Employee engagement is crucial for any business, but how each inspires it is a different matter entirely. While there are some universal tips, the truth is that each business environment is different, and so are the employees.
First of all, there are people who like being in the spotlight and those who shun it - something psychologists usually classify as being an extrovert or an introvert. However, this shallow definition only scratches the surface of the multitude of personalities, goals, ideas and future plans.
What should be the basis of boosting employee engagement is the human factor, which, sadly, is frequently overlooked. This should not be so.
Even if people are different and have different goals and expectations, what every employee has in common is - the desire to do a fulfilling job at a pleasant workspace and be adequately rewarded for the effort.
1. Startup Mindset
One good example of relative equality is seen in startups. Because they operate in tricky environments and ever-changing market conditions, they have no choice but to constantly adjust their approach and consider multiple different ideas.
For example, brainstorming is common. Every employee has their say, and others work on perfecting the ideas. This kind of environment naturally makes people want to participate because they feel they’re truly part of the team. By extension, it also boosts creativity, which is something that cannot be mastered if your mindset is fixed, or if you’re searching in the wrong place.
2. Shifting Perception
Project collaborations have been shown to be capable of boosting employees’ overall performance. It is really not difficult to see how common goals can lead to enhanced engagement. When everyone feels like an integral part of the team and the company thereby, everyone will share successes and try to mitigate failures.
This is another thing that’s common for startups.
While scientists explain this fact in professional terms, it’s only fair to say that everyone can understand how common goals can inspire participants to perform better.
It would seem that the days of the traditional business model are numbered, at least for companies aiming to survive the rapid changes brought forth by innovation and driven by technological progress. Even if traditional execs are not too happy about this prospect, they don’t have much choice in the matter.
This is good news for employee engagement, because the traditional, usually rigid, approach often discourages many and deepens competition within teams.
3. Creating Purpose
A joint study undertaken by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Rob Cross, Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College shows that purpose is the key factor of collaboration and, by extension, engagement.
According to Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer, i4cp:
“The lack of incentives and rewards is the most common and powerful barrier to effective collaboration. Yet, most talent management systems are designed to reward individual achievement, not team accomplishments. Finding ways to recognize and reward individuals, leaders, and teams who engage in productive collaborative behaviors can pay off in a big way.”
In plain words, teams expect some reward for their efforts. The current practice that rewards individuals (e.g., managers or team leaders) is not likely to boost employee engagement. You can put it this way: a reward can be a purpose; over time, it will gradually evolve into something much larger and more rewarding: creativity and enthusiasm.
From the other angle, employees who don’t see a purpose in what they do will leave the company as soon as a better prospect arrives. This doesn’t suit either party: the company will have to invest resources (not to mention effort) to train new employees who will eventually also leave, and employees won’t be engaged or dedicated.
4. Embrace Innovation
Innovation is happening all the time; it’s just that we don’t often recognize it until it becomes omnipresent. What is important is to encourage employees to actively take part in the developments so that they can participate in the change (for the better).
This practically means that all employees should participate - from managers to novices, and equally, at that. As mentioned above, execs are, as a rule, most often the first to be against it. The reasons are not so difficult to imagine - power and money have their allure.
However, more and more businesses are learning the ropes of agile methodologies nevertheless, allocating seasoned managers to devise strategies for the future. This is, so to speak, the best time to jump on the bandwagon and include all employees in this shift.
When everyone is learning on the go, boundaries are easily blurred. You can be certain that employees will appreciate the effort, and engagement will come naturally.
5. Listen to Employee Feedback
Anonymous feedback is important on multiple levels. Firstly, it will tell you what your employees are unsatisfied about without being afraid of retribution.
Anonymity has several benefits, with safety and honesty topping the list. In addition, it sends the message that all employees are equal, because nobody knows who provided which feedback.
In simple terms, anonymous feedback sends a clear message to all employees: their opinion is valued. Good managers listen to employees’ feedback and take their opinion into account. This, in turn, boosts the engagement.
In fact, look at employee engagement from the perspective of psychology rather than business. Everyone wants to get an equal chance at success as everyone else and everyone wants their ideas to be heard.
Employee engagement is, as you can see, closely linked to fairness and rewards (not necessarily of material nature). The true goal should be to inspire employees to feel integral to the company, enjoying its successes and brainstorming solutions to its failures. This is the only way to keep people satisfied in the long run. No finger pointing and no punishment. Inspire and lead by example. It’s as simple as that.