Engagement is not a luxury these days; it’s a necessity. Companies that have begun to believe in this concept have gained a competitive advantage.
Weak, self-serving leadership consistently results in high turnover, not to mention stress, poor mental health, and inhibited performance.
What used to be considered a luxury is gaining momentum as the expected norm. We crave meaning in the workplace; we want to know how our role fits into the bigger picture. We want safe cultures where we feel comfortable to ask for help and don’t fear making a mistake.
When it comes to engaging and keeping people engaged, the buck both starts and stop on the leader’s desk.
There are more than seven ways to disengage your employees but the following seven are pervasive:
1. THEIR VOICE DOESN’T MATTER
Feeling like your opinion doesn’t matter quickly translates to you “I don’t matter.” When we feel replaceable we start to feel invisible, which affects our confidence and our entire sense of self.
Who wants to come to work feeling worthless? An employee might stay for awhile out of necessity but will inevitably plan their exit.
- Solution: welcome and share input, feedback, and ideas from all levels.
2. NO UPWARD MOBILITY
Working for a company that can’t offer a chance for promotion is a treadmillian existence.
When an employee discovers they’ve gone as far as they can go there’s only one option: to find a new job that takes them higher than their current position.
- Solution: If your company isn’t large enough to offer any upward mobility, perhaps offer a creative benefits package to compensate.
3. NO FLEXIBILITY
Life doesn’t stop just because we have a job. People have children, pets, emergencies, and more to attend to.
When a company is overly rigid it can quickly sour an employee. Flexible hours that still add up to a full workweek go a long way.
A night owl might get more done from 9PM to 5AM than the morning lark who prefers a traditional 9AM to 5Pm day.
- Solution: if an employee has proven to be trustworthy, afford them some flexibility, either with partial remote working, or simply the freedom to modify their schedule a bit if need be.
4. THEY’RE GIVEN NO SENSE OF AGENCY
The more agency you give your employees the more they will feel they are creating and assigning the value to their work.
This motivates them from within because they have a sense of free will. If their job solely consists of taking orders, they will grow bored, feeling untapped.
You will create employees who feel no sense of loyalty and will not experience any guilt over leaving you high and dry should something better come along.
- Solution: to the best that the position allows, allow some freedom for people to give input, choose their methods, and add their two cents. It goes a long way to keeping them invested in the work.
5. BROKEN PROMISES
A broken promise can turn a once excited, motivated employee into disengaged and disinterested.
Interestingly, a study performed by University of Lincoln (UK) researcher, P. Matthijs Bal and colleagues, found that breaches influence different age groups differently:
younger employees lose their sense of trust and commitment; older ones lose their sense of job satisfaction.
Regardless, raises and promotions promised but, in the end, never materialize reveal a lack of honesty and integrity, and is a sure-fire way to disengage your people.
- Solution: Keep your promises! If a promise can’t be granted for whatever reason do not let it go unmentioned. Talk to the employee, explain the situation, and offer a remedy.
6. THERE’S NO MEANING IN THE WORK
A worker spends about a third of his or her time sleeping and a third of the time working.
When we don’t feel fulfilled, or can’t find meaning in what we spend one-third of our life doing, our feelings of despondency and disappointment poison every other part of our lives.
In an aligned company culture, every employee from vice-president to janitor, understands how his or her role fits into the bigger picture of the company’s mission.
- Solution: Express gratitude for the people in an organization; stress that everyone plays an important role in keeping the company moving toward its goals. Also, if possible, try to utilize other talents an employee might have that don’t fit into their job description. For instance, a receptionist might have great writing skills. Get to know your people!
7. PROMOTING THE WRONG PERSON
Your employees will not blindly follow any leader. If your employees don’t respect your appointee you might find yourself the victim of a passive-aggressive coup d’etat.
Power is a sensitive topic and promoting the wrong person can create a domino effect of inefficiency and apathy in the office.
A recent Gallup survey found that only one person in ten can cut it in management. Oftentimes an employee is hired due to skills while attitude is ignored.
Moreover, promoting the wrong person shows you don’t have any connection to what’s going on in the office.
- Solution: Listen to your employees and make it a point to read the dynamics in your office. Additionally, place value on the people skills/soft skills and not just the technical skills of a potential prospect. If the appointee isn’t someone people feel safe and comfortable around, thereby negatively affecting group cohesion, then he/she may not be the best candidate.
Engagement is about recognizing how much meaning work can and should provide to our individual and collective identities.
It’s about treating people as people, not “human capital” or a “human resource” or some other cold business term.
People instinctively recognize true engagement when they see it, and true engagement provides the key to productivity and profitability.
It defines the company’s character and the values it respects through thick and thin. It develops and nurtures a positive and robust culture.
It stresses leadership excellence.