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5 Ways Leadership Can Improve Employee Engagement

This blog was originally posted on on September 19, 2017

Why Improve Employee Engagement

“the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds … to eight seconds”

Senior leadership can have a profound effect on employee engagement. If senior leadership acts disengaged from their employees, employees will be disengaged. And they already are: in the US, about two thirds of employees are not actively engaged or psychologically committed to their job.

Management at all levels can have an effect on employee engagement, from involvement during employee onboarding design to developing a culture that invites engagement. It is imperative that senior leadership takes the reins and steers their employees toward a more engaged, fulfilling work life that aligns with both employee and employer values.

Here are five ways senior leadership can improve employee engagement.

Respect Employees’ Attention

Like everyone else living in the developed world, your employees are distracted enough already. From the constant slurry of daily emails to app notifications on their smartphones, employees process an overwhelming amount of information every day. Since 2000, “the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds . . . to eight seconds” and researchers place the blame squarely on the rise of mobile technology. Since we can’t escape our technological reality, senior leadership must respect attention as a limited resource and work to reduce additional workplace distractions.

If you want to get engagement, you have to get engaged!

A few tips:

  • When you email your employees, think about their needs. Does this email help your employees do their job better? Or is it filled with information that will just waste their time? If you answered no to the former and yes to the latter, hold off on sending that email until you have something relevant to communicate.
  • Solicit feedback. You might not know that you are distracting your employees but if you give them a safe forum for feedback, employees will let you know what works for them and what does not.

Give Thoughtful Feedback

Now that you’ve requested feedback, consider this: have you given thoughtful feedback to anyone other than your direct reports lately? Most likely, your employees get feedback from their direct supervisor and trusted peers, but never the top brass.  If you want to get engagement, you have to get engaged!

  • Consult with supervisors to learn about your employees.
  • Talk to employees and get to know what makes them tick.
  • Use this information to give feedback. Personally. From you. The sandwich method—a layer of constructive criticism between two slices of praise—works well for employees who are struggling. You want them to know that they are doing well, even if there is a lot of room for improvement.
  • Don’t get mad, get constructive. Help your struggling employees overcome obstacles through feedback and advice. Few people respond well to anger, but they do respond well to empathy and support.
  • When you see improvement, recognize it immediately.

Recognize and Inspire Employees

Some competent employees doubt their skills when working in a recognition vacuum. Let them know they’re on the right track, but beware of relying solely on recognition—some employees might not value the type of recognition you’re giving. In fact, in an employee attachment index survey released by Randstad, employees valued “enjoying going to work each day” and “feeling inspired to do your best” more than employers, and employers valued recognition for effort more than employees.

Eileen Habelow, former Senior VP of HR for Randstad, notes that employers should avoid blanket recognition where all employees are rewarded equally. Instead, she suggests adopting an approach that both rewards top performers and incorporates their best ideas into new programs. For many employees, merit-based rewards inspire them to do their best work. Other employees want to know that their work directly impacts achieving corporate goals, especially if those goals are aligned with their values.

Listen and Follow Up

The only surefire way to know how engaged your employees are is to listen to them. If you aren’t listening to your employees, it’s unlikely that you have the information you need to lead effectively. If you haven’t been listening, now is the best time to start.

  • Ask employees to chat in your office for a few minutes. You might make their heart skip a beat if you’ve never talked to them before, but it’s a good first step to show that your door is open and that you care about your team.
  • Anonymously survey employees. If employees trust that the survey is truly anonymous, they may give you unexpected but crucial feedback. Eventually, as you nurture a listening culture, employees will trust that they can be open and honest with management about any work related issues.
  • Follow up with employees about their concerns and work to implement good ideas. After all, your business goals cannot be met without happy, productive employees who feel heard, respected, and valued.

Advocate for Employees

A good employer knows their employees—their needs, concerns, strengths, and weaknesses. Your people are all you have. They work hard for you; now it’s your turn to work hard for them. Find ways to actively uplift your employees based on your knowledge of them as individuals. If you notice an employee struggling with a particular task or job role, consider reassigning him or her to a task or role that plays to their strengths. When struggling employees see that you understand their struggle as well as their potential, and you give them an opportunity to succeed, they will engage and perform at higher levels.

The divide between employer and employee values can cause employees to disengage and look elsewhere for work. By following the strategies outlined above, senior leadership can bridge the divide, get engaged, and foster a culture of employee engagement.

Looking for custom corporate training to increase employee engagement at your organization? Reach out and talk to us about how we can help.