DecisionWise has been conducting employee surveys with organizations around the world since 1996. During that time, we have studied over 32 million survey responses to understand what manager behaviors have the greatest influence on employee’s engagement in their work. These behaviors are tied to the five keys that drive engagement, namely: Meaning, Autonomy, Growth, Impact, and Connection (MAGIC). The more employees have positive experience with these five keys, the more likely they are to engage in their work.
Without getting too theoretical, we have distilled the most important manager behaviors for each of these keys. Here are some practical employee engagement ideas that you, as a manager, can use to create experiences that will drive engagement and, ultimately, performance.
“It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.”— Jim Collins
People experience meaning when their work has purpose beyond the tasks or work itself. Generally, people feel a greater sense of meaning when the organization they work for has goals that align with their own personal value systems. Managers help reinforce meaning within their teams by talking frequently about the mission and goals of their organizations, departments, and teams to help employees clearly see how working toward those goals is personally important to them.
Manager Tips to Improve Meaning
- Find out what is meaningful to each of your employees and how they experience meaning at work. Encourage them to work on tasks that are meaningful to them.
- Frame goals with a sense of meaning and purpose. Explain the “why”.
- Share how the organization’s products or services are meaningful to end users and/or the community.
“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”— Daniel Pink
Another employee engagement idea is to establish a sense of autonomy as a critical factor in creating lasting engagement within your team. Different team members require different levels of autonomy. As a manager, you should work with employees on an individual basis to determine how much autonomy you can appropriately offer based upon individual skill level and drive. Most team members respond favorably to being granted autonomy and