Take a moment right now to collectively take stock of your workforce – perhaps literally, if you're an SMB with just a few dozen workers, and in more general terms if you're managing or running an enterprise-sized organization. Do you feel as if you have an accurate read on their level of engagement? If so, then are you comfortable with your assessment, and by extension can you summarize it as high, low or somewhere in between? Moreover, what are the factors that led you to arrive at such a conclusion?
It's of the utmost importance for you – and, to varying degrees, everyone else at any supervisory, managerial or even C-level role within your organization – to be fully cognizant of engagement levels. You must understand not only whether employees are or aren't engaged by their responsibilities, but also the specific reasons why either is the case. Only then can your organization begin to enact appropriate measures to either maintain and build on a company environment that is conducive to strong engagement, or alternatively make the necessary changes to mitigate instances of weaker commitment among the workforce.
Looking at the habits of the engaged
The first step toward making a comprehensive, accurate assessment of your team members' satisfaction is to identify what it is exactly that engaged employees do that is different from their disengaged or neutral counterparts. The specific ways of ascertaining levels of individual engagement will obviously vary on a company-by-company basis, but Gallup noted a number of key characteristics worth looking for in individuals:
- Proactively finding ways to engage themselves, rather than expecting it from an outside source.
- Overcoming challenges to various tasks or projects on a regular basis, without falling into a rut.
- Focusing on strengths and not getting bogged down in weakness, or attempting to handle responsibilities that don't come naturally to them.
Other prominent signs of strong engagement include a natural affinity for leadership, regardless of their specific position in the company, willingness to pursue any and all new opportunities that become available, participation in the company culture and estimable communication skills, according to the International Journal of Business and Management. It's also critical to remember that engagement will manifest itself in both individual and organizational key performance indicators of the bottom line: productivity, output, sales, conversions, customer retention and so on.
The role of management in engagement creation
Anyone who is tasked with managing a team or department already has a lot on their plate by default, and the same is certainly true of those in the C suite, albeit more in a big-picture way. As such, there may be times in which you feel like engagement should be something that employees develop and foster largely on their own.
However, according to Gallup, those who are in supervisory positions actually have a major role in engagement: More than two-thirds – 70% – of all of the variance that affects the engagement of a specific team stems from management. Members of your department will take so many cues from both your major and minor actions. If you're micro-managing and meticulous, they may become resentful, whereas any apathy you exhibit will likely be mirrored in their levels of engagement.
Boosting engagement from multiple angles
While the onus of fostering team engagement isn't entirely on management, you and other supervisors have plenty of say in it – and must act accordingly. The Society for Human Resource Management pointed out that a strong training and coaching program is essential to realizing this goal. Train workers on standard procedures and company practices to start, and as their abilities develop transition into more of a coaching role, in which you help team members help themselves instead of holding their hand and leading them toward the solution to a particular problem.
Of equal importance in all this is the environment in which all of the work gets done. Employees should indeed be responsible for creating a fair amount of their own engagement, but if the organization itself isn't conducive to growth or innovation, there's only so much they can do before the deficiencies of the environment start cutting into their productivity. Management and executives must come together and shape the structure of the business and nature of its culture so that it's a place employees want to work. And perhaps above all else, lines of communication between all members of a team must remain open at all times to ensure everyone stays on the same page, moving toward common goals on both macro and micro levels.