Engagement has become the latest buzzword, but for a good reason-everyone wants it. Is it the employee’s responsibility? Is it management or Human Resources responsibility? Or is the new “Flavor of the Month?”
We can debate this for hours. Employee engagement has been a concern for the Unites States economy in the last five years. But there is some good news. According to the latest Gallup Poll, the percentage of U.S. workers engaged in their jobs continued to hold steady at 31.9% in 2015. Engagement remains higher than it was in 2011-2013.
Before I ever learned about engagement, I saw with my own eyes and experienced it personally in one my first jobs I had in the hotel business. We had a great culture, a family-like atmosphere where everyone knew each other on a personal basis. Engagement was a daily thing. Employees and managers were interacting, having meaningful conversations.
We knew the vision and the purpose of the organization. Engagement was a two-way street. Both employees and managers alike did their part to contribute to a place where people want to come to work. We had a sense of camaraderie and pride in taking care of both internal customers and external customers.
Our employee engagement was based on trust, integrity, two-way commitment and communication between leaders and members of a team. It is an approach that increases the chances of business results, contributing to organizational and individual performance, productivity and well-being. It can be measured throughout your organization. Many companies do annual employee’s surveys to determine whether engagement is on the right track.
I believe that each one of us is called to lead this engagement initiative in every organization. Each one of us has to be that engaging leader we all want to be around. It starts with us. If you want more engagement, you must lead by example. And it doesn’t mean you are sending an email about it or sending a power point presentation of what happy employees look like.
Let me share with you three ways to becoming an engaging leader:
Stay connected with your team
To get connected and stay connected, you need to get out of your office. Create a daily habit of walking around and talking to your team, work alongside them, engage with questions, and be supportive. This practice has been called Management By Wandering Around (or Management By Walking About) – MBWA for short. It was a common practice by William Hewlett and David Packard, founders of Hewlett Packard (HP), famously used this approach in their company. Tom Peters, in his highly successful 1982 book in Search of Excellence, included lessons learned from HP and other companies that used this style – and the term MBWA became a best practice.
In their seminal book ‘The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen In Organizations’, authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner state that “Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.”
Leaders have to work on relationship capital. You can’t do it with emails and memos. Relationships requires being intentional with 100% effort. As leaders, we need to create an environment of on-going communication and trust. Leadership is about developing successful relationships with people. The purpose of leadership is to create positive change through people. We can only achieve organizational goals and getting results by working and developing important relationships in our business. A leader’s long-term success is directly related to their ability to connect and form lasting relationships with others.
Be an effective communicator
If you want your employees to be engaged, you must create an environment of trust. To build an environment of trust, there should be no surprises. You need to discuss and share business objectives, and the good, the bad and the ugly of company’s results with employees at all levels. While you don’t need to invest a great deal of time discussing every single detail, you need to create an open environment of how their contribution impacts the future success of the company. An open dialogue should be encouraged and welcomed in order to make people feel heard and valued. It should be a two-way communication to establish rapport and build on each other’s ideas.
Engagement can be very rewarding to everyone in your organization. It requires small daily efforts of consistency and care. It’s never on automatic pilot, but an on-going commitment to making everyone part of a team.