Building and maintaining high employee engagement is a priority for any leader. Engaged employees are happier and more satisfied employees, and they use their positive energy to be more efficient in their jobs, raise the company’s employer brand, and increase company success. But who is responsible for keeping employee engagement high? Is it the employees themselves, who may or may not find themselves employed in a supportive environment, or is it the responsibility of an organization’s leaders to create an environment in which employees can freely engage with their roles and their work?
Every company with highly engaged employees, who I have had the privilege to work with, had leaders who understood the impact they as leaders had on promoting and nurturing engagement in the work place. The leaders were continually involved with the development of a strong culture that drove employee engagement.
Leaders at all levels of a company often don’t understand that they hold quite a lot of influence in developing a work environment that is something employees genuinely wish to engage in. If employees don’t see the purpose of what they do, and instead see their days taken up with duties someone told them to do rather than the use of their talents and interests that comprise a purpose, they will certainly not give one hundred percent of their effort and abilities at work—not even close. Instead they’ll tune out, counting the years until retirement instead of the minutes it will take them to get into the office every morning.
But how can leaders make the office (or whichever working environment you utilize) a place where employees will want to be and will want to use their talents?
First, studies show that a strong leader is key in driving high levels of employee engagement. These are leaders are people-focused and have high levels of social intelligence. According to the consulting firm Development Dimensions International, strong leaders clearly communicate goals and directions, because “employees perform well when they are clear with their goals and objectives, and know how to go about achieving them.” Keeping employees focused on their goals and keeping them up-to-date on how they are performing allows them to focus on work rather than the possible appearance of underperformance.
Secondly, leaders tell and show their employees how their work matters. Drawing clear connections between company values and individuals’ work allows employees to see the consequences of their work that may not be apparent otherwise. For an empathetic person, knowing that the work they do (that may seem like busywork to them sometimes) actually contributes largely towards helping people who can’t help themselves, or some other service the company provides, can provide true meaning and a personal mission to employees’ motivation.
Finally, a leader must be someone that people want to support and follow. No matter how meaningful the work or clear the progression of projects, nobody wants to spend their time working under someone who does not treat them with respect and dignity and who does show they value for their employees’ time and talents. Live as a leader who respects everyone around you (regardless of position) and keep your commitments, and your employees will see you as someone worth helping to support.
How can you use these three guidelines as a leader to increase the engagement of your employees?
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