From satisfaction and motivation, to performance and length of tenure, employee engagement is the one key that links everything. Yet, international surveys continue to show a disturbing trend: a vast majority of employees are NOT engaged in their jobs. And it’s not merely confined to one specific group. We see this trend across the board, from millennials to baby boomers and Gen X.

Something is fatally wrong with how organisations are being run if 9 in 10 people feel little to no commitment and passion for what they do. Granted, the problem is systemic and requires a complete overhaul of how organisations and top leadership approach People. And that’s what our team here strives to do every day: drive the message that people matter most – not tasks, not results, but humans. When you crack that code, everything else magically falls into place.

But until that happens – until organisations learn how to focus on the Human element of HR and less on the Resources aspect – each one of us can still make a difference. Here are some simple techniques that individual managers and leaders at ALL levels can adopt to drive engagement within their team and department.

Focus on Employees’ Career Progression

Managers and Team Leaders should remember the fact the managing employee’s career well-being is one key factor that will enhance employee engagement. Creating and sustaining adequate opportunities for employees to learn and grow allows them to identify with the organisation as a place they want to remain at. Too many managers are so consumed by the project at hand, that they neglect to recognise that their team members are also on a journey of their own. By taking the time to understand their career goals, and actively working with them to progress towards that, your team members will experience renewed purpose in their role.

Action: Have conversations to find out about the career goals and aspirations of individual team members. Be prepared to ask 2–3 open-ended questions that will trigger enthusiastic conversation about the person’s career development. Involve individual employees in establishing a practical timeline to achieve their career goals, and where possible, intertwine their tasks and roles to fit their learning and growth needs.

Share Your Expectations

Make time for dialogue sessions to share your expectations on work issues. Letting employees figure out what is expected is not the way to go if you are serious about getting the best from each team member. Without knowing what is expected of them, employees end up spending their time in limbo, trying to figure out how not to screw up, instead of having a goal and working towards it.

Action: Schedule a 15-20 min one-to-one discussion every month with each team member under your supervision, to explicitly determine expectations regarding output and performance.

Conduct Meetings Using an Appreciative Mindset

Too often, meetings are sessions riddled with negativity and problems. Whether its a discussion about how a project is two months overdue and over budget, or one to solve a major issue that your largest customer has, meetings usually get people down. Why not start your meetings on a positive note? Research has found that approaching your day and tasks with an appreciative mindset increases motivation, engagement, and satisfaction.

Where possible, also connect your project and actions to the Mission, Vision and Values of the organisation. Alternatively, simply let the team know how their actions are impacting the end user and delivering results. By taking a macro look at the project, employees can see how their work is impacting others, instead of seeing only the immediate routine task they might be performing. This, in turn, will make them more passionate and committed to their work. This has been confirmed by research which found out that employees want to be in jobs where they can continue to make a difference to the well-being of others.

Action: During your next team meeting, ask at least two people to share one thing that went well during the past week/month. Then, follow-up with questions about what contributed to the success, and link it to a greater purpose. This not only creates a learning opportunity for the rest of the team, but also drives connection and ties-in their roles to a greater purpose and makes them feel good, remembering the success they have achieved and the impact they made.

Community Involvement through CSR initiatives

When employees feel that they are part of an organisation that is committed to the community, their involvement in the workplace goes up. Actively engaging employees in the organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives is one way to benefit the community while stretching employee skills in a non-work environment. Such activities also enable coworkers to build and extend positive relationships. When organisations move away from the traditional CSR initiatives that serve only to inflate their brand, and start to integrate employee contributions through active volunteerism, employees are able to fulfil their desire to give back and serve a greater purpose, while recognising their organisation as a place that provides more than just a paycheck.

Action: Actively seek opportunities to engage your team in CSR initiatives that require active volunteerism and on-the-ground action

While these 4 tactical steps can enable anyone to drive engagement in the short-term, building long-lasting commitment and purpose to jobs and the overall workplace requires an intentional desire by top leadership to commit to engagement as an on-going process, and consolidate it as an integral part of the organisation’s strategy.

If you have any questions, comments, or would like to know you could apply this directly to your team, feel free to send me an email at [email protected]