Building Engagement

Engagement is one of the most difficult concepts for most managers to grasp.  “What is engagement, what control do I have over it, and what would I do to increase it?”  And sometimes, “Why is this my job?”

Engaged employees work harder, are more productive, and actively build enthusiasm among fellow employees and customers.  If you are not the primary customer interface, think about the attitudes of the people in your company who are.  An actively engaged employee is going to go the extra mile to satisfy your customers and feel happy about doing it.

If your employees are not actively engaged (and the average percentage who are is 30%), they are either “not engaged” or worse, “actively disengaged”.  You may think of the actively disengaged as the whiners, complainers and others who spread disgruntlement throughout the organization.  You already know what impact the actively disengaged have on their coworkers – have you thought about how they treat your customers?  They don’t necessarily break procedure, but they are less cheerful, less helpful, and generally less willing to do the right thing for the customer.

So, if you weren’t before, you should now understand why engagement is part of any manager’s job.  It’s linked to critical measures like customer satisfaction, employee turnover, productivity and profit.

Secondly, you might ask, “How can I improve engagement?”  You probably have employees you think will never be engaged, but the average company has 25% of employees “actively disengaged”, while world-class companies only have 8% in this category.  Clearly there are some who cannot be budged out of this category, but most of them can be engaged.  Take responsibility for the level of engagement in your organization.  You can make a difference and you are contributing to the level of engagement you currently have.

But how do you build engagement?

Engagement starts with taking a personal interest in each employee.  Understand what they get out of work, help link their personal values and goals to those of the company or workgroup.  After this, begin to think of employees as assets that need development.  If you had expensive capital equipment on the factory floor, don’t you think you would pay for maintenance and upgrades as needed?  Well, employees are often the largest expense in any company, and yet they don’t get the training, mentoring and career development opportunities that would improve their productivity.

Find out what their strengths are, and find ways of using those on the job.  Find out their interests and look for ways to provide opportunities to grow and learn in areas they are interested in.  Celebrate successes, learn from failures and treat them like the valuable human capital they are.

You won’t be sorry you did.