It’s difficult to measure enthusiasm, isn’t it? You may find that being able to pay attention to how enthusiastic your employees are about their jobs can frequently be overlooked as the day-to-day meetings and goals overtake your schedule. You know how important it is to improve employee engagement is when it comes to either their role or in the company, but do you know how to fit that into your schedule and what that looks like?
Of course, ultimately, it’s up to the employees to care about their jobs and be enthusiastic in their work. But it certainly helps when their employer encourages them and provides a positive environment.
Here is a list of what you can tactically do this week for improving employee engagement and making your employees want to give their all.
- Recognize employees daily: People want to be acknowledged and will work harder if they feel like the work they’re doing is appreciated. Even saying something as simple as “Thank you,” or “Good job,” or “Keep up the good work” goes a long way.
- Lead by example, not by telling: If you have expectations for your employees –dress codes, language expectations, arrival on time, etc.— you must be ready to live up to them yourself. Showing that you are engaged in what your company stands for and expects from your employees can improve their engagement and their attitudes on the job. Entrepreneur magazine explains that “‘walking the walk’ is the single most effective employee engagement strategy any company can deploy. Employees must see the leadership demonstrating the characteristics and behaviors everyone else is being asked to display.”
- Answer all questions—patiently: Employees who are fearful of their employer are less likely to approach you when they have questions. When someone asks you a question that you already answered, answer it again. It’s better to have the say it twice than to have that employee fail because he or she didn’t properly understand the information.
- Get to know your employees one on one: Take time to get to know your employees one on one. Take each one or small groups of them out to coffee or lunch. Have conversations with them, preferably non-work related. Find out about their families, their backgrounds, and their hopes and dreams for the future.
- Don’t be strict with hours—and be willing to be flexible if possible: All employees have those times where they are most productive –whether it be in the morning, the afternoon, or during the middle of the night. Give your employees the flexibility to make the best use of those hours. John Boitnott, writing at Inc.com, explains that “there are many ways to offer a virtual environment. You can allow employees to work from home full-time or part-time. You can even have employees pick their own hours as long as they reach their goals and get their work done.” Obviously not all jobs can be done virtually and in the middle of the night, but be willing to think outside the box. Letting employees choose their own hours (within reason) and putting a schedule in writing shows that you respect their time. They’ll return the favor.
- Stand up for your employees: Employees respect leaders who respect them. Be ready to stand up and support them when the time comes for them to get that promotion. Make sure they know you’ll have their back when they need it. In addition, be deliberate who you pick to handle certain jobs—make sure you know your employees well enough (see tip #4) so that you can move them into jobs that are more natural fits for their abilities.
- Ask if your employees look forward to work: David Zinger, writing at The Globe and Mail, calls it “the Sunday question.” Employers should find out if, on Sunday nights, their employees are looking forward to coming to work on Monday morning. Conduct a survey every week or two, asking this question. If you find that your employees are dreading Monday mornings, consider what you might be able to do to help make Mondays more bearable.
- Highlight successes: Make an example out of the individuals who are doing well. Give praise to workers who do their job and have good attitudes. Make that praise seen without being too obvious. You should gauge their personalities before doing offering praise, however (again, knowing your employees, tip #4, helps). Some will not want to be praised in front of others; some will. If you’re going to offer praise, find out how best to do it for that employee.
- Be transparent: Don’t hide things from your employees. Be upfront and direct. Ken Lin, writing at Inc.com, explains that “in a transparent company, people know what is happening and why. They feel more involved. When you remove the feeling that people only need to know the information directly relating to their work, you reduce division between the different ends of the corporate ladder. In a transparent company, executives are part of the greater team and not locked off in a room no one can access. People end up feeling part of something, instead of a cog in a machine.” That sense of transparency within the company can help individual workers take a sense of pride and ownership over their work.
- Put them with the right people: Your employees will work well with some and not so well with others. Figuring out who in your department works well together and who doesn’t can improve engagement and yield better results for the company.
- Make goals clear for the employees: Making the objectives clear daily. Robyn Reilly, in the article she wrote for Gallup on employee engagement, said, “Describing what success looks like using powerful descriptions and emotive language helps give meaning to goals and builds commitment within a team.”
- Assign early and clarify deadlines: Going off the above point, the sooner you can make the deadline clear the better. You don’t want to receive a job at the last minute; neither do your employees. It may not always be possible, but make it a habit to give them plenty of time on projects. Then, when there’s that occasional rush job, they’ll be much more willing to put in the time to finish it.
- Ask what gains and drains energy in the workplace: Inquire after your employees and see what tasks make them excited and what tasks make them feel exhausted. When you can, try to fit those employees where their energy will build instead of deplete. When you can have them working in their talents, they’ll be more energetic and happier. Again, this gets back to knowing your employees.
- Be a comfort for tears: Work is stressful, and sometimes employees reach a point where that stress boils over into either panic attacks or crying. This should be handled with care. Don’t rebuke, but comfort. The person may be a good worker, but stress on the job or at home may be affecting their workdays. Understand and comfort as you can.
- Encourage healthy behavior: “A healthy body means a healthy mind” isn’t just a saying. Right eating and exercising regularly can help the mind process information and work longer and harder. This could be done by providing memberships to a gym for your employees or even taking time for everyone in your department to walk around and stretch for a time.
- Start company-wide activities: Start a softball team. Take everyone to a local restaurant like Dave & Buster’s that offers fun, interactive times together. Do something fun as a company or department. Have these events scheduled in advance and known by everyone so they have something to look forward to at the end of the week or month.
- Make work a game: The basic mechanics to a game are: a clear objective that the players are trying to achieve (and several sub-objectives for micro rewards), a challenge to overcome, and a rewarding experience they have when completing the task. Analyze how games draw people in and use those tricks to engage your employees.
- Involve employees in the hiring process: What better way to encourage engagement than having an employee sit in during an interview of a new hire? Ask that employee what he or she thinks of the prospective employee. It’s good for your employees because they have a say in who you’re hiring.
- Encourage side projects: In his article “13 Scary Statistics on Employee Engagement,” Jacob Shriar suggests, “Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company.”
- Help employees along with their career/education: Often your employees want to further their education or take classes that will help them do their jobs better. Encourage this. Pay for such classes when you can and give time off for them to take this extra learning.
- Let them know it’s okay to fail: Create an environment where employees know that when they fail that they can pick themselves up and try harder in the future. Too often, people think they’re on the tightrope without a safety net. If they make one misstep they’re dead. Provide them that safety net.
- Create a positive work environment: A colorful environment can be a powerful tool to encourage employee engagement. Taking time to add decorations, colorful wallpaper, and even a fish tank can make the office a bit homier and more encouraging to work in.
- Encourage managers to actively engage: Often employee engagement fails because managers may not share the belief that employee engagement works. So take time to encourage all of your managers to implement these employee engagement techniques.
Getting to know your employees and striving to make work an enjoyable and energizing place to be will guarantee better work and happier employees who will want to give their all. However, every company is unique. Some tips above will ultimately work better than others.
Happen to know something that works really well for employee engagement that we didn’t cover? Put it in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!