Employee Engagement: Driving Your Own Success

Increasing employee engagement has become an important topic over the last several years. Businesses around the world have recognized that the measure of an employee’s... Read more »

Increasing employee engagement has become an important topic over the last several years. Businesses around the world have recognized that the measure of an employee’s engagement to the company is critical to the success or failure of their profitability.

An engaged employee gives more effort, exceeds expectations, assumes ownership, suggests more ideas for ways to improve, promotes teamwork, and speaks well of the organization because he/she wants to, not because he/she has to.

An employee’s value is increased and profits rise as he/she becomes more engaged.

How does an employee become engaged and what actions can he or she take to become more engaged? This presentation provides actions that an employee can take to become more engaged, to enhance commitment, enthusiasm, and performance at work.

Like many of your colleagues, you may have had a tough break in your career – horrible manager, corporate downsizing, or incompetent leadership at the head of the company. In spite of the bad breaks, you still have a choice about whether to engage or not engage. You can still go to work with the attitude that you will do the best you possibly can. You can continue to learn and develop your skills. You can find others at your place of work who share your interest in creating a better workplace and would be willing to champion and work toward this important goal.

Getting a paycheck from an employer who is passionately working to develop the six universal drivers of employee engagement would make your work life a lot more productive and enjoyable. There are six Universal Engagement Drivers listed in figure 1. These are listed below and described in detail in the book written by: Leigh Branham, SPHR, and Mark Hirschfeld, entitled, Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times.

6 Employee Engagement Drivers

Figure 1. The six universal engagement drivers

Employee Engagement Drivers

Caring, Competent and Engaging Senior Leaders

The bottleneck is never at the bottom. Employee engagement starts with a senior leadership team that truly cares about employees, is committed to creating a great place to work, and is trusted by employees to lead them to future success.

If you believe that your distrust or lack of confidence in senior leaders is causing you to be less engaged than you could be, consider the following actions you could take (independent of what senior leaders do):

  • Check out your perception of senior leaders with trusted peers, as you may be lacking important information or misperceiving their behavior.
  • When you present your ideas, be prepared with a specific plan for improvement, and volunteer to be a part of implementing the plan.
  • Focus as much as possible on building trust and confidence with your immediate manager.
  • When a leader asks for your input, ideas or support, be prepared to respond positively and take the initiative.
  • Demonstrate “ownership mentality”. Learn how the company makes money, seek to uncover unmet needs you can help address, and find out what you can do to help make it more profitable.
  • Give honest responses and constructive comments on employee surveys, especially about leadership-related issues.

Effective Managers Who Keep Employees Aligned and Engaged

Senior leaders can’t do it alone. They need competent managers who also care about employees and help them stay motivated and aligned to where the company is going and to its current objectives.

If you feel that some of your manager’s practices are causing you to be less engaged than you could be, consider the following list of actions you could take(independent of what your manager may do):

  • If you feel your manager is not giving you the feedback and coaching you need, ask for it. Make sure that as your manager is providing the information, that you are taking careful notes and ask questions about anything that is not clear.
  • Seek feedback on your performance from anyone with whom you interact, including customers, not just those who supervise you.
  • Get to know your manager’s top performance priorities and professional goals so you can better support them.
  • Take a more active role in your own performance planning and appraisal process by suggesting specific objectives and evaluating your own performance. These objectives need to be specific, measurable, attainable, results oriented and time bound.
  • If you feel your strengths are underutilized, discuss with your supervisor ways to use more of your strengths on the job and spend relatively less time trying to improve weaknesses.

Effective Teamwork at All Levels

Great companies know that outstanding work isn’t done in a vacuum. It is done in a team environment where the individual members are encouraged and supported to be at their best. These winning companies reject “us versus them” in any form.

