When we look at the statistics for employee engagement, they are sobering. According to surveys conducted by Gallup over the past 20 years, the share of “engaged” employees has been fluctuating between 28 and 36% in the U.S. Where is the high level of disengagement coming from? – As everything else, it is about cause and effect.
So, what’s missing that could increase engagement (and with it, productivity)? – While reasons may vary across organizations, most of them proceed from the absence of values, attitudes, or behaviors that cater to basic human needs. This is the conclusion I have come to through my work with my coaching clients over the past decade.
The things my clients typically crave the most when they reach out to work with me are:
5. Reason to trust.
Assuming there’s a lack of meaning, recognition, care, wellbeing, and reason to trust, what can leaders do to fix this situation?
We could of course fill several books with solutions, but for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on a few simple initiatives any team leader can implement:
1. Provide Greater Meaning
Meaning is found in the intention or purpose of the work we do. Questions leaders can ask their team members to increase meaning are:
- Do you have all the information you need about this project and how it relates to other areas?
- Do you feel that your role currently allows you to show the fullest expression of your potential?
- Is there anything in the way of you sharing your best ideas, talents, or strengths?
- From your perspective, what should change in your job description for you to make the highest contribution possible to your team?
- What matters to you and how do you see this represented in your job or career?
We all feel more excited and enthusiastic about our work when we know what its purpose is and when this purpose is aligned with our values and with what matters to us. For employees to perceive and embrace meaning at the workplace, it’s key for them to understand the greater context, the impact their performance has on the overall results. Too often, leaders fail to communicate enough on this front.
2. Show Recognition
Recognition takes many shapes and sizes – such as words and gestures, awards and prizes, promotions and other opportunities for growth like training or coaching, compensation, etc. – and it starts with a discovery process: Invest time in figuring out who your team members are designed to be and what their ideal spot in the team should look like. How are they uniquely brilliant? What are some specific talents, strengths, and abilities they bring to the team? Does their job description need to be adapted to who they are so their authentic greatness can be fully valued, to the benefit of all?
Feeling recognized has a nurturing effect. It encourages us to share more of our precious gifts and ideas, and it fuels the passion for our work. Contrarily, when we feel like our efforts are not fully acknowledged, this depletes our energy over time, and our commitment to our job dwindles.
3. Display a Caring Attitude
Caring for employees requires a heart-and human-centered approach. After all, people are at the heart of any organization.
In leadership, heartset is just as important as mindset. In fact, the mind can increase its positive impact exponentially when it allows itself to be led by the heart, which offers an infinite abundance of wisdom and resources to us. It’s in the heart where we can find care, intuition, courage, love, compassion, creativity and creation, the best decisions, and so much more.
Our hearts generate a magnetic field that is up to 5,000 stronger than our head brains’ magnetic fields, according to the HeartMath Institute. It is through the heart’s electromagnetic frequency that we connect with other people, such as our co-workers.
How, then, can you display a caring attitude as a leader?
It starts with showing authentic interest, asking open-ended questions in one-on-one conversations to learn about individual needs and expectations, and your willingness to listen and act on what you learn from these conversations.
Caring leaders understand that employees have a life beyond their jobs, and therefore will do their best to support them through health or other challenging life situations they may experience.
4. Ensure Wellbeing
According to the April 2022 article U.S. Employee Engagement Slump Continues by Jim Harter, “Gallup recently reported a sharp drop in the percentage of employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall wellbeing.”
This is particularly alarming for two reasons: First, because wellbeing is a basic human need; and second, because wellbeing has clearly gained importance in the ranking of what employees value the most when it comes to choosing an employer. To take it a step further, I believe that wellbeing is on its path to becoming the most valued currency…
Wellbeing has many faces. Examples include physical and emotional wellbeing, flexible terms or schedules, the right to self-expression and individuation, knowing that one is supported, a pleasant workplace, freedom of speech, amenities, perks for health and fitness, and more.
With all these choices, what can you do as a leader to enhance the wellbeing of your team?
5. Build Trust
Trust is what glues teams together and what inspires people to share their million-dollar ideas. Here are some simple, yet effective ways to increase trust in your team (in all directions):
- Teach and encourage each team member to write their individual visions; then have them draft a team vision together.
- Schedule a story-sharing session to increase team members’ understanding of each
other; inspire through your own transformational story, too.
- Whenever this makes sense, request input for important decisions from your team.
These initiatives may not be all it takes to create a firm fundament of trust, but they send positive signals and can make a big difference. Transparent communication, Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ)® and leading by example are some other powerful trust-builders.
CEO & Founder of Transform Your Performance www.transformyourperformance.com