goals
Let’s start at the beginning of the process. How can you expect to enhance employee engagement if you can’t measure it? This starts with setting clear and definable goals from the outset.
By setting goals for employee engagement, you’ll be able to measure the kind of increase in engagement you are looking for. Then, once you’ve achieved what you set out to do, you’ll then have a benchmark to work towards in order to keep engagement consistently high.
How do you set a goal for employee engagement though?
First, you need to start with an employee survey. With this, you’ll be able to identify how engaged your employees feel on a day-to-day basis and, once you understand the data, you can set goals for what you want to achieve.
After a set period of time, you can send the survey to your employees again and identify what areas have seen improvement and what areas haven’t. If you’re unsure how to set clear and definable goals, use the DIRECT approach:
Dream based - all goals should be purpose led and based on big stuff that really matters to you.
Inspiring based - they should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up!
Route based - there should be a method crafted to achieve your dream.
Emotion based - they should indicate what emotions you need to create to achieve your dreams - what person do you need in order to achieve what you want.
Challenge based - they should be stretching and out there way beyond your comfort zone. Fear, after all, is fun in disguise; and it is where the magic happens!
Thinking based - they should outline the type of thinking you need to drive the right actions.
You won’t stop here, though. Setting goals is simply a method of measuring engagement. How do you actually enhance it in the first place?
2. Give Your Teams a Voice
If you are trying to enhance employee engagement on your own without input from those you’re trying to engage, you’re going about it in the wrong way. You need to include your employees when it comes to their own engagement. After all, only they can tell you what will engage them.
We’ve spoken about sending a survey to gauge how engaged your employees feel but you can’t let that be the end of the collaboration. You need to include them in the decision-making process too.
When determining strategies to enhance their engagement, their survey comments are a good start, but to really inspire them, you’ll need to talk through their answers with them. Open up a dialogue on the ways they think their engagement can be enhanced.
In short, you need to listen to them.
3. Challenge Your Teams
One of the main reasons that your employees might be experiencing a lack of engagement is because they aren’t challenged enough in their work. If your employees don’t feel challenged in their roles and they turn up each day feeling too comfortable. This will likely result in your team slipping into a state where their work becomes second nature and they stop pushing themselves to reach greater levels of performance.
Think back to a day at work where you didn’t feel challenged. Were you motivated to achieve your goals? I’m guessing you weren’t and this is exactly how your employees are feeling when you fail to challenge them.
Challenging your teams doesn’t mean bombarding them with work that is above their training level or away from their area of expertise. This will only demotivate them and cause a lack of engagement. To strike a balance when challenging your teams, use the framework Challenge vs Support framework:
When challenging your teams, don’t forget to offer them support or they’ll end up stressed. By that same token, if you offer them support without challenging them, they’ll become fully fledged members of the ‘cosy club’ where engagement goes to die.
4. Reward Innovation
Employees are usually disengaged when they are unable or unwilling to innovate. What this means is that, if your employees don’t feel the need to do things differently, they’ll naturally continue to adopt the same practices as before.
Innovation inspires engagement and, if your employees aren’t innovating in their roles, their engagement will falter. In order to correct this, you need to inspire an innovative working environment for your teams. To do this, you have to reward innovation.
There are a number of strategies you can implement to create a more innovative and engaged team, but the key to all of them is creating for your employees a safe environment where they can come up with and implement their own ideas.
Allowing your team to run with their own ideas inspires employees to take accountability for their work, which increases engagement and workplace performance. Just remember to award innovation even when it doesn’t go entirely to plan. There’s nothing more demotivating than seeing a colleague try something new and fail, so it’s important to always find the positives.
If done effectively, you’ll end up creating an environment where your teams are always looking to improve their working practices as well as a culture where your employees are as engaged as possible.
5. Lead By Example
Before looking to your employees and their engagement, take a second look at yourself. Do you see a person who is engaged to the level you would wish your teams to be? If the answer is “no”, you might face a struggle to enhance engagement in your employees.
You’re called a leader for a reason, because you lead the way. When it comes to engagement, you need to demonstrate that you are the most engaged person in the room. You should be a shining example, a benchmark for your employees to follow.
It is often the case that a leader will look to improve their team’s performance while ignoring their own failings. In the case of improving engagement, if you come to meetings expecting enthusiasm from your team, but don’t bring any yourself, your employees may begin to feel that they’re being held to an unfair standard.
It’s also important to take a moment to question what you want your team to engage in. All too often, leaders expect their team to engage with their ideas but don’t do the same in return.
Great leaders are constantly reviewing their own performance and holding themselves accountable to the same standards they expect of their teams.
By regularly evaluating your own practices, you set an example of self-reflection and help to create an environment where your employees begin to consider the way in which they work and what they can improve upon. I have no doubt that, when they see their leader trying to improve, your employees’ engagement will improve too.
6. Make Your Vision Clear
If you’ve ever taken children on a road trip and told them the destination was a surprise, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. When kids don’t know where they’re going, it can be hard to keep them happy and engaged with the trip.
Now, your employees are hardly children but the same principle applies. How do you expect them to be engaged in their roles if they don’t know where they are going?
Rather than throwing a tantrum in the car, your employees will switch off if they aren’t fully on board with the vision you have for the business and their roles in particular. Have you heard of the Golden Circle model?
Developed by author, Simon Sinek, the model codifies the three distinct and interdependent elements (Why, How, What) that makes any person or organisation function at its highest ability.
Take a look at the model:
Yes, it’s important for your employees to know what you do and how you do it, but it’s arguably more important that your employees understand why you do it.
In order for them to be fully engaged in the process and the result of their work, they need to know the purpose. They have to understand why your business does what it does. You can do this by clearly outlining your vision for them and for the business.
This may seem obvious, but don’t make the mistake of assuming your employees know your business’s vision. Often, this key piece of information is buried in long strategy documents that only serve to gather dust. If this is the case, think about how you can consolidate your business vision and strategy into a single page everyone can buy into.
When your employees know what they are working towards and how their efforts contribute to the wider vision of the business, they are more likely to be engaged with their work.
Now you know how important employee engagement is and the major strategies for enhancing it, you’re on the way to driving your teams to success. Just remember, great leaders look to improve their own engagement and set direct goals before implementing any of the other strategies.
Engage your employees and thrive as a team!
As important as it is, employee engagement is just one essential aspect of creating high-performance teams that deliver extraordinary results. My free eBook, The Seven Secrets to Building High Performance Teams – Fast!, tells you everything you need to know to turn your employees into a winning team.