You’re well aware of how important employee engagement is, but where do you even get started?

Employee engagement platform WeSpire releases an annual report on trends in employee engagement, and their most recent results boil down to these three ideas:

  1. Good Management
  2. Transparency
  3. Choice & Collaboration

You know what those things are, but how can you use them to engage your employees, practically speaking?

I’m glad you asked.

1. Encourage Good Management

This isn’t surprising. According to Gallup, “managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement.”

Why? Because good managers help create good work environments, places where employees can take initiative, play to their strengths, and address problems without fear of repercussions.

But not every team has a good manager.

Here are a few ways to change that:

Promote Talented Managers

I’m not talking about how gifted they are in their particular field.

The million-dollar question is: Are they gifted at management?

Besides the connection between employee engagement and the quality of management, Gallup discovered some other vital information:

  • Companies failed to hire candidates with high managerial talent 82% of the time.
  • A large portion of U.S. managers believe they were promoted to their position due to “success in a previous non-managerial role or their tenure in their company or field.”

While it’s good to have managers who are respected in their fields, don’t forget what you’re hiring them to do: manage. If they can’t help their team do what they need to do, then you should choose someone else.

And if you want someone who really pushes your employees for the goal, then look for someone who can encourage their team’s strengths, work with their weaknesses, and maximize their efforts.

Avoid Bad Management Habits

Part of doing a good job is knowing what not to do.

You can always boost management skills by offering training, but for right now, keep an eye out for management mistakes like these:

  • Micromanagement. When you want good results, it can be tempting to want to oversee every detail of a project, but hovering can make employees feel like you don’t trust their decisions. Remember, you hired your employees for a reason: so they could do their jobs. Give them some freedom—they may surprise you!
  • Aloofness. Don’t go to the other extreme, though. Letting your employees take charge of a project can be great, but ignoring them because you’re busy can create a disconnect in the workplace, which is a problem when you’re supposed to be a team.
  • Unpredictable Expectations. Be consistent—it’s important to communicate what you’re asking of your employees and what should be their highest priority. Suddenly changing standards or end goals without an explanation can be frustrating and cause disengagement.
  • Favoritism. Simply put, you don’t want to drive wedges between co-workers. You may all have different skills, levels of experience, etc. but no one should ever be left in the dark. You work together

2. Be Transparent

How open are you?

Employees want to be a part of a working environment that’s inclusive, a place where they know they’ll be kept on the same page, where “teamwork” is more than just a buzzword.

They want you to be honest with them—and know that they can be honest back.

Here’s how you develop that kind of environment:

Encourage Communication

The quality of your communication can make or break your company culture.

Take a good look at your communication systems. Do you have a good way to keep your employees up-to-date on policies, promotions, and marketing campaigns? Or is it easy to forget to update everyone?

Look at location (if you’re using something physical, like a screen or message board), ease of access, and whether or not your employees have adopted other alternate channels of communication.

For example, maybe you have an intranet system, but your staff prefers to communicate via text or by using an app like Trello.

If they’ve developed a way that works better for them, ask why it works, and then figure out how to alter the system to suit all of your needs.

Build Trust

And communication goes both ways, but not without trust.

If employees feel that their opinions aren’t welcome, or that you don’t have time to talk, despite the “open door policy,” then they probably won’t share what they think—which is a problem, since they’re the best experts on what they need to do their job well.

Don’t expect a statement or new policy about “openness” to fix the problem, either.

Instead, make the first move.

Ask how things are going, find out what people’s needs are, and address any issues that your employees bring up. Consistently follow through on what you say, and you will start to build that trust you need for open, honest communication.

Remember: don’t just tell. Show them.

3. Encourage Choice & Collaboration

Engaged employees want to contribute.

They care about your company and your vision. They want to make it a reality.

So instead of letting policies, red tape, and hovering managers get in the way, let your employees have some choices. Give them a chance to offer input and find better ways to solve old problems.

Here’s two ways to do just that:

Give Employees a Voice—and Then Follow Up

A lot can change in a year.

Annual surveys can be helpful, but if you want to keep up with what your employees are thinking, you’ll probably want an approach that gives you feedback in real-time.

With that idea in mind, entrepreneur David Niu founded TINYPulse, a company that helps companies to regularly survey their employees.

Niu encourages companies to offer surveys as anonymous outlets, so that employees can feel free to speak honestly without fear of repercussions.

But offering an outlet isn’t enough. You also have to show that employee feedback is valuable.

Share what you’re learning from their answers. Talk about it, ask questions about what could be done better, and encourage your managers to do the same with their teams.

Then put that information to work. If there’s a problem fix it. If something needs to be done differently, change it. Let your words be confirmed by your actions.

Let Local Branches Thrive

If micromanaging is a bad habit, then it’s probably not a good thing to carry over into overseeing individual company branches, either.

International hotel group Hyatt is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top employers. One of the ideas they embrace is the importance of location, meaning they let their individual hotels incorporate local culture into how they do things.

“A guest should not walk into a Hyatt and not know what country they’re in,” says Robb Webb, the group’s chief human resources officer.

It’s great for employees, too, who are made to feel that their backgrounds and culture are important to the company they work for. The result is high employee engagement.

Of course, this idea might look different for every company. You’ll need to figure out what your priorities are and what needs to be consistent from location to location in order to best maintain your brand.

Just keep in mind that the people who work in a specific location will likely be the most aware of its particular needs and wants. Give them some freedom and see what they can do.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Good management. Transparency. Collaboration and choice.

They’re a great starting point, particularly now, but as trends change, the biggest thing you can probably do is to make yourself aware. Pay close attention to the needs of your own company and employees and act on that information.

Ultimately, what works best for your company is what works best for you.

Do you agree with these top three keys, or do you think there are other issues that are more important for engagement? I’d love to hear your thoughts!