What happens when employee engagement no longer focuses on the employee? A common practice among employee engagement companies is the development of “action plans.” The intent is a focused approach around efforts for leaders to collaborate on engagement opportunities with their employees. However, action plans are becoming more and more task-driven, check-the-box formats, instead of collaborative, open dialogue for teams. If leaders really want to grow their team’s engagement, they must build a purpose-driven daily, weekly and monthly approach to engagement, not a one-time action plan. Even with the growing amount of data available to organizations on the importance of engagement, there still doesn’t seem to be a large focus for most organizations on coaching and growing leaders in the essential areas employees are asking for. At the basis of employee’s engagement requests are the following growth opportunities.
1. Ensure that your employees know you care about them.
Employees want to know their leaders care about them, which isn’t a process of saying hello or asking how the family is doing. It goes much deeper. It involves structuring deliberate time to connect to each employee’s purpose. What is their reason for being on the team? Why are they passionate about the work they are doing? Tap into these questions, and work to make strong connections to each employee’s passion. Be deliberate in how you connect work assignments to the employee’s purpose.
Caring takes more time, but the impact always reaches greater depths. It’s not located on any action plan but is vital to tapping into each employee’s engagement. Leaders have to be deliberate and care about what their employees are and aren’t saying to them. It is a partnership, and employees must own their engagement and engage with their leaders when they take the time to connect.
2. Meet regularly and purposefully with your employees.
How often do you meet one-on-one with your employees? It should be one to two times a month, and your employee, not you, should be setting the agenda. Employees want time with their leaders, but when the leaders give them that time, it is often one-sided: The leader shares items that the employee needs to accomplish, and the conversations are heavily task-driven. Flip the script, and use this opportunity to empower your employees.
You’ll be amazed at how valuable this process can be. It allows you to find out what is really important to your employees and is a great accountability opportunity. Make one requirement: that your employees have to set the agenda for each one-on-one and provide it to you 48 hours before the meeting. Emphasize to them that you want to have plenty of time to review the agenda to be prepared, because you value this time with them and want to make it as meaningful as possible. Through this approach, you’re helping employees learn consistency, showing them how valuable a meeting with an agenda can be and demonstrating how much you value them. These are key pieces of engagement.
3. Connect the employees’ purpose to the purpose of the organization.
Does your organization have a mission or purpose statement? Most do, and most employees view these statements as nice words with little personal meaning. Take time to connect the daily, weekly and monthly items that your team accomplishes to the purpose of the organization. Spend time in dialogue with your team about that purpose, and plan quarterly meetings to talk with your team members about their purpose in their career. Why do they do what they do? Why have they chosen to work for the organization? Listen for elements that connect to the purpose of the organization, and point them out. It is a lot easier for employees to push through on the tough days when they can connect what they are doing to their purpose. Even more, when employees can connect their purpose to the organization, it creates a different level of ownership of what they are accomplishing. Employees’ thought processes start to transition from showing up to a job to showing up for a career, in an organization they truly want to succeed.
Employee engagement doesn’t come from action plans rooted around one to two key questions from a survey. They may be a part of the process, but engagement is rooted in each employee’s willingness to own his or her part and leaders’ willingness to help their employees step into accountability and engagement. It is a continuous process and effort, and just because things are going well doesn’t mean the process stops. It just means there may be more opportunities.