We’ve written a lot about employee engagement, and about our belief that, at its core, employee engagement is an emotional connection to the company and the employee’s work. Unfortunately, many of the employee engagement actives we hear about are more geared toward forcing desired behavior than creating an emotional connection.
When creating and sustaining a culture of continuous improvement, it's important to instead consider employee engagement activities that nurture emotional investment. These ideas fall into the areas of company direction and personal growth and development.
Having a role in setting the direction for the organization helps employees feel emotionally invested in business results. Of course, businesses are not democracies and executive leaders bear responsibility for overall business objectives and strategies. But, that doesn’t mean that employees can’t have a hand in charting the course of the company. Employee engagement activities that connect people more deeply with the company include:
- Involve everyone in defining the company’s mission and values
Creating space for a conversation around mission and values is a good way to ensure that employees feel heard on these important subjects (or, better yet, ARE heard). Employees can be asked to comment on whether the current mission and values are serving the company well, or invited to give input on how well the organization is achieving them.
- Ask for (and act on) ideas for improvement
Employees become disengaged when their input regarding opportunities for improvement is unwelcome or ignored. Creating a culture where employees are encouraged to offer innovative ideas for improvement, and empowered to enact them, will go a long way toward increasing engagement.
- Collaborate on individual and department goals and strategies
Individual and departmental goals must be aligned with overall business objectives, but there is usually a lot of room to make goal setting a collaborative process with supervisors and employees. Getting employees involved in how they will be measured helps instill a feeling of accountability and personal pride.
Personal Growth and Development
Studies show that engaged employees believe that their company and direct supervisors care about them as people. Employee engagement activities that underscore the organization’s commitment to each employee’s personal growth and development include:
- Offer learning opportunities
Employees who report feeling engaged note that their company provides opportunities for them to learn new skills. Keep in mind that not all learning opportunities require formal training. Opportunities to collaborate on projects with subject matter experts, or to simply spend some work time researching a new subject, are seen as development opportunities.
- Provide frequent feedback
Lack of feedback is a common theme among disengaged employees. It is difficult to emotionally connect when one’s work is met with silence. Even employees who receive negative feedback report being more engaged than those who receive none at all.
- Focus on recognition
How well does your organization recognize and reward the employees who expend the most discretionary effort and contribute to positive change? The answer to this question has a direct bearing on your level of employee engagement.
Each of these employee engagement activities is intended to reflect the organization's respect and appreciation for every employee as both a member of a cooperative team and as an individual person. When well executed, they can help increase engagement, which in turn increases productivity, innovation and effectiveness. We'd love for you to share the employee engagement actives that have been most successful for you.