‘Rules of engagement’ – with its military connotations, that’s a pretty intense phrase, isn’t it? And employee engagement is (of course) hardly life or death. But it is a serious business. Very serious.
An engaged employee does lots of things that you simply cannot force someone to do. They’ll proactively communicate with colleagues and seek to find solutions in a motivated and motivating manner. They’ll support their colleagues positively and encouragingly. They’ll go the extra mile in so many ways that are impossible to capture in a job description. They won’t take advantage of the business for their own ends (whether that’s printing off 100 pages for personal use or taking too many duvet days). A disengaged employee, meanwhile, does the bare minimum – and in today’s VUCA environment, that is death to business.
Here’s a checklist of nine tips for how you can keep your team engaged and happy –
Make things meaningful
And that’s not your meaningful. You have to find out what each person in your workforce regards as meaningful. Your employee engagement policy might ultimately be targeting the entire workforce, but woe betide you if you try a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Provide well-stocked toolkits
Your people are the brains of the business – and their brains are (still) more powerful than any machine out there. Facilitate their innovativeness with all the resources they need. If you clear the way of blockers, you show how much you value their individual potential – and that means better engagement.
And listen actively. And follow up. And then listen some more. There is nothing worse than a leader who makes a show of listening and then retreats into their bubble again. Show that the listening has made a difference, whether that’s by modifying policies or simply by remembering something that was said and following up on a casual level. It hardly needs to be said that this kind of listening is engagement rocket fuel.
Pay extra care to remote employees
It’s all too easy for an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ effect to take hold when remote employees are involved. This is perilous. Disgruntlement and poor morale build quickly when there are team members who are physically apart from the small talk and ad hoc clarifications that go on in every office. Remote working has its benefits but one thing it doesn’t do (yet) is always make leaders’ lives easier – that’s something we have to simply suck up for now.
Recognise that engagement is reciprocal
Engagement comes out of your efforts to make the business environment sync nicely with the individuals operating within it. It’s rare for an individual to naturally suit the business environment. Don’t expect engagement to come out of nowhere.
Make the office a place of learning
If every bit of training on offer is framed purely in terms of its potential business benefits, then you’re missing a trick. It’s a fine balance to strike, but try to emphasise the idea that learning is also good in and of itself. People will feel more valued this way, and more inclined to apply their learning to business goals.
Show a clear career pathway
There’s moving forward with projects and then there’s moving forward with your career. Your employees do you the service of the former; it’s on you to repay them by showing them the way up the ladder.
Encourage managers to connect the dots for their teams, showing each team member how the work they do feeds into the company’s overall goals. Nobody feels engaged when they’re doing grunt work.
Don’t rely on perks
Perks perk us up, but that’s about it. If the office is otherwise miserable, they’ll only emphasise that. Clear career pathways, substantial benefits and a healthy company culture are far more important.