employee engagementIdea #1: Concentrate High-Engagement Leadership At The Employee Management Level

Employee surveys consistently show that the single most important factor in employee engagement is an employee’s relationship with his or her direct manager. In fact, employees don’t leave companies; they leave their managers. And they’re willing to do this despite tough economic conditions.

According to HR Magazine, engaged employees perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave an organization. So, managers and team leaders need to become expert relationship builders and they need to learn how to nourish and sustain those relationships over time.

Managers can build and maintain strong relationships at the employee level by:

1. Leading and coaching employees to success. Without employee performance coaching there can be no sustained employee engagement. Coaching is all about helping employees to become more effective in their roles both strategically, culturally and through performance.

2. Aligning employee goals to business outcomes. It’s also about aligning and facilitating each employee’s professional development and learning goals to the goals of the team and the organization.

Employees need to know that they are working for their own goals as much as the organization’s when they come into work each day. When they have this understanding, they also realize how their individual role impacts business profitability overall.

Idea #2: Live Your Organization’s Core Values

Your organization’s core values should be conducive to creating a work environment that enables active employee engagement and provide employees with opportunities to demonstrate the company’s core values through their daily work.

In high performing organizations, employees and leaders regularly refer to and use their core value statements as a real time compass and positive shaper of both formal environment and work life behaviors.

For true leaders at every organizational level, the organization’s core values are the moral, ethical and even spiritual law of the land. High engagement employees thrive on being treated fairly and honestly.

Ask yourself:

  • Without checking, can you list your organization’s core values — the ones that are most related to building trusting manager/employee relationships?
  • Do your employees know these core values and understand their importance?
  • What values would you and your direct reports add to or change about that list?
  • What concrete steps are you taking to put these values into actions as a means of rewarding and recognizing your employees via formal and informal performance management processes?

Idea #3: Recognize and Reward Your Employees

The strongest organizational science is clearly teaching us that employee recognition simultaneously builds and maintains healthy employee/manager relationships and greatly impacts bottom-line performance. Organizations who actively recognize their employees see a 6% higher net profit margin over companies who don’t. [ Towers Watson Study ]

Doing effective employee recognition is all about implementing the “3 R’s of employee rewards and recognition:”

R1: The Right Kind of Behaviors – Role Behaviors proven to meet clearly stated performance goals. Examples of clearly defined and communicated performance goals include:

  • Mastering a new work process or procedure,
  • Demonstrating a core cultural value in relation to co-workers
  • Meeting or exceeding work quality and quantity metrics
  • Solving a problem or challenge in a way that creates value for the organization

R2. At the Right Times — It turns out that the best time to provided effective employee recognition is right when the employee is doing or completing a performance goal.

R3. In The Right Ways – Recognition is something that must happen consistently throughout the year and not just as an annual event. 43% of engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement.

Idea #4: See Your Employees as People Not as a Number

Feeling valued, confident, inspired, enthused and empowered are the key emotions that lead to employee engagement. These emotions can’t be fostered unless you build strong relationships with your employees and by seeing them as human beings.

Actively engaged employees are fully aware and secure in the knowledge that their managers really know them and care about them as human beings. Employees thrive when managers really understand and connect with them through the lenses of their personal values, goals and passions.

Aligning individual goals and organizational goals through shared values is one of the most important distinctions between real leadership and management. Key questions here include:

  • Do you or your team leaders really know what your employees are passionate about?
  • Do you know what they most value in life?
  • Do you know their most heartfelt career aspirations?
  • What steps are you taking to acknowledge, validate and coach towards the realization of these personal goals values and interests?

Idea #5: Take a Genuine Interest in Employee Well-being

The bottom line: A healthier happier employee is a more productive and engaged employee who sticks around for years and rarely misses work.

Heightened employee well-being directly translates into increased employee engagement and performance. The world’s leading organizations are growing and sustaining employee well-being through integrated work-life balance and innovative employee assistance programs.

These wellness and support initiatives provide everything from personal money management to professional counseling with relationship, parenting and stress management experts. They also provide employees with flex time planning and work from home options towards maximizing work life balance in an ever increasing world of stress and responsibility.

Can you think of a better way to show genuine interest and concern at the employee manager interface than to help solve serious stress, parenting, marriage, family and money problems?

