Engagement Is a Word; Being Engaging Is Your Responsibility
By Janice Mazzallo
Too often managers can develop the bad habit of saying what they want versus doing what they want. Nowhere is this more systemic than with employee engagement.
Managers can have ideals, but they also have to practice them. Here are some suggested strategies to create a true culture of employee engagement.
Start at the Top
Company-wide engagement is an important objective, and achieving it starts at the top. It’s critical for senior leadership to communicate and act on employee-engagement values. That means associates at every level need to understand that top management values their input and wants to understand their needs.
Bet on Promise; Double Down in Hard Times
Never hire a person unless you are willing to support them through thick and thin. Being there for an associate during the rough patches is a way of earning trust. Mentoring new associates and helping them overcome obstacles similar to what you faced as a new employee is a way to encourage loyalty and foster the tenacity to stick with a project or task through tough times.
Talk Less, Observe More, Ask Impactful Questions
Effective managers realize that not every assignment will meet with immediate success. And they know that the difference between success and failure might not be making suggestions, but instead asking the right questions. We all want to do the best we can, but we might not have the experience or resources we need to figure out the best solution. A manager who prompts you with the right questions, rather than telling you what to do, is going to help you grow.
Part of an effective employee-engagement commitment is to listen for ideas rather than focus on providing solutions. When you wait to hear from your employees, the idea you didn’t think of can surface. It’s easier to throw out suggestions on a given problem, but assessing a situation and reframing it with impactful questions is going to help your direct reports grow and succeed.
Praise and Forgive
If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. We were taught that if you focus on blame for mistakes, you’re only encouraging more conservative thinking. There are clear differences between acceptable mistakes and needing to accomplish tasks.
Work will always be challenging, but if your team feels empowered to swing for the fences, yet knows when it’s time to rein it in, you have the best of both worlds.
While this could be counterintuitive in some respects, time off is one of the best ways to create employee engagement. When you challenge people to go out and experience the world, they come back refreshed, with new energy and new ideas.
If there is anything that says ‘we value you, not just your contributions,’ it’s a commitment to work-life balance and watching employees grow as people.
Successful employee engagement is not easy. It boils down to commitment — a commitment to people and making sure those at the top are leading the charge. Given that most people seek inspiration, direction, and motivation from their leaders, it is always best to start improving engagement at the top.
Janice Mazzallo is executive vice president and chief Human Resources officer at PeoplesBank.