It should concern all of us as leaders when the headlines tout record high employee engagement in the US . . . and that record high number is 35%! Just over one in three employees is actively engaged in their work in this country. While the number of actively disengaged staff in 2019 also tied its lowest level at 13%, that still leaves 52% of staff in this country as “not engaged”. More than half of workers put in their time at their organization, but not their energy or passion. And passion, or lack thereof, impacts performance.
What can you do to increase engagement among those you would hope to lead?
- Be clear on why they should engage. Like one sentence clear. Why your mission, why your organization, why this role? Engagement is about an emotional connection, an investment in seeing your organization succeed. And if you as a leader don’t buy into the “why” at a bone-deep level, your people won’t either.
- Connect the dots. Do your people know how their particular role, how their unique gifts and graces, impact the organizational why? Leaders need to be intentional about connecting the dots for their people, so there is a clear understanding about how their individual contribution leads to overall success for the organization. Of course, to do that well . . .
- You need to know your people. How can you help someone recognize how their unique gifts and graces contribute to organizational success if you don’t know what those gifts and graces are? Think you have too many people in your organization to know the specialized skills and talents that each brings to the table? Have you tried, or have you just put that possibility in the “too hard pile”?
Yes, knowing your people takes intentional effort. So does managing the budget, but you find a way to do that, right? When you are engaged with your people, they will be more likely to engage with you and your organization. Don’t know where to start? Make a personal connection with at least one employee each day — and not just those you work most closely with. Send someone an email, or better yet a hand-written note, recognizing them personally for something they have done. Strike up a conversation when your paths cross and ask them something about themselves or their work (and then let them do the talking, and you do the listening). Rather than sending a blanket request for input, directly ask one or more people for their thoughts. We will go the extra mile for people we know far more than we will for some generic idea of “staff” or “administration.”
For those of you who may be thinking you have heard all of this before, I have one question: Are you doing it? If so, welcome to the top third!