7 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement

August 11, 2019 – Creating a culture of engagement is critical to business success. When executive teams are engaged, managers are 39 percent more likely to be engaged, and this drives engagement among all employees, found a Gallup survey. Plain and simple increased engagement impacts the bottom line. A new report by Acertitude’s co-founder and managing partner Kevin O’Neill offers leaders seven ways to improve employee engagement.

1. Identify the Right Leaders

There are a million potential answers to the problem of employee disengagement, but solving it begins with identifying people who are most likely to be engaged from the start. The basis for finding the right people is having a rigorous and validated recruiting process. “A simple-yet-effective practice to begin an interview is letting candidates know that a final step in hiring will be for them to arrange references with former bosses and colleagues,” said Mr. O’Neill.

2. Tune Into the Unspoken

Mr. O’Neill directs interviewers to connect with what really inspires a candidate. “The magic is not just using your ears to listen for the words that are said. You need to use all your senses to capture not only the substance, but the candidate’s essence, the spirit that brings life to people.” Changes in body language, energy, and tone of voice can provide a well of insights. Subtleties such as whether a candidate leans in, makes eye contact, or speaks brightly and repeatedly about a particular experience can indicate their intrinsic motivators and engagement level.

3. Visualize the Future

Interviewers should invite candidates to imagine how both the candidate and company could grow together in the coming years, stressing the importance of the candidate’s role in building that dream. “Is there a trajectory where the candidate’s career and this company’s opportunity intersect?” Mr. O’Neill asks. “It’s being able to see that. So many people get trapped in today. The magic is taking people on a journey to what the future could hold.”

4. Define Roles in a Cultural Context

Cultural fit is the ultimate baseline for engagement. People need to fully understand what role they play in the organization and the way things are done inside it. “Handing over a job description isn’t enough,” Mr. O’Neill says. “Job descriptions are typically black ink on white paper, so naturally people focus on what is written in black. But when hiring, we can’t forget about the white space — the unwritten rules of engagement — which can be more important to integration and improved employee engagement.”

5. Connect at a Human Level

When people at every level connect the work they are doing to the mission of their organization, that is employee engagement. Leaders must focus on making everyone’s work significant. This drives heightened emotional commitment and turns a workforce into a powerhouse.

“Connecting your employees to the client interactions and events that happen outside the office motivates them,” said Mr. O’Neill.

“I advise executives to bring enthusiasm back to the office and remind people of the important part they play in the bigger picture. Storytelling brings your employees’ jobs to life.”

6. Fail Forward

Paradoxically, if you want your team members to be successful, you have to let them fail.

Mr. O’Neill advises leaders to give employees the freedom to align their work with their passions and dreams and then trust them to take appropriate risks and color outside the lines. “Encourage small failures so they get the opportunity to course-correct, learn, and grow as individuals. Not only will you challenge their minds and show that you believe in them, but the self-exploration could also lead to your next breakthrough. Failures are the incubators for growth in almost every organization. “The only thing I’ve learned from winning is that I like to win,” Mr. O’Neill adds. “Everything else I’ve learned comes from my failures.”

7. Recognize Contributions

When a team inevitably achieves, it’s vital to give them the recognition they deserve.

It can be as simple as a public thank-you or an uplifting email. It is especially important for executives to show appreciation. Nearly one-quarter of employees say the most memorable recognition comes from a high-level leader or CEO, according to Gallup’s analysis. “The highest calling of humans is not to make money,” Mr. O’Neill believes. “What fills the void for people is to be in a place where they can be of maximum service to others — knowing that you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, in order to achieve the highest good. Money is just a trophy.”

Mr. O’Neill cautions against seeking a fast, easy answer to the question of how to build an engaged workforce. “Employee engagement is more a way of thinking and acting over time rather than any single action,” he says. “If you build your approach to engagement around these basic principles, you’ll tend to have a committed team that performs, one that delivers the superior results that we’re all after.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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