Understanding what your employees want from you is usually no mystery, if you take the time to figure it out. And if you put in the effort, you’ll almost certainly improve employee engagement in ways that will help your organization grow.
How important is employee engagement? Last month, I wrote an Insights that quoted a Gallup survey on employee engagement. The February 2015 survey showed that less than one-third of Americans were engaged in their jobs – a statistic that has remained consistent for many years.
When it comes to the question, “Why are employees not engaged?,” Gallup points the finger directly at managers. Gallup’s research shows that managers account for as much as 70 percent of variance in employee engagement scores.
From this data, Gallup suggests that most managers aren’t creating an environment where employees feel valued, motivated or even comfortable. Let’s face it, most of us – Gallup says 1 in 2 of us – have left a job to get away from a bad manager and improve our quality of life.
Thankfully, Gallup gives us more than just the bad news by listing two things that clearly work to make employees happy: reliable, meaningful and consistent communication; and a focus on employees’ strengths as much as weaknesses.
Consistent, Meaningful Conversation
Let’s talk about communication first. Gallup’s research suggests that communication with employees can happen through many avenues – phone calls, email, text messages and face-to-face meetings. According to Gallup, managers who are most successful in engaging their employees use a combination of face-to-face discussions, phone and electronic communication. They also return messages from employees within 24 hours.
Employees who communicate regularly with their managers report that they feel more engaged, and that their managers know what project or tasks they are working on.
Employees also want their managers to know what is going on in their lives outside of work, according to Gallup. People surveyed who felt as if their managers were invested in them personally were more likely to report being engaged in their work roles.
The goal with this kind of communication is not to be an employee’s best friend or confidant. It is to create a workplace where employees feel appreciated and trusted. With this confidence, they will be more likely to bring up new ideas, challenge old assumptions, and support other team members.
That leads us to Gallup’s next finding.
Acknowledging Strengths, not just Weaknesses
If you want to create a culture where employees are engaged in their work, then you must focus on what they do right while acknowledging the areas in which they need to improve. Gallup backs up this idea with a current study that showed that 67 percent of employees who felt that their managers focused on their strengths or positive characteristics were engaged at work, compared to 31 percent of employees who said their managers focused strongly on their weaknesses.
Managers who help their employees build on their strengths can boost engagement even more. Ways to do that include placing employees in jobs where they can use their skills and knowledge to their fullest; learning more about their work and in career goals; and providing the coaching and resources to help them reach those goals.
Change is Hard
Of course, shifting your own managerial style to boost engagement can be uncomfortable. If you’re a private person, or someone who feels overwhelmed by your to-do list, you may not want to hear that your employees want to communicate with you regularly. You may have a hard time finding and focusing on the positive when the negative seems so obvious.
But you must do it, if you want to see things improve for your organization.
If you have a difficult time getting started, consider hiring a coach for yourself and your other managers. Cornerstone Business Advisors, we offer a range of services and products to help organizations improve employee engagement, including performance management and leadership coaching.
You also can read articles we write and share on the topic on our website.
The Cornerstone Business Advisors team includes former C-Level executives, successful entrepreneurs and advisors who offer unmatched experience in delivering advanced, custom-tailored, results-oriented solutions for business leaders. Cornerstone has worked with hundreds of companies that range from fast-growth start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. It developed the Performance Culture System™ to help clients implement best practices and drive high performance throughout their organization. For more information, visit www.PerformanceCulture.com or email [email protected].
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