Do You Care About How Engaged Your Team Is? Part 2cahide
Written by: Cahide Akkuzu
Reading time: 6 minutes
In part 1 of this article we saw the clear link between employee engagement and business results, we also saw that employee engagement is a real issue for many companies. In order to take quick action I walked you through the Gallup 12 Questions that measure the most important elements of employee engagement and gave you tips of how to immediately use the survey in a practical way. You can access the article from the following link: https://www.contextprofessionals.com/en/do-you-care-about-how-engaged-your-team-is-part1/
The work environment has been highly impacted by the pandemic. Employees are going through various emotional difficulties created by uncertainty. This can be in the form of anxiety about losing our job or health, or any other form of fear about the future. Most of us have never experienced a period in which employee engagement has become as critical as today in order to sustain business results.
So, whose responsibility is it to increase employee engagement? It’ s not only the responsibility of human resources function for sure. It is the responsibility of each and every leader at all levels in the organization. Everyone who is leading needs to change their perspective about giving employee engagement the well deserved importance and needs to take responsibility for action. In this second part of the article you will find practical actions that you can implement to increase employee engagement.
The study of human psychology shows that our well-being rests on our connection to others. When we feel like we belong, we experience meaning, life satisfaction, physical health and psychological stability. When we feel excluded, the result is psychological pain and various negative psychological effects. Research by BetterUp shows that a sense of belonging in the workplace is essential for the well-being of the employees and the correct functioning of the organization. In a survey of 1800 full-time employees that is done at BetterUp labs, it was found that employees with a high sense of belonging take 75% fewer sick days and see a 56% increase in job performance. Excluded employees have a 50% higher rate of turnover than employees who feel they belong. Employees who feel they belong to their workplaces are also successful in promoting their workplaces. These people defend and support their workplaces 167% more than those with a low sense of belonging. Employees’ careers are also positively affected by this sense of belonging. Employees who felt highly connected at work received twice as many raises and were 18 times more likely to be promoted in a six month period than people who felt excluded.
These results show that building a sense of belonging and further nurturing this sense of belonging should be at the heart of the strategy to increase employee engagement. This strategy is needed because 40% of people in the work environment feel emotionally and physically alone and unsupported. It is not difficult to guess that the rate of feeling lonely and unsupported is much higher during this period in which people continue to work remotely or hybrid. Fortunately, the technology that allows us to work remotely also provides the necessary opportunities to keep in touch with our teams and create belonging.
Here are a few tips that will help you to create, or increase, the sense of belonging of your employees.
First of all, check in as often as you can with your employees. Belonging research conducted by EY shows that regular communication helps employees to not stray away from work and to create belonging. Although, working remotely, you cannot drop by at your employee’s desk following up on the progress of the work, you can still find ways to keep in touch regularly. Be accessible, give the feeling that you are in their service! A simple question that you can ask once in a while, such as “What can I do for you to support you to become more productive?’’ or ‘’What can I do for you so you feel a strong connection to our business and company?” will help you. Video conferences or phone calls are very practical for communicating when working remotely. My advice is to ask your employees to open the video camera as much as possible, seeing people’s facial expressions and gestures is important to establish a connection. This also softens communication, softens harsh statements that can sometimes be used easily on the telephone or via e-mail. Do not forget to ask about your employees’ personal lives as well as their business life. Again, 39% of the participants in the EY belonging study state that they “feel more belonging to their work” if they feel that their leaders are interested in both their personal and professional life.
Communicate frequently. Make communication and collaboration a priority Regular meetings, virtual or face to face, are crucial for everyone to agree, align and understand the strategy and values of the company. This is even more important during times where more and more employees work remotely or hybrid. Create an environment to share information and encourage people to engage with each other. Information sharing is very beneficial for the success of the company, the development of the employees and creating a sense of belonging. Creating a culture of information sharing is a powerful way enabling employees to learn new things from each other. Support employee-to-employee feedback as well. Even remotely, the feedback that employees give to each other is very beneficial for increasing the bond between them. This is also a way to improve communication, collaboration, and mutual learning. In a recent study by PwC, about 60% of the participants stated that they would like to receive feedback on a daily or weekly basis. For employees under the age of 30, this rate goes up to 72%.
Empower your employees. Employees want to take part in the decision-making process, even more so in decisions that impact them directly. They want to express their opinions and they want to be heard. Support your employees to find ways to take their own decisions, to find ways to communicate with you and to generate new ideas. Find ways to empower your employees even if they are working remotely. Research shows that employees with less authority are in the 24th percentile segment of the employee engagement index. On the other hand, employees with more authority are included in the 79th percentile segment of the employee engagement index. Obviously, empowering employees strengthens belonging.
Let’s take a closer look at the leadership dimension of creating employee engagement. While 90 percent of executives understand the importance of employee engagement, unfortunately fewer than 50 percent understand how to address this issue. Top management must elevate the topic of employee engagement from a HR initiative into a key business strategy and hold all managers accountable. In order to put employee engagement at the center of the strategy, leaders need to fundamentally change their perspective on how they see their employees. The philosophy of Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, that helped him to build one of the most profitable businesses in the world is:
“Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your business. It’ s as simple as that. Healthy, engaged employees are you top competitive advantage.” – Sir Richard Branson
It is a proven strategy that leaders need to put employee engagement at the center of everything they do. If a leader’s team is not made up of people who are committed, passionate about their work, willing and enthusiastic to work with each other, that leader’s team cannot be successful in the long run. Psychologist Daniel Pink says that people are driven by “autonomy, mastery and purpose”. Individuals crave work that lets them leave a unique fingerprint on the final product. So, leaders need to make sure that the work done really makes sense, that people have the tools and autonomy to succeed, and that the right jobs are given to the right people.
Nearly every job has been changed by technology. The pandemic has had an accelerating impact on this transformation. Leaders are constantly under pressure to do more with less. Well-run companies constantly look for new innovative ways to improve human productivity. Research shows that despite these pressures to increase productivity, if we enrich the content of the work that employees do, and give them more autonomy, decision-making power, time and support, the result is that companies increase their profitability. So, one of the key points to increase engagement is to make work meaningful! As a leader, you need to find out what you need to do to make the job more meaningful for your employees. If you do not know the answer clearly, ask your employees, find out about their perspective of what they need in order to make work meaningful for them.
One of the most important duties of the leader, that has a huge impact on employee engagement, is to provide clarity to the employees about their goals. Here, I want to focus on the importance of setting simple and clear goals. When employees have clearly defined goals that are written down and shared freely, everyone feels more comfortable, and more work gets done. Goals create alignment, clarity, and job satisfaction—and they have to be reviewed and discussed regularly. For example, Google uses an agile goal setting process called OKR (objectives and key results) originally developed by Intel. The process is simple and effective: all employees (from CEO down) set themselves ambitious and measurable objectives. They are asked to define “key results” that monitor their progress. Everyone’s OKRs are public, so it’s easy to see what the CEO or a co-worker is holding himself or herself accountable for. At Google, this creates alignment because employees can see who is dependent on their work. People feel comfortable that they know what to do, they see what others are working on, and the measurement of their performance is clear. So, to improve employee engagement, set clear goals, support and guide employees for better performance, and provide feedback on a regular basis for improvement.
Engagement research shows that learning opportunities, professional development, and career progression are among the top drivers of employee satisfaction. Organizations with high employee engagement focus on growing their employees so they become competent leaders. Companies must offer developmental opportunities, both formal and informal, that let employees learn on the job, take developmental assignments, and find support when they need help. Leaders must make sure that learning, development, and mobility are rewarded. While making the numbers is important, leaders must also be rewarded for developing people, moving people into the best role, and for keeping retention high. Organizations with a strong learning culture are 92 percent more likely to develop novel products and processes, and are 52 percent more productive. Their engagement and retention rates are also 30 to 50 percent higher.
Good leaders recognize employees’ strengths. There is no better way to keep an employee motivated about their job than to make them successful. In this process, one of the most important things a leader can do to increase employee engagement is to provide regular and immediate feedback. Continuously showing employees that their achievements are recognized is an important way to increase employee engagement. As simple as it may seem, even a simple “thank you” is very effective in creating highly engaged employees. In fact, this phrase has physical implications: Research shows that if you thank someone, you get the other person to release oxytocin – a hormone that increases social bonding, makes people relax, happy, and more collaborative.
Leaders striving to create a corporate culture of high engagement do their best to make work plain and simple! These leaders work hard to remove heavy top-down processes and administrative overhead like compliance processes, formal control processes and multi-stage processes. Instead, thee leaders create a system focused on trust, autonomy and cooperation. Simplicity, or the removal of formal bureaucratic overhead, will result in an enormous increase in job satisfaction and employee engagement and even have a positive impact on the health of your employees. Work-productivity studies at the University of Rotterdam show that if employees work in a complex environment, they are more likely to have cardiovascular or other diseases. Without increased amounts of autonomy, empowerment and local support, complexity can lead to high levels of error and stress.
Although many leaders see employee engagement as a top priority for their company, statistics show that the actions of many companies do not support the level of importance that should be given to employee engagement. It’ s not easy to shift the focus of the whole organization towards increasing employee engagement. The most important thing is that the management team is aligned and genuinely agrees to put employee engagement at the center of everything they do. The management team must understand that all practices of management have a direct or indirect impact on employee engagement. Leaders need to get regular feedback in order to understand how employees are impacted. Employees want to be heard much more frequently than once a year through formal surveys.
In this article, I gave you some tips to increase employee engagement. Act without waiting for the next annual employee engagement survey. Start by immediately applying the Gallup’s 12-question employee engagement survey as described in Part 1 of this article. Listen to the opinions and expectations of your employees without judgment, review their suggestions and start putting some of them into action. Review the tips that I outlined in this article and see if there are tips that you could put into practice. Many of us still work remote or hybrid. So, as a leader, what is the most important thing you really need to do, especially in this period? Be closer to your employees as much as you can even if you are physically distant!
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