Developing effective leadership directly impacts retention and engagement. As a manager, you have the greatest impact on how your employees will engage with their work. Not only do you need to establish yourself as a trusted leader, you need to ensure that you develop your employees talents so that they can be the most effective at their jobs. Creating a workforce where employees value their own work will help you gain the competitive edge on your competitors by helping boost productivity, moral, and involvement.
“Employees are people first, employees second.” The foundation of a trusted leader begins with a strong rapport. Building rapport is a critical element that makes your employees feel part of the team and connected to the organization. Try to make a connection by getting to know your employees. Ask them questions and understand their family life, interests, personal challenges, and overall goals. Rapport, trust, and understanding will lead to a more reliable, accountable and engaged employee.
How much do you know about the roles of those you lead? As a leader, it is important to value each person’s role and demonstrate how their contributions connect to the organization’s business strategy and overall goals. Each person’s job has its own challenges and requires unique skills. As a manager, it is crucial to understand an employee’s role, so think about asking: "What do you like best/least?" and "What do I do that makes your job difficult?” Express how the individual makes an impact on the overall organization, department, or customer so they say, “I make a difference.” Employees who feel this level of connectedness are far less likely to quit. Showcase their value by clearly demonstrating that their contributions truly make a difference.
The employees with the highest level of disengagement are the ones managers ignore. In fact, according to Gallup, employees who are spoken to often about their weaknesses had more favorable engagement scores than those who are ignored! And, it is most likely your "average" to "superior" employees (you know, the ones you need most!) who receive the least amount of feedback from managers. Don’t reserve feedback for the bottom 20 percent of performers. Employees at all performance levels want to hear from you.
Give ongoing feedback. Can you imagine a baseball coach who walks up to a player and says, “six months ago, when you were hitting, your elbow was too low.” How does that help? What if that same info was given on the spot when the player was in practice? Make feedback ongoing and give it in “real time.”
Asking for input is a great way to engage an employee and demonstrates that you value his or her ideas. Let’s face it, we all like to give input! But, what if ideas are off target and cannot be applied? That’s where cultivating ideas comes in.
As a leader, you have been trained to evaluate and judge as part of making sound decisions, but when it comes to helping employees grow their ideas, it’s time to defer judgment and use questions to help employees learn to think through their own ideas. To do this you have to use powerful questions to help them think through their suggestion and consider its feasibility.
Consider: Who are the stakeholders? Who would be impacted by your idea today or in a few months? What costs might be involved? How might you find out? Has this idea been tried before? If yes, what was the outcome? What is the root issue are you trying to solve with this idea? By asking the right questions, an employee expands his or her critical thinking about a topic and can enhance and evaluate the suggestion.
When leaders take time to ask powerful questions, they engage the employee as a valued team member and cultivate stronger thinking for future ideas.
Positive recognition from managers and peers has been proven to make a significant difference in engagement. What does your "culture of appreciation" look like? How can leaders at your level of the organization create or strengthen this culture?
A culture of appreciation is the foundation of giving recognition and it makes a big difference to employees. According to the 2014 Mood Tracker survey, 86 percent of employees said being recognized actually motivated them in their jobs; 73 percent of workers said recognition increases their happiness at work.
The connection between giving recognition and fostering that sense of achievement and internal motivation to be more fully engaged is a powerful competitive edge. Committing to give recognition, and learning to tailor that recognition to each employee’s motivation preferences are two key elements of making recognition a priority.
Consider asking your team this question: “At work, are you given a chance to do what you do best everyday?” How do you think they would respond? According to a recent Galllup survey, 30 percent of respondents strongly agree that they do, and these respondents are six times more likely to be engaged. Those who disagreed or strongly disagreed had zero engagement.
Doing the work that we are good at drives engagement and we know engagement drives employee retention. And, in order to truly understand what we are good at, we first must identify strengths and talents on the team. Helping employees identify skills needed for the future and considering multiple pathways to grow those skills enhances employee’s career options. This also drives engagement and retention.
Employee development happens through many different paths. Remember that you don’t have to wait for an open promotional opportunity to grow your team. There is a lot of employee development that happens right in place. Employees can grow through a job change (lateral, promotion, realignment), but some of the most powerful development opportunities are facilitated by the leader while the employee is in his own job. Internal networking opportunities and enrichment through cross training or stretch assignments can help your team with grow within your walls leading to long term career development and engagement.
We are all busy and barely have enough time in the day to get our own work done. Who has time to mentor our employees? But think about it. If you took an extra moment in a meeting to ensure your directives are understood and allowed for feedback or questions or touched base with an employee to relate to them in some way, you are making big roads in engaging your workforce. An engaged group of talent will want to perform their best. When you focus on gaining employee commitment, you should be looking for ways to bring out the full potential in your talent for today and for the future. You have the largest influence on your employee’s likelihood to be engaged.
Who has the greatest impact on employee engagement? Managers do. It is not always about paycheck or benefits that keep your talent from going to your competition, but providing a work environment that fosters open communication and sense of value and purpose that keeps them engaged. Your ability to create a high-involvement workplace where employees are valued, feel personally invested, and are willing to give discretionary effort to exceed expectations can be your organization's competitive advantage.
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