Idea #6: Support and Facilitate Workplace Giving

Many employees have a shared need to know that their work is making a positive difference in the world and to their fellow human beings.

High performance organizations identify and facilitate ways for their employees to give back to the community as a function of their work – running employee driven community assistance, volunteering and go-green programs.

The most effective workplace giving programs allow individual employee’s and teams to define the why, the how and the when of giving back. They also provide solid tools and processes for formally meeting co-created community giving goals.

Idea #7: Channel Positive Relationship Energy into Performance Supporting Structures and Processes

Now that you understand the importance of building strong positive relationships and organizational bonding at the employee/manager level,  the next question becomes what do you do with all this new positive relationship energy and employee motivation to generate results driven organizational performance?

Again, help employees understand how their behaviors align with performance goals. It’s really a cascading effect: senior leadership  identify the over-arching business objectives for the organization, managers then take these objectives and create more focused goals for their teams, and then employees, in partnership with their managers, need to establish their individual goals. The performance management process is crucial to facilitating this process.

SMART Goal: In general, help employees establish personal goals by using the using the SMART methodology:

Specific — Goals are objective, clearly stated and very specific.

Measurable — The goal’s progress is measurable in terms of objective and easily share-able quantity quality and time measures.

Attainable — It’s one that you can actually achieve and is realistic. High performing organizations don’t reward goals attainment that is outside of the control of employees or team members. They primarily define, recognize and reward goals that are within the complete control of a given employee’s control.

Relevant — This is where the organizational performance dimension comes into play. Goals need to be clearly linked to meaningful business or positive organizational outcomes. Key questions here include:

  • To what extend is this goal creating value?
  • To what extend is it reducing costs or increasing product and service quality to internal and external customers?

Time Bound — The question here becomes: When will the particular task, project or goal be completed? Not only does time-limiting a goal facilitate performance by reducing wasted time, but it enables for time based process and quality improvements as well.

Setting time bound goals also enables managers to precision target their recognition and reward efforts on employee behaviors that approximate, meet and exceed clearly predefined expectations.

Idea #8: Increase Employee Involvement

Only 27% of employees feel they are involved in the important decisions made by their organizations. Yet the bottom line is that increased employee involvement = increased employee engagement.

Employees are more likely to  buy into and feel a motivation-enhancing sense of ownership for goals when they play a major role in creating them versus feeling that they are simply executing someone else’s vision. In short, it evokes a sense of ownership and shareholder stake in the success of the business.

Idea #9: Harness the Incredible Power of Teamwork Whenever Possible

The essence of operating as a high-performing team and using team-based organizational design is that you already have all of the basic ingredients needed to capitalize on active employee engagement. For example, effective teams must communicate, collaborate and interact with each other in order to meet their goals and objectives.

Effective team leaders know how to instill trust in their teams so that each employee can work with each other and share work, they also know how to reduce conflict by helping each member of the team to get to know one another better and to understand each other’s personalities, and finally, good leaders know how to increase collaborative efforts by conferring with each other and valuing each other’s opinions.

Really high performance teams actually distribute the leadership role among team members, taking on and relinquishing the leadership role based on the team’s current performance goals and by recognizing and leveraging the “superpowers” of each team member.

Idea #10: Hire Based on Core Values and Leadership Skills First and For Optimal Work-Role Compatibility or Management Skills Second

The world’s leading high engagement organizations hire for leadership potential as expressed in individual values that align with core organizational values. Finding employees who will fit into the company’s culture is more important than hiring based on work role competency.

For example, a high performing team is a direct result of the leader who manages it. The best managers have personalities that are predisposed to the role:  strong work ethic, natural leadership, genuine interest in helping others, and intent on finding the right solutions.

Underperforming, low-engagement organizations, on the other hand, continue to hire managers primarily based on their work skills rather than their demonstrated capacity for leadership effectiveness. These are the organization’s who are most likely to be hemorrhaging top talent.

These are the same managers who can’t tell you what their organization’s core values are or why each value is most critical in continuously guiding and shaping a real high-engagement organization through expert relationship building and maintenance.

What are your organization’s core values? What is the best example of when you consciously made a leadership decision today, that was in complete alignment with those values?

A version of this post originally appeared in The Person 2 Person Engagement Blog