3 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Through Your Leadership
When it comes to building an engaging company culture that retains top talent, it takes more than a break room filled with healthy snacks and weekly happy hours. Meaningful employee engagement starts at the top, and it is on management to ensure the rest of the team is following suit. It might be surprising to learn that only 13% of leaders rank well for both measurable results-driven skills and the people-skills needed to inspire, motivate, and engage their teams.
So, what exactly does meaningful employee engagement mean, and how can leaders rise to the challenge? We break down a few best practices below.
Leadership Best Practice #1: Be a Master Motivator
The Harvard Business Review conducted a study that found 78% of leaders were better at driving for results and pushing their teams than they were at inspiring and motivating them. The same study also found that leaders who acted as a hybrid of both – pushing their teams to succeed while rallying behind them and helping them see the bigger picture – ranked in the 91st percentile of all leaders. These leaders are able to “run an effective and fun team environment”, which ultimately achieves better outcomes.
So, what can leaders do to motivate and inspire their teams while still pushing them to achieve their goals? Unsurprisingly, the aforementioned study found that leaders who are most adept at balancing the “push and pull” of driving results and inspiring team members have excellent communication skills. Those able to clearly communicate strategy and direction and explain the “why” behind focuses, goals, and projects tend to have much more engaged teams. These leaders work with their team to establish stretch goals, which not only inspires the team, but also encourages team collaboration. Additionally, a master motivator has established a mutual trust between themselves and their team, which ensures a cohesive unit working towards the same goals.
A great leader also acts with a “learning mindset”. Not only do they focus on developing and training their teams, but they are coachable themselves. A master motivator is constantly working to improve themselves. They recognize that no matter their seniority, all employees can learn something from each other. When a leader is truly open to new ideas and fresh perspectives, their teams are more inspired to innovate, which can lead to remarkable results.
Leadership Best Practice #2: Prioritize Employee Development and Career Growth
The best employees want more than “just” a job where they clock in and out every day. They want a company culture that allows them to be challenged and grow within their role. By involving different team members in strategic initiatives, such as selection of new business partners, your employees will feel more engaged and challenged with their new responsibilities.
Additionally, one of the best ways upper management can promote team member development and learning while stimulating company growth is by creating an environment where employees are empowered to take calculated risks and try new things, where employees are not punished for well-intentioned failures. Leaders who challenge the status-quo themselves and offer support when a team member tries something new should embrace both successes and failures. This type of leader is the most successful at creating a positive culture encouraging of risk-taking.
In addition to providing opportunities for their teams to grow their skills and a culture that supports development of new ideas, management must ensure that there is plenty of room for career growth within the company. In other words, can employees see a clear target to work towards in advancing their careers? If not, motivated employees are at risk of taking their newfound skills elsewhere.
Leadership Best Practice #3: Break Down the Hierarchies and Adopt an “Open-Door Policy”
The concepts of inter-departmental knowledge sharing naturally leads to the idea of breaking down office hierarchies, which creates a healthy and energetic company culture.
In this sense, breaking down hierarchies is not the same as a “flat” organization, but instead means that employee opinions are valued and that management always has an open-door policy to discuss ideas and challenges. However, it is important to realize that although there may be opportunities and encouragement to speak up, employees will not always do so. Why? A researcher from the Management Academy at the University of Texas at Austin found that even if employees have a lot to say, if they do not feel engaged within their organization, they are likely to withdraw. This is employee turnover waiting to happen.
If you are noticing a lack of employee engagement within your organization, you are not alone. In fact, this study showed that around 70% of employees are disengaged within the workplace and do not feel safe to voice their concerns – even if their company boasts an “open-door policy”.
This is where we come full circle – a true open-door policy depends upon motivating your teams and staying true to your commitments. An open-door culture where employees can believe that leadership is right there beside them and prioritizing their growth is a sure way to boost your employee engagement.