Updated: Oct 16, 2020
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Do you ever look at one or more of your employees and wonder “Why on earth am I paying you?” or “What do you even do here??”
These are common concerns for managers and team leaders. With a high level of product demand comes the need for swift talent placement; with evolving people solutions technology comes rapid interviewing, hiring, and onboarding practices. With the automation of these processes, it is easy for people to enter and exit your organization before you even have a chance to learn their name!
Evaluating employee performance, standards, and expectations has always been one of the great challenges - and opportunities - of organization leaders. Many managers admit to feeling uncomfortable with providing feedback to their employees...indeed, some leaders do not even know the full scope of their employees’ job duties.
However, being able to engage with your employees about their work and their performance is an important part of basic employee engagement; it is a worthwhile investment to improve these skills. Employee engagement is important to your team, therefore it should be high on your list of priorities. If it is not, don’t you worry! A couple of small changes can engage you more directly with each and every member of your team, therefore it should be high on your list of priorities. If it is not, don’t you worry! A couple of small changes can engage you more directly with each and every member of your team. Here are some things that you can do:
Put yourself out there. MBWA (“management by walking around”) didn’t get left back in the 80’s! Even during this pandemic, as you follow social distancing guidelines and OSHA regulations - and with many of your employees working remotely - you can still jumpstart the engagement process by making it a point to “visit” with your employees. Even an interaction is as brief as “good morning” followed by a genuine interest in how things are going in their neck of the woods is enough to catch the attention of the most disengaged employee. Don’t be afraid to hold a conversation and take a genuine interest. Ask meaningful questions; most people love to talk about themselves! Even our shyer employees usually do not mind sharing their opinion on light, casual topics (last night’s game...the best local eateries…..the latest Kardashian hijinks) once you uncover their area of interest.
Sometimes drumming up meaningful interactions with unfamiliar employees can be daunting. (Ever tried introducing yourself to a “brand new to you” employee who has worked for your company for more than six months and whose name you still don’t know? Fun fun fun…..) Try to cut yourself some slack and move past it. Most employees welcome the opportunity to meet someone new at the company, and especially enjoy receiving individual attention from their leaders and managers. Your sudden interest in them is flattering and a nice icebreaker. Remember that it is YOUR job as the leader to put your employees at ease. So hide your nerves and jump on into engagement!
Put your knowledge into action. After you take the first big step of getting to know your employees a little better, do something to demonstrate that they are heard and are making an impression. Do your best to remember the names, departments, and small details of those who work for you. Refer back to previous interactions whenever possible. (“Last week you mentioned that you were going fishing! Catch anything good?”)
When you show your employees that you are listening to them on small issues about their everyday life, they will be much more eager and willing to share their thoughts and opinions on important work-related matters. Whatever type of feedback that you receive - whether it seems large or small - make it a goal to act on that. Plan ahead and schedule a small change to the process, facility, or status quo; do so every six to eight weeks or so, or at regular intervals. Make sure that these “upgrades” line up with specific feedback that you’ve received from one or more of your employees. They will feel like a million bucks and, in turn, will continue to help you by being vocal with their great suggestions and ideas.
Put protective measures in place. Practice psychological safety for your employees. In this interview with Martha Lagace, Amy Edmonson, author of The Fearless Organization:Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, outlines the deep importance of this: “A psychologically safe workplace is one where people are not full of fear, and not trying to cover their tracks to avoid being embarrassed or punished.”
Quite obviously, as you solicit and then act upon information from your team, you want to be careful to protect the feelings and the dignity of your team members. Nothing causes people to clam up quite as quickly as feeling shut down, disregarded, and overlooked. In your effort to engage with and recognize your employees, be sure that you do not house any hidden biases, that you are not demonstrating any favoritism, and that all employees feel included and seen. Should you need to clarify information, or perhaps even correct an employee’s mistaken understanding, do so in a way that is gentle, humble, and full of grace. Make it easy for them to continue to build a rapport with you.
In short: when you hold a position of authority, you can either hide behind it and be comfortable in your impenetrable wall…..or you can step out and focus your warm attention and support on those who you are leading. Employee engagement begins with stepping out from behind the wall and “putting yourself out there” and is furthered when leaders take the time to show their employees that they are heard and valued. This is the perfect time to implement these changes and watch your employees blossom and flourish!
Note: Are you looking for a specific plan action for employee engagement that is tailored to fit your team’s needs? We can do that! Contact R.Holmes Strategic for additional free resources and a complimentary conversation.