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Looking forward to employee engagement

Most of my clients have active employee engagement programs. They measure employee satisfaction, train employees around improving their engagement and work with the managers and leaders to role model better behaviors.

Why is it important?

The importance of employee engagement can’t be overstated – employee engagement strategies have been proven to reduce staff turnover, improve productivity and efficiency, retain customers, and make more profits. Most importantly, engaged employees are happier, both at work and in their lives.

Some create their own surveys, others use Gallup or others. Many surveys compare scores with others in their industry, and they all compare teams’ scores with the overall organization scores. Savvy organizations look deeply at what successful leaders are doing in order to take those best practices to the teams who may need more support.

What makes it hard to change?

It takes daily efforts. Managers must role model openness, create psychological safety, and create a culture of innovation, empowerment and ownership. Hierarchical frameworks find it the hardest to change.

When top leadership do not model engagement, it is hard for the rest of the organization to follow suit. When they nit- pick on the details, take our power and ownership away, and fail to explain, teach and support more positive engagement environments.

HP led the way in role modeling

When I was a leader at Hewlett-Packard, we were taught that since the organization was getting flatter, that we must learn how to collaborate and solve problems by reaching out to our peers, involving cross functional teams, and owning our work. Only once we framed up a solution, could we go to our managers to enlist them in our solution going forward. We felt empowered, we enjoyed the freedom to come up with the most creative plans, involving new sets of eyes on our work. The culture that was reinforced by this was healthy, fun, supported by clarity of role, serious about our metrics, and had a sense of celebration when we had a break through or innovation.

What not to do

Do not punish the low scoring manager. Instead, show them their scores and have a discussion about what areas they want to work on. Start with something they have motivation and energy around. Most of the time, they just don’t know the more empowered way, the way with openness and respect. I find the managers want to change, they just don’t know how. Step back and realize it is a systemic issue. Please don’t make them the bad guys. Take those best practices from parts of the organizations and have discussions around how those ideas can work in other departments, and come up with your own ideas.

What to practice

Realize those scores represent a point in time and they can improve. Don’t punish or use it as a way to move those managers out of the organization. They can learn new behaviors. Make your organization the one who teaches, demonstrates and rewards those new, engaging, behaviors. When my boss told me to solve an issue on my own, then I realized I could involve my peers and act as a leader to identify a problem, solve it through collaboration and feel great in the process. That is how I learned. If I had been punished because my scores were low, the organization would not have benefited from my enlightened leadership.

Challenge your leaders to grow in this way. Set the expectation. Finally, read articles on how other organizations are moving the needle, what they have learned in their journey.

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