  • Get to know the other members of the team better. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses’ of each team member allows the team to get the most out of each individual.
  • Volunteer to assist other team members in challenging and stressful times.
  • Be willing to give and receive honest, constructive feedback. Take any feedback received as an opportunity to see yourself as others see you and take the necessary steps to improve your behaviors.
  • Quickly and genuinely apologize when you say or do something inappropriate or possibly damaging to the team. By taking responsibility for your actions, others will know that you are invested in the team.
  • Don’t sacrifice face-to-face communication by over relying on electronic communication.
  • Expand your network, get in the loop, and build relationships in other functional areas.

Job Enrichment and Professional Growth

Within effective work teams, employees are not just allowed, but encouraged to do jobs they find satisfying and rewarding. They are also given plenty of opportunities to grow and develop in their current roles or future assignments.

  • Keep your focus on mastering your current job before you focus on advancement opportunities.
  • If you feel your current job or assignment is not a good fit for your strengths and interests, take the initiative to meet with your supervisor to discuss your ideas for changing jobs, changing the way the job is done, or swapping jobs or assignments with a coworker.
  • If your career path seems blocked, or you can see no advancement opportunities, seek lateral or cross-functional assignments. Imagine ways you could actually create a new job or new assignment for yourself that meets the needs of the company while better making use of your talents.
  • Explore the possibility of temporarily or permanently swapping jobs with a coworker
  • Think twice before quitting your job. First, meet with your supervisor (or trusted coworker) to articulate your concerns, and ask for constructive ideas for resolving the situation.
  • Establish a career interest profile- Let management know what you expect your career to look like short term and long term. Discuss with management, what roles are available to you.
  • Take career development actions- Once you have identified a role, specific examples of development could include, education goals, coaching skills, technical skills enhancement, job shadowing, being a mentee, being a mentor, leading a team, etc.

Valuing Employee Contributions

As employees work to contribute to the organization’s success, the company knows how to acknowledge, recognize, and reward them in ways that are most meaningful to the individual and relevant to organizational goals.

  • First and foremost, find out what your organization values and what specific results your supervisor expects from you.
  • Be honest with yourself as you consider whether you are willing to put forth the effort required to achieve those results.
  • Give value to get value: look for ways to share information and be a resource to coworkers.
  • Let your supervisor know what form of recognition (e.g., public versus private, written versus spoken) you most appreciate.
  • If you see a need for additional tools or equipment to do your job better, first do a cost-benefit analysis before you approach your manager with your request.
  • Look for and take advantage of recognizing your team members when appropriate. If your company has a recognition program, use it. If no program exists, an email or a simple thanks goes a long way.

Concern for Employee Well-Being

Last but not least, great employers know that the productivity of their associates relies on their general health and well-being and do everything they can reasonably do to demonstrate their genuine concern.

  • When you can, delegate more of your work to reduce your workload to a manageable level.
  • Rein in the need for absolute perfection- know when good enough is good enough.
  • If the demands of your job have become overwhelming, pursue possible solutions with your supervisor, including making potential changes in organizational work process, eliminating unnecessary paperwork, taking a more efficient and organized approach to the job, managing time better, reassigning some job activities to others, or being reassigned to a less demanding position.
  • Plan your vacation and reserve your vacation days as far in advance as possible. Then take your vacation! You earned it and you need it.
  • Pursue outside interests or activities that relax and reenergize you.
  • Lead a more healthy lifestyle: Monitor more carefully what you eat and drink, exercise more, get more sleep, get plenty of sunlight, and lose weight if necessary.

Being a hero is not the cape you wear while swooping in and putting out fires, it is thoughtful analysis of situations as they occur and preventing them in the future. It is, looking for gaps in processes, practices or procedures and bringing them forward. It is, understanding the goals and objectives of the business and finding the path for successful execution of them. It is, being a mentor for peers and management alike. Ultimately, the choice of being a hero or a zero is a decision that each of us needs to make on a daily basis. This choice, will determine how we view our careers and ourselves. So, what choice will you make?

This article was previously published in the Reliable Plant 2014 Conference Proceedings.

By Diane Closser and Tom Hiatt

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