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A Gallup study published last year found that only 13% of employees worldwide feel engaged at work. Not surprisingly, the study also reported that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement were also more profitable, enjoyed higher customer ratings and fewer safety incidents.
So what can we do to influence higher engagement in our own organizations?
A NY Times article published earlier this year highlights research that identifies four core needs that must be met in order for employees to be truly engaged in their work.
“Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.”
Keeping those core needs in mind, here are six suggestions for increasing employee engagement:
- Weave autonomy into performance expectations. Ultimately, all of us are more likely to be engaged in our work when we feel that what we do matters. When employees are expected to help identify engagement barriers and opportunities for positive change, they are more likely to feel empowered to make a difference in their immediate environment. One way to encourage this kind of autonomy is to let employees see the big picture. Leaders should be responsible for setting the vision and measuring performance; but then they should get out of the way and avoid the temptation to micromanage. Employees that understand how their individual actions fit into the bigger strategy are more likely to be motivated and engaged with their work.
- Look for opportunities to remind employees – and yourself – about why you do what you do. Are your mission, vision and values more than just canned statements? If not, it might be time to revisit their purpose. Look for ways to help employees understand how they contribute personally to the mission of your organization. We all need to know that the work we accomplish individually and as an organization has purpose and value.
- Listen. Really listen. Is there anything more frustrating than being in a conversation and not really being listened to? How likely are you to be engaged at work when you feel unheard, dismissed, and unimportant? It’s important for leaders to ask how their employees are doing and pay careful attention to the factors affecting their satisfaction and engagement. (If your listening skills need a tune-up, here are a few tips.) It might even be a good idea to create a system that will allow you to gather the right kind of feedback on a regular basis. Employees generally know what’s contributing to low engagement and have good ideas about how to fix it. If you use internal surveys to gather feedback, it’s important to make sure the data is specific, relevant and actionable. It also might be a good idea to bring in an outside consultant from time to time to conduct interviews that will allow for a higher degree of honesty and a more objective perspective.
- Invest in leadership development. The success of any organization relies on employee achievement, and employee achievement relies on good leadership. It’s important that leaders know how to use every opportunity to reinforce a commitment to employee engagement. Leaders should not only be accountable for employee engagement, they should be personally supported in knowing how to create a strong, engaged workplace. As Tom Peters says: “The role of leaders is not to create followers, but to create more leaders.” (For more information about leadership development opportunities, checkout the Executive Leadership Program.)
- Celebrate achievements and encourage a culture of gratitude.Every one of us wants to feel appreciated and valued by others, and to be recognized for good work. Look for opportunities to recognize your people and reward their performance, even by just saying, “thank you.”
Success in business is all about people, people, people. In the Credit Union industry we understand this better than most. Our people are our biggest competitive advantage, so why wouldn’t we do all we can to make sure they are happy, engaged and supported?