One of my favorite aspects of leadership is employee engagement. It is one of those aspects of leadership that makes people feel good and is a bit fun sometimes. Unfortunately, I think in a lot of organizations it kind of takes a back burner to other things that could be deemed more important. Whether we are leaders within our organizations or not, we can all recognize the importance of employee engagement and reap the benefit of it.
It is hard to argue that employee engagement isn’t as equally as important as any other priority. Employee engagement directly impacts corporate culture, and as the phrase supposedly originated by Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We can have the best training program, the best ideas, the best innovation, but if the culture sucks then it is all for nothing.
Successful employee engagement strategies lower employee turnover and increase employee satisfaction. This makes for more productive employees, which in turn positively impacts everything else about the organization.
Engagement is also directly linked with innovation. Employees who are fired up at work are more likely to brainstorm and share great ideas. Disengaged employees are often checked out and unwilling contribute anything more than they need to in order to remain employed.
Truly successful employee onboarding processes are usually time-consuming and often not cheap. However, by effectively onboarding employees, they start off on the right foot, feeling engaged and supported, and ready to keep moving forward. Regular recognition, both intrinsic and extrinsic, helps keep employees motivated. There is a saying that people will do far more than is required of them simply because they feel appreciated.
Understanding employee goals contributes to employee engagement as well. Not every employee has aspirations to become the next manager, but those who do should be cultivated. Continuing education should be available, and regular feedback sessions to help employees focus on areas of opportunity that will assist with their current success or advancement.
Sometimes it is a thankless job, as all leaders know. On my team, we have implemented some great employee engagement strategies, and while interest and feedback is generally positive, some people just don’t like it. We have an ongoing Employee Spotlight where every other week an employee from our team is selected to be showcased, both professionally, but also in a fun way. We ask interview questions like, “If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?” It allows our remote employees to get to know the faces behind the names they see every day. We also have monthly Lunch & Learn sessions, where we do some additional education or have a guest speaker come in on a topic suggested by employees. We have had focus groups, and we have regular meetings to table issues and ideas, and get feedback. We focus heavily on recognition, not just within our group, but externally, showing appreciation for our internal customers working in other functions.
But some people complain. Some people hate the Employee Spotlight and refuse to participate. Some people simply refuse to even attend one Lunch & Learn session, ruling it out before they even try it. We have annual recognition events as a company and some people hate those as well. They complain, they try to get others on board with their complaints and they are negative. It is exhausting and disheartening to battle constantly against that negativity.
But we don’t do it to make everyone happy. We do it because it is the right thing to do. We do it for the one person on the team who is inspired and goes on to greater success because of our influence. We do it because we need to remove legitimate roadblocks and meet legitimate needs. Employee engagement does that.
And working in an area with a low level of employee engagement is a soul crushing experience we have all probably faced, and no leader should inflict that on their team.