Engagement Essentials- Building a Better Team

Since the early 90’s, when we first began to speak in terms of the employee experience as “engagement”, it remains a key focus for most organizations. Even though companies and leaders worldwide recognize the advantages of engaging employees and many have instituted surveys to measure engagement, employee engagement has barely increased, in well over a decade.

Gallop has been tracking employee engagement in the U.S. since 2000, and last year they released a report detailing their findings over a period of 15 years.  Although there have been some slight ebbs and flows, less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces during that 15-year time frame. According to Gallup Daily tracking, 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged, meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Expanding the survey further to a global audience, the results are even grimmer, where only 13% of employees working for an organization were found to be engaged.

This then begs the question, with so many organizations focusing on engaging their employees, then why are engagement scores still so low?

There are many different factors which can adversely affect engagement. The primary reason, however, is a failure to understand what engagement really means. Too many companies focus on tracking engagement, rather than creating it. There is generally, an over reliance on technology, with companies confusing an employee survey with engagement. While the intentions may have been well meaning, this approach is never going to yield the desired results. Metrics, after all, don’t drive change or increase employee performance, leaders do.

Since leaders set the tone and direction of a company, they control how engagement is regarded in the workplace. If building a better team is the goal, then the first step is to ensure that engagement is incorporated into the company culture. In high growth companies, engagement is not treated as “something else” a manager or leader has to do, but rather the way things get done.  It is top of mind all the time, not something which is reviewed in a survey once a year.

In order for engagement to improve, leaders need to understand that employees want to feel they are contributing to the growth of the organization, while at the same time using their skills, knowledge and talents to achieve personal fulfillment. Employee engagement is based upon trust, integrity, two-way commitment and communication between the organization and its workforce. It is an approach, rather than a process, that increases the chances of business success, contributing to both organizational and individual performance, productivity and well-being.

Creating a highly engaged workforce, therefore, requires leadership to change the way they approach engagement, moving away from a data driven process, towards a culture of involvement, validation and development. It requires an organization to step back and take a critical look at how the key engagement elements are aligned with the organization’s values and operating strategy. Bottom line – how leaders interact with employees directly impacts upon engagement, so if engagement is truly important to your organization, start by looking inwards first; what you do and how you do it can change everything!

Open Communication- Why it Matters!

Ironic that in today’s technology driven world, where there are endless devices and systems in place to connect us, communication or the lack thereof, remains a key leadership challenge.  Despite the constant stream of information circling around us on a daily basis, employees are not receiving what they need and want from leadership which, over time, leads to the creation of a disengaged and under-productive workforce. In survey after survey, the data confirms the importance of establishing cultures where open lines of communication can thrive. Case in point, of 1,000 employees recently surveyed across the US, 81% would rather join a company that values open communication over those offering great perks such as, top health plans, free food and health club memberships. Yet of those surveyed only 15% said their current employer was doing a “good job” engaging employees through open communication.

So why does this continue to challenge so many organizations? Quite simply because leaders too often assume their teams have what they need and understand the company goals and direction. They also tend to rely too much on the traditional, one-way forms of communication such as, memos and emails which serve a purpose, but do not provide opportunities for the open discussion and collaboration today’s workforce desires. In order for a culture of open communication to thrive, leaders must adopt new ways of connecting with their teams which support a two-way flow of information. Leaderships willingness to ask, listen and act upon feedback provided by their employees, directly contributes to fostering productive and engaged teams.











The Art of Decision Making

Ah the art of effective decision making, something which every business leader wishes to master.  While admittedly there are many leaders who shine in this particular area, others struggle, primarily because of their linear approach to the process.  It is too easy to focus on what is in plain sight, the black and white of an issue, rather than taking time to ask the important, sometimes difficult questions, to challenge the obvious. This is where the HR professional plays a vital role, by helping company leaders see the “grey areas” which exist in most issues, particularly those involving people. Unfortunately, too often employment related decisions are made based upon either numbers or the legality of the matter, with no consideration for the cultural ramifications. Of course respecting legal regulations and statues is absolutely necessary, it just should not be the sole basis for the decision making process. Understanding how the proposed action will impact the company cultural, working relationships, trust and sense of community, are all critically important elements which must be factored into the process. The bonds of trust and sense of engagement within an organization are fostered over years of work and commitment and yet can be eradicated overnight by a single ill conceived decision. That is why it is so important for leaders to partner with HR in this process, to ensure consideration is given equally to the data driven information and the relationship / human aspects of the matter. Leaders who practice this holistic approach to decision making are not only able to deliver the best possible outcomes for their company, they do so with the respect of their teams.

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” Plato