Gallop defines employee engagement as the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace, and their 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report reveals that our global economy loses $7.8 trillion due to low engagement.
Are your team members proactively enrolled in their work, or are they “quiet quitting” by doing the bare minimum to retain their paychecks? Despite the disruptions our workplaces have experienced in recent years and the dramatic shift to hybrid operations, engagement levels have remained steady – around a dismal 20%. Even more startling is the nearly 50% of employees who now describe themselves as “quiet quitters”.
While these human resource challenges can feel daunting and insurmountable, there are some fundamental leadership practices that will significantly improve employee engagement. Because high engagement is directly correlated with greater productivity, higher retention, and improved results, these management practices are vital to an organization’s success.
1. Give employees something to care about.
The November-December 2022 Harvard Business Review cover story makes a compelling case for “aligning what matters to you as an organization with what matters to your employees.” Employees are increasingly seeking meaning at work and they’re making career decisions based on the alignment of their personal values with an organization’s values. When organizations are effective at attaining “values alignment” the benefits are numerous and include higher job satisfaction, lower turnover, better teamwork, and improved performance.
2. Regularly acknowledge the value your employees bring to the organization.
People want to be known and valued for what they are good at and what makes them unique. There are numerous ways of acknowledging the contributions of others from a personal thank you, to public recognition, to a monetary reward. Leaders who regularly and skillfully acknowledge others by specifically linking positive impact to someone’s positive behavior build trust and reinforce the behaviors and results that are most impactful to the organization.
3. Create opportunities to meaningfully connect every day.
Connection is an important and often overlooked contributor to organizational success. A recent Gartner survey describes how “emotional proximity” or connectedness between coworkers – feeling seen, valued, and supported – increases employees’ connectedness to their workplace culture by 27%, improves performance by 37%, and reduces turnover by 36%. Whether virtually or in person, genuinely connecting requires us to slow down, ask thoughtful questions, and be attuned to others. Here are several questions to consider as you regularly interact with your team members that will demonstrate care, build stronger connections, and strengthen trust.
- In what ways do you feel most aligned with our organization’s purpose?
- Which parts of your work give you energy or drain your energy?
- What would make your job easier or more joyful?
- In what ways can I or others better support and advocate for you?
- In what ways would you like to be more involved?
- What is most challenging for you right now?
- In what ways would you like to grow and stretch yourself?
- What recent accomplishments are you most proud of?
When you ask these questions, stay curious, listen deeply, and be open to the perspectives you hear. Acknowledge and normalize any emotions that are present. Be compassionate and demonstrate genuine care and concern. And remember, the purpose of these kinds of conversations is to simply connect by understanding what matters most to your people.
4. Focus on outcomes, not activity – or physical proximity.
Hybrid work has blurred the lines between our personal and professional lives. Longer workdays that lack healthy work-life balance create workaholic behaviors that lead to burnout, overwhelm, and a vicious cycle of disengagement and unproductivity. As you’re managing your team, consistently communicate the outcomes that matter most (including what no longer matters), how those outcomes are measured, and who is accountable for those outcomes. Reinforce the results you want by continuously reporting progress and acknowledging the team members who contributed to that progress, all while proactively encouraging your team members to deliver value by working smarter, not harder.
5. Continue to provide opportunities for growth and development.
Your greatest asset is your people, and their ability to perform at their best is your ultimate competitive advantage. The organizations that successfully navigate change and disruptions are the ones that consistently invest in developing their people. The job of leading and effectively managing is increasingly complex and the fundamental skills required to succeed are more necessary today than just a few years ago. Directing development resources (mentoring, executive coaching, management training) toward your talent is an investment that will produce a return in the form of improved performance, productivity, and employee retention.
My greatest hope is that these fundamental leadership practices enable you to cultivate a culture that people want to be part of, create a space where they feel valued for their unique contributions, and generate a greater sense of connection to each other and your common goals.
Emily Rogers, Founder & CEO of Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching, is an executive coach, team coach, and leadership development facilitator. She strategically advises and supports organizations and individuals in growing and realizing their full potential in purposeful and balanced ways. You can connect with her at https://emilyrogers.com