5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement
The moment one hears the words “Employee Engagement Initiatives”, a typical picture that comes to mind is that of the HR team, planning several initiatives to keep the employees motivated. Often, the activities planned, incorporate ‘learning with fun’, ‘Reward and Recognition event’, team dinners, family day, etc. Can such events alone, create employee engagement? A deeper look at what engagement means, tells us that it is the extent to which the employee strives and engages his/her talent towards the goals of the company or team. This makes one quickly realize that employee engagement is impacted to a large extent by ‘people managers’, and their abilities to engage their teams.
It is often said that “People leave managers more than companies”. But what about the people who stay and contribute less than their potential? Engaged employees exude positive energy and optimism, which reflects in their work and consequently in the way they deliver value to your customers. They are more productive, more likely to stay on with the organization for a longer period of time, more creative and proactive, and better communicators. A set of engaged employees, with individual goals paves the way for organizational success. In a study in 2015, Gallup has reported that as much as 70% of the variance in the employee engagement of teams can be traced back to the influence of the manager. The role of the manager in ensuring employee engagement cannot be overstated. Here are 5 simple ways in which ‘people managers’ can partner with HR teams, to enhance employee engagement:
5 Simple Ways to Partner with HR teams for better employee engagement
1. Effective Performance Management
Appraisal time is often fraught with discussions about changes in role and compensation. Favourable changes, as per the expectations of the employees, certainly motivate them and boost their morale. However, to really get the best from them, managers need to think about the following:
a) How well am I delegating?
Delegation is a process and not a one-time event. Managers who make a plan for their team’s career growth, need to give time and effort to these transitions, and make allowances for learning through failures. When employees see that their managers have a plan for their growth, they invest extra time and efforts in their own development.
b) Have I established a connection with the big picture?
While organization goals and business strategies get discussed in the CxO offices, every employee plays a part in achieving these goals. Often times, there is hardly any communication from the top in terms of higher level goals and the employees are left fending for themselves, unsure of whether they are meeting their job roles and there are enough career growth opportunities within the organization. Managers are an important conduit to transfer this vision into action. Element78 has been consulting an owner driven manufacturing organisation that was interested in establishing an effective performance management system. While the engagement commenced with re-defining the company vision and cascading the same down the line, we realised that it was critical for the managers to reiterate the vision and its linkage to the department / individual KRAs for the employees to see how their work was impacting the organisation’s overall growth. While it may be difficult to involve each and every employee to build the strategies, it is the managers responsibility to have a regular dialogue about the big picture. It is nice for them to know how they are making a difference and how their contribution has an effect on the overall working of the company. It acts as a wonderful positive reinforcement, reminding employees how valuable they are to the organization. The biggest area this helps in is in helping employees map their career path to the company growth.
2. Training and Skill Building
While skill building is typically done in the classroom, or on-job training, if employees could choose their method of learning, it would make them responsible for their own development. Managers often find it difficult to spare their key team members for training. Partnering with HR/ learning team, employees could be mentored and helped for better time management in order that they are fully engaged in the learning process. Providing new tasks/ projects to help them apply the new learning, and review of these tasks by the managers, makes the skill development initiatives more effective.When one of our IT clients identified their training needs, they not only scheduled trainer-led programs on the calendar, but also made these available through e-learning options. It was up to the employees and their managers to choose the learning method that best suited them.
3. Making Resources Available
With empowerment and skill building in place, a question to be considered is, do the employees have all the resources (like tools, budgets, team members) that they need for the job, or even to try a new task? Sometimes, factors as basic as noise-free workplaces, unavailability of laptops or lack of space could be distracting for an employee, and minute observation of the employee at work, on calls or in meetings, could give insights about the same.In a large scale rollout of a program for “Effectiveness of Sales Teams”, one of the behavioural changes that we coached teams across India for was the discipline of promptly documenting each customer meeting. However, the sales executives returned to their desks only after a week of continuous travel, which led to poor quality data being entered into the system, in a delayed manner. Having conducted sales reviews using this data for a few months, the sales head decided to empower his team by providing them with hand-held devices which were programmed for sales data entry. With the new gadgets, the team was enthused to enter data on real-time basis, thus making the intervention effective.
4. Deep and Timely Engagement with R&R Initiatives
It is important to celebrate the strengths of employees so that they know that they are acknowledged, seen, and appreciated. Successful organizations have formal and functional rewards and recognition programs. It’s important for managers to be able to spot the achievements and nominate their team members well in time. Even to appreciate work of co-workers, leaders and managers need to possess special skills, which they can train and practice for. Fairness and robustness in the nomination process ensures their effectiveness.One of our clients, as part of employee motivation, organises annual awards. One of the award categories is for demonstrating the organisational values. Of the 8 functional managers who were expected to nominate team members for this award, only 1 manager consistently nominated her team members for 2 years in sequence. By the 3rd year, the members of the largest team in the organisation resorted to attention-seeking behaviours since no one from their team were nominated for this award.
5. Genuine Interest in the employee’s sphere of life
Managers should have, and display, a genuine interest in their employees’ careers and professional growth. Together, a manager and employee can explore and find the appropriate reasons for improving performance, by discussing various areas in the sphere of the employees life, and how these could align with their careers. When managers themselves participate in events like CSR initiatives, talent nights, sports events etc, it sets an example for employees to explore their growth as professionals in a holistic way. When employees know that their organization is interested in their career and overall growth, they would automatically find reasons to improve their abilities, and hence performance.One of the essential ingredients of our women’s leadership program is to enable the participants to construct their sphere of life and prioritize it. We have often seen this result to a greater focus by the women on their careers, since they clearly saw this as the channel to fulfil their aspirations in other walks of life.
Improving employee engagement isn’t just the job of HR teams. Managers play a key role in ensuring that their teams have enough opportunities. Managers need to possess special skills to be great facilitators and drive successful employee engagement programs. When managers invest their time and effort in ensuring successful implementation of an employee engagement program, it shows. These 5 points can really help you to get started. More coming up in subsequent posts.
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