Recent trends in leadership studies demonstrate that creating an engaged workforce lowers absenteeism and turnover, and increases productivity and profitability. Engagement is a win-win scenario for both the employer and the employee. So, what are some things leaders can do to foster employee engagement?
You have invested a lot of energy into developing the strategic purpose and vision of your business because it is what you believe in. Don’t keep it all to yourself! Sharing your vision is a powerful tool for motivating people. Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, says “there are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it”. Rather than forcing your people down a path with the ‘what’, guide them by using your strategic vision as the ‘why’. Teresa Amabile and Steven J Kramer wrote in The Power of Small Wins that linking a role to a broader purpose empowers employees to make “progress in meaningful work”.
Underpinning your strategic vision is your values, which influence the way you work and the way you make decisions for your business. If you are not living by these values, then they can become meaningless buzzwords. A good place to start is to bring people on board who are already aligned to your value set. You can train for skills, but values are ingrained in people. By hiring people based on their value set, it is very easy to create a sense of belonging amongst employees. Social identity theory spells this out perfectly in that people will be more motivated and engaged when they feel ‘at home’ at work.
Like your values, your leadership will become meaningless if you can’t remain genuine by staying true to your vision, your values and yourself. Leverage your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and be forever trying to improve. Self-awareness is humbling, and by demonstrating an openness and understanding of yourself, it gives permission for others to follow suit. Visible leadership is an influential way of setting an example for your employees. Don’t forget the power of storytelling, either. Bring meaning and heart to every message you deliver to show employees that you truly care.
A lack of communication is often a top scorer in employee engagement surveys. Gallup research shows that consistent communication, no matter the method, is connected to higher employee engagement. But again, make it meaningful. Relate it to the strategic vision and how it brings meaning to people’s work. Relate it to how it aligns with your values. And most importantly, relate it to how it impacts them. People are always interested in understanding ‘what’s in it for me?’, especially in times of change.
While you are constantly and consistently communicating your message, don’t forget that it’s a two-way street. Your people are the ones involved in the action – they will know a thing or two about their day job. Before you jump to conclusions and offer solutions, try to understand what makes people tick, and what ideas they might have for improvements. Employee lead change initiatives are an empowering practice that results in ownership, accountability and engagement. By setting the boundaries and providing a clear vision for what you want to achieve, employees can build their own solution to be proud of, champion and embed in the organisation.
If you need guidance or assistance with leadership skills or improving culture and performance through engagement, please contact PerformHR and speak to one of our team members.