I'm a subject matter expert on the topic of workplace bullying, and that means being an expert in everything opposite of workplace bullying. I eradicate workplace bullying for my clients by helping them replace bullying with a positive workplace culture and engaged employees. When employees are engaged, when you have a positive workplace, then you do not have workplace bullying.
What is Employee Engagement?
A 2014 Gallup Poll defines employee engagement as being involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to work and the workplace. Gallup is talking about a profound connection here. How many of us can say that our employees feel an intense connection to our business, our products or services, and our mission? Unfortunately the Gallup Poll found that only 31% of employees do.
I like to say employee engagement is happening when an employee gives over their mind, body and soul each day at work. Mind refers to the decision that an employee makes every day, every minute, to be engaged. Body refers to the behavior or actions they take each day to further your business and the mission. Soul refers to emotions and feelings that one has towards work – if employees feel happy, for example, they will produce.
Seven Areas of Focus to Build Engagement
I'm the kind of person who looks for patterns, and in doing a whole lot of research on building engagement I've noticed that, no matter what list, article or book you read, ideas for building engagement always fall into one of 7 categories:
#1 Feeling Valued
Feeling valued is about being appreciated, understanding why your role is important, and feeling like you're contributing to the organization.
For example, when I was the Director of HR for a financial services company, we hired file clerks who came in after high school each day to file.
In my naivety, when I trained them for their jobs, I told them, “Here's the stack of papers, pick up a paper, find the number it corresponds with, and file it. Repeat.” I didn’t make any attempt to help them see why this was valuable, partly because I didn’t see the connection until something bad happened.
One clerk took large chunks of paperwork and stuffed it into random files in an effort to reduce the amount of filing she had to do. She did this several times, because she didn’t think it mattered.
Clients were getting angry that we’d lost their information and customer service really suffered. Turns out, file clerks are contributing to customer service, and of course good customer service means more customers. My file clerks didn’t see the value in their jobs because I’d failed to help them see it, but now I realize every single job in your company provides value. It’s your job to help each person see that.
To be engaged, employees must feel a connection to the work itself. They must also feel autonomous and flexible in their work schedule, be challenged by their work, and understand the link between their job tasks and the organization’s mission.
I once did a training for a company who had been set up by the city government to kill mosquitos. The town had a mosquito problem, and this agency was set up to solve it. On a break, I asked one employee standing near me to tell me more about the company. She said, “We kill mosquitos. That’s all we do.” Another employee overheard her and jumped in with, “Is that all you think we do here? We are saving the community from West Nile Virus!” He saw a connection with the mission, and I guarantee he was more engaged than the first employee.
Free Webinar 2/14: Show Your Employees Some Love: 50 Ideas for Building Engagement
To be engaged, employees have to believe that there is strong teamwork and trust among the team. Employees must receive constructive feedback along with positive feedback, receive effective and useful communication from peers and managers, and believe in the group’s ability to make good decisions.
The environment also matters when it comes to engagement. The organizational culture has to be positive and promote thriving employees, and the worksite itself has to promote production and engagement. Of course, Google is a well-known example, with its work pods, steakhouse, and sleek interior design.
#5 Trust in Management and Leadership
It makes sense that in order for an employee to be engaged they have to believe in their management team and in their leaders. Employees have to trust that the leaders make good decisions and that leaders are sharing what they know. They have to feel supported by leaders, and they have to believe that managers are giving them everything they need to do their jobs well.
A friend of mine told me a story about bagels. Everyone received an email from the Director of HR that she was going to start bringing in bagels every Monday. The following Monday he didn’t eat breakfast because he thought there would be a bagel waiting for him at work. There wasn’t, and there never have been. Bagel Monday has never been mentioned again.
My friend said he was really annoyed – he now had to work Monday morning without any breakfast. The following Monday he got a little more annoyed, and every Monday for a few months the bagel debacle stuck with him. It wasn’t that there were no bagels, it’s that he’d lost trust in the Director of HR.
If bagels can damage engagement like that, think about how much it is damaged when something that matters happens (or doesn’t, as the case may be).
#6 Professional Development
Plain and simple, adults have to grow. So part of building employee engagement means offering opportunities to get training, to learn from each other, and to be innovative and try new things. Stagnant is fun for no one, and it won’t help your organization increase its market share.
#7 Rewards and Recognition
Finally, of course rewards are part of building employee engagement. Rewards could be anything from a thank you to an increase in compensation or a bonus.
Note from the Editor: Catherine has several specific ideas that you can implement today to grow these 7 facets of employee engagement. She'll explain them all to us during our free webinar on Valentine's Day. Register for your spot today: