Thoughtful Partners: Articles

Employee Engagement is poor – ways to address this challenge

Part 1 of this article ended in this way: Executive leadership must ask themselves “am I thinking of my employees enough and do they know that I care? After all, I am responsible for employee engagement”.

Having made the case that CEO/BU Leaders are responsible for Employee Engagement there are many levers at their disposal:

Leader’s self-assessment – This is a mandatory first step. As a leader you may want to ask the following questions: 

  • Am I prioritizing employee engagement appropriately? 
  • How much more time must I spend on employee engagement?
  • Is it a staple on the meeting agenda with my executive reports?
  • What do our employees read from my emotional wake?
  • What do I need to change?
  • Is there a mechanism in place to measure engagement on a regular basis?

By answering these questions honestly, a leader can plan necessary operational and cultural changes.

Vision – Is my vision of the future one that motivates and excites our people? This vision is too conservative if it is simply an extrapolation of the current direction. Larger numbers – revenue, headcount, locations – fall short of delivering improved, sustainable engagement. The vision must deliver the hope of personal growth and variety for all our people.

Executive compensation – Is talent acquisition and retention a primary metric for myself and my C-level team? It needs to be.

Inclusivity – We are well versed in the variety of thought and talent available from a diversity of employees. However, consider this concept further: In this age of the outsourced roles/functions, am I considering those workers not on our payroll, but important to our success. Do they feel as though they are important, respected contributors to my organization? Every individual, regardless of payroll, has the potential to provide unique and intrinsic value to the organization.

Compassion rather than Compliance – Some professions are regulated and require compliance to a certain way or standard – that is not what I am referencing here. By leading with compliance, I consider the attributes of a role and review my team member such that we focus on what he/she is doing least well. Per Dr. Richard Boyatzis (together with Daniel Goleman, author of Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence) this sends the individual into what he calls the NEA – Negative Emotional Attractor – and thus suppresses creativity and imagination. Unfortunately, this mode of leadership – command and control – is prevalent in the U.S. workplace, especially in larger organizations. In contrast by leading with compassion, I strive to bring out the best in an individual by building a resonant relationship and understanding their strengths. In so doing, the individual enters a different neural network – the PEA (Positive Emotional Attractor) – and in this state creativity, imagination, and even breadth of vision, have been shown to increase dramatically. This approach can lead to solutions and exhilaration unlikely to be experienced in an environment of compliance alone.

Empathy – Empathy means you feel what a person is feeling. It is different from compassion, which is a willingness to act based on a person’s situation and, in this context, strengths and passions. Am I empathetic to challenges – we all have them – in my people’s lives outside of work? Such challenges often negatively impact performance. Even though I may not have the personal capacity to know of all situations, setting an example of understanding and accommodation to my direct reports, at least, will set the right tone, and enable a positive emotional wake to ripple throughout the organization.

Curiosity – Have I facilitated a culture of curiosity beyond rigid guardrails of an individual’s role? Do I encourage cross-functional collaboration, and mutual learning of responsibilities? Is there a budget for learning beyond a person’s core role? Such actions propel my people into Boyatzis’ PEA mentioned above. This can all spawn innovation, mutual respect, and stronger teams.

Trust – One cannot write an article on employee engagement without mentioning trust. Am I, the leader, seen as trustworthy? If not, why not? Assuming, you have a good core, you must put aside your sensitivities and ensure you are displaying authenticity and transparency consistently in every kind of interaction within and outside the workplace.

Affirmation – Not a new concept, but with the developments in neuroscience over the last decade, it is now understood to be the biggest missed opportunity if you are not regularly providing positive feedback to strong performances.

Of course, many of these levers overlap to some extent, and every culture is different. Therefore, utilizing the appropriate mix from the above will reap significant improvements in engagement in the medium to long-term. Outside assistance can also catalyze such a program and Thoughtful Partners would be delighted to help. Contact us today for a free consultation to determine how best to enhance engagement within your organization and, as a result, see significant improvements at your company.

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