3 Employee Engagement Tips

I’ve been writing about #EmployeeEngagement for the month and the most questions that I receive are about HOW?  How do we engage employees, as leaders?
I like these questions – not only because I can answer them – but because the emphasis is on the leader’s role.
Very often we speak of the employees being intellectually and mentally connected to the organization, but the organization is a thing and cannot of its own, take action.  The first line of connection that an employee has with the company is often and sometimes solely through the person to whom they report. It is the Manager, Leader, Supervisor, Team Leader who is the organization’s forward in delivering the #EmployeeEngagement goal. Unfortunately the leader , manager, supervisor or team  does not always actively think that engagement is part of his/her role.
When I lead teams I know that it is my responsibility to provide the conditions for employees to connect with the work that they do and by extension the organization. I use the three below tips to help engage employees.

  1. What’s in it for me? We are motivated when we think that our actions will bring us closer to what we want.  Each employee works for different reasons – some  want job security, others want to rack up achievements, while some want money to pursue their dreams, take care of families or build a business. Each employee has a reason for working even though they may not be able to, or want to, or are afraid of articulating it.  When I understood the personal desires of  each employee I was able to delegate tasks, develop career paths, offer relevant training and sometimes advise the employee to move on. Employees that I worked with did not always like me, nor me them, but they were connected to what they were doing because they were clear about the indelible link between their job and  their desire.
  2. One-on-One – How does a manager/ leader know what employees want? I have one-on-one meetings with employees. The intention of these meeting is to understand what makes the employee tick.  One-on-ones last for 30 minutes. In the first 10 minutes the employee talks about what’s on his mind, the second 10 minutes the manager asks “WHAT “ and “HOW” questions to  clarify the information received from the employees and to help the employee work through the issues presented.  The last 10 minutes are spent with the employee summarizing the meeting and thinking about the next steps. These sessions are voluntary so employees may not always attend or follow the proposed structure. I’ve lead teams whose members all refused to attend one-on-one sessions. Over time, some of these team members popped into my office, closed the door and began to talk. (Regular team meetings were used as avenues to engage others) Learning about the employee does not happen overnight, as employees are often tentative of such engagements – especially if this is a first for them. Initial sessions may be awkward and it will take several sessions for both the employee and leader to feel comfortable. These meetings allowed me to understand the dreams, the desires, the ambitions, the fears, the challenges and the dashed hopes of employees.  I was always left with a better appreciation  of their life priorities and what tasks to assign so that they remain motivated and achieved some aspect of their personal ambition because of the work that they do.
  3. What type of leader are you? Let’s be real – can you honour a one-on-one? When employees reveal themselves and their ambitions to you what do you do with this? I sift through the information to glean the bits that are relevant to the job and ignore the rest. I don’t fool myself – the person in front of me is a complex, adult, human being and chooses to show me only one side of his/herself. I only get a glimpse of the employee’s  personal affairs, and I cannot verify the information, follow up or give advice., nor can I take any action based on personal information revealed in the one-on-one ( unless the employee plans to hurt her/himself or someone else).  The personal information is a backdrop, my focus is only on how this information provides guidance about task assignment. It allows me an avenue for agreeing with the employee how the job and their ambitions can be aligned despite the challenges or limitations that may be present. Nothing else that they say is relevant to this, despite how juicy it may be.  So let’s be honest.
    One-on-Ones are not for you, if you
    * Can’t maintain confidence
    *Share what you hear,
    *Think life should/ must/ has to  be lived one way
    *Have little tolerance for differences

Put one-on-ones in your toolkit if you
* Can manage your judgements ( we all have them)
*Are willing to broaden your world view
*Are aware that you do not know the employee even if they share deeply
*Can compartmentalize and select only relevant information

One-on-Ones work when employees build trust in their leader and the leader respects the trust that has been built. This is not an overnight process.

In my book- Lead Your Team to Win – I share even more engagement tips.

P.S. I have  encountered  employees who do not want to connect with the job – some are marking time or passing through. When I encounter these persons I collaborate with them to identify what they can do while they are part of the team and work with them for a transfer to another team or help them get another job.

Do you agree that employee engagement is part of the Manager/ Leader’s responsibility?
How do you engage the employees who report to you?


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