How it begins…
Many years ago, working at a Medical Supply Company, I hired on a new employee named Ella. Ella was young, ambitious; full of life, energy, and passion, and excited about the difference that she could make in the lives of our customers.
She started out strong. She was empathetic to the customers’ needs, cooperative with her teammates, and beloved by the other department heads. I was happy to see her learn and grow.
Fast forward a few short months and that Ella seemed to be living in gray scale. Maybe it was too many dull meetings, no more paper in the copier, or yet another tedious email from “executive leadership”. She was burnt out. She once brought life and vitality to the firm. Now she spent too much time perusing social media and playing on her phone while paperwork continued to pile up on her desk. As her tenure continued, her work began to slide from great, to mediocre, to unacceptable. After less than a year with the firm, Ella was let go.
What happened? Was it a ruse? Was Ella a “bad cultural fit” from the beginning?
I don’t think so. The reality is that I probably wasn’t a very good manager. I failed to offer proper employee engagement, and, in a real sense, I failed Ella.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, well … I’ve been there too. It’s not a great place to be. The good news is that 90% of the time there’s a cure!
5 Keys to Improving Employee Engagement
There are 5 simple things that you can do to improve employee engagement:
1. Show that Management is Sincere
Our employees need to know that we care about them – not just as cogs in an ever-chugging money-machine, but as professional human beings. We can demonstrate this care by holding employee-lead one-on-ones, offering opportunities for professional development, and demonstrating that they are a priority to us and to the business.
2. Demonstrate a Commitment to Customer Satisfaction
Nobody wants to work for a “soulless” corporation. We want to know that our hard work, effort, and 1/3 of our lives are going to a noble cause. Our employees are no different.
The best way to demonstrate your company’s “soul” is by showing a genuine concern for serving your customers … you know, the reason you’re in business. If you treat your customers like they’re stupid or inconvenient, you may be ripping the “soul” out of your company, and your employees are going to feel it.
3. Highlight the Organization’s Reputation in the Community
Whether you are making headlines with your philanthropic work, dominating the Yelp! reviews, or touting a consistent 5-star rating on Google – celebrate it! Your employees want to know that your company is making a difference – not just to your individual customers, but to the community at large. They want to feel proud of where they work, they want to brag!
4. Ensure that Employees have the Authority to Perform their Job
It may be that there is truly a need for your employees to check in with you before performing some tasks. However, unless you’re in a heavily regulated industry, that should be the rare exception. Our employees require trust, and authority to perform their jobs unhampered by bureaucratic nonsense. This is especially true when you’ve made an implicit promise along those lines through thoughtful delegation. Trust them, give them the tools to excel, and they will.
5. Offer Opportunities for Professional Development
When we offer our employees opportunities to expand their knowledge or skills, we are showing them that they are valuable members of our team. They are worth investing in. Sending an employee to a conference, or paying for on online class is a fantastic way to show our appreciation. Delegation can be another powerful tool, as can Competency Alignment.
If you have an employee who seems to have lost their passion, don’t give up on them without a fight. Too often I’ve seen managers throw their hands up and claim “it’s an attitude problem!”. While that may be true, we have the responsibility to do our part as well.
Show your employees that you care about them, that you’re willing to invest in them, that their work is meaningful. See if you can’t help them rediscover that passion that drove them to accept a position at your company in the first place.