Achieving employee engagement is a commitment that starts with leadership. Every leader in the organization has an impact—good or bad—on the teams they lead, and this influences individual engagement. Factors such as the overall success of the business, an individual manager’s leadership style, and specific issues on a team can all affect employee engagement. In order to get every individual to contribute their best efforts, leaders must have the ability to recognize the factors that cause employees to participate and those that cause them to disengage.
Engagement isn’t magic—it’s craft. It requires open communication, clearly articulated goals, and unambiguous expectations. Therefore, if you are wondering how you can improve employee engagement, building strong leadership skills will be key to success. Here’s how they can support the achievement of your goals:
1. Improving Engagement through Communication
Leaders must learn how to communicate clearly and effectively. This includes sharing goals, strategies, and the rationales behind decisions so that employees can understand why they are asked to do certain tasks. It’s also important for leadership to share success stories, both at the individual and organizational levels. For example, recognizing individual achievements on a team can be very motivating for everybody in the company. It’s also important not to assume that everybody in the company is aware of successes at the organizational level, such as awards, news items, or charitable donations.
Within the organization, communication between leadership and employees should be two-way. When employees have the opportunity to provide honest feedback to leadership, they become more engaged because they believe that their opinions matter. This can be accomplished through employee surveys, one-on-one conversations, and small group discussions.
Practical strategies for improving employee engagement through communication include:
- Committing to consistent, periodic updates about the organizational big picture
- Scheduling regular feedback sessions between leaders and employees that go beyond just an annual review
- Implementing technology (messaging apps, internal social platforms, etc.) that will foster better communication among peers
2. Improving Engagement through Clear Goals
Sharing organizational goals helps employees understand their roles in achieving them. You can then use these larger goals to formulate attainable objectives at the individual level. Setting individual goals that align with organizational objectives fosters better engagement by highlighting exactly how each employee is contributing. This practice also gives every employee something for which to be accountable.
Articulating a compelling vision not only ensures individual alignment with organizational objectives, it also instills a sense of purpose among employees, which contributes to greater job satisfaction.
Practical strategies for improving employee engagement through setting clear goals include:
- Writing down the most important organizational goals and posting them in a place where every employee will see them on a regular basis
- Frequently referencing company goals in internal communications
- Having each employee set individual objectives based on the common company goal, and using those goals to coach against
- Following up on each person’s goals throughout the year and seeking ways to support their success
3. Improving Engagement through Unambiguous Expectations
When it’s not clear who is responsible for what, it’s easy for employees to disengage. On the other hand, when individuals know that they are accountable for specific outcomes, they are more likely to fully engage to meet those expectations. Leaders can demonstrate accountability through their own behavior by always delivering on their commitments.
Practical strategies for improving employee engagement through unambiguous expectations include:
- Defining the expected outcomes, including timelines, for each employee objective
- Tracking progress with regular check-ins between managers and employees
- Publicly recognizing individuals when they meet the defined expectations to reinforce the desired behavior
Conclusion: Improving Employee Engagement Is a Process
These three approaches work together to improve employee engagement. Using effective communication to create individual goals and define expectations gives employees a clear path forward. They know what is expected of them and, equally importantly, why they are doing it. Engagement starts with leadership, and if your leaders don’t yet have the necessary skills to deploy these strategies, it require updating your leadership development program.