3 Steps to Creating an Engaged Workforce
What would you rather have – an organization where people show up just to punch the clock every day? Or an organization where people are enthusiastic about and committed to their work and their workplace?
Obviously, this is a no-brainer. Everyone wants an engaged workforce. But most organizations either don’t make it a priority or don’t know how to achieve it. When organizations do strive to increase employee engagement but fall short of the goal, it’s often because they overlook the first two steps of the process.
Creating and maintaining an engaged workforce requires three steps that all work together to reinforce each other.
Step 1: Inform
The first step involves making sure employees understand the organization’s vision of winning. In particular, management needs to answer four questions that employees are constantly asking inside their heads, but rarely out loud.
- Where are we going? Employees want to know where the company is headed and what it will take to get there. To answer this question, paint a compelling picture of what winning looks like for your company and constantly communicate it in many different ways.
- What will it look like when we get there? Describe what the organization will look like once you reach your destination. For example, what kind of workplace culture will you have? What skills, knowledge and abilities will the company have in place? What key operating targets will you have achieved? The more detail you provide about the destination, the better your chances of getting there.
- What difference are we making? Most people want a sense of purpose in their jobs. Explain how your company makes a difference with customers, your community, and the world at large. Outline the problems you solve for customers and how that makes their lives easier or better.
- Why is it important to get there? Employees understand the importance of winning to the organization. They also want to know why it’s important to you. Let them know why you believe in what the company does and why you find the destination so compelling. When people understand why you believe in the destination, it increases their buy-in and commitment.
Step 2: Inspire
In today’s hectic work environment, the day-to-day grind can wear people down. Keeping employees inspired will support their sense of engagement and improve their performance on the job.
- Focus on the aspirational components of your goal. Remind people how they’re helping improve the lives of others. Articulate how the destination reflects the unique characteristics the company has to offer and how it benefits everyone who works for it.
- Share your passion. Talk about what the goals mean to you personally and what excites you about achieving them. Solicit similar input from others and share it via emails, the company intranet and in staff meetings. When people talk about what the goals mean to them individually, it helps create a sense of shared purpose.
- Show people how they are making a difference. Bring the value of your company to life by sharing positive customer feedback in emails, on the company intranet, and with visuals throughout the office. Invite a customer to present at a company meeting. Create a video of customer interviews and share it with everyone.
- Celebrate milestones. When individuals or teams achieve interim goals, recognize them publicly. Send thank you notes to those involved. Distribute small rewards like gift cards or movie tickets. Host a recognition event that brings people together in a fun way.
Keep people focused. In the daily struggle to get the product out the door, employees can often lose sight of the big picture. Bring them back into focus by keeping the destination and other components of your strategic plan on everyone’s radar screen. Use visuals everywhere. A visual is the fastest way to prompt the brain.
Step 3: Engage
Informing and inspiring lay the foundation for engagement. To bring it all together and keep your workforce fully engaged:
- Constantly communicate your vision of winning and why it’s important
- Get great at giving feedback
- Check in with employees throughout the year on their progress toward individual and company goals
- Share success stories of how teams are aligned and achieving the goals
- Highlight team accomplishments and link them to the strategy they support
- Create an employee “pledge wall” where people can affirm their commitment by listing one thing they will do differently to support the goals
- Use surveys to measure employee understanding, commitment, inspiration and engagement – and share the results. (Never use surveys if you don’t plan to respond to them.)
Most of all, let people know you value their opinions by encouraging them to bring up new ideas – even if they challenge the status quo. Publicly thank employees when they raise important issues.
Engaging Your Millennials
Currently, more than one-third of the U.S. workforce consists of Millennials – employees in the 18 – 34 age group. By the year 2020, that number is expected to climb to 46%. Moreover, this generation is increasingly moving into positions of responsibility, including management. If you’re not actively working to engage with them, you may be jeopardizing your company’s future.
The key is understanding that Millennials have very different values and expectations in the workplace than previous generations. To get and keep them engaged:
Understand what motivates them. Millennials are self-confident, achievement oriented, and have a respect for diversity. On the job, they seek independence and autonomy, challenge, variety and a fun, communal workplace. They expect the opportunity to develop their professional skills while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
- Speak their language. Communicate in ways that Millennials will hear and understand, such as texting and other social media platforms. Use humor when appropriate, and don’t talk down to Millennials, especially when providing corrective feedback.
- Provide ongoing feedback. Having grown up in a social media world, feedback is a way of life for Millennials, and they expect to give it as well as receive it. Provide daily acknowledgement of their contributions, or redirect them immediately if they need to do something different. Millennials don’t necessarily know how to give effective feedback, so your coaching and guidance in this area is critical.
Regardless of their age or generation, most employees want the same things in order to feel a part of the organization:
- Respect and trust from their managers
- Clarity of job expectations
- To be heard and understood
- To be accepted for their unique value
- To be acknowledged for their contributions
Inform, inspire and engage. Treat people with respect, and you will end up with an engaged workforce committed to helping your organization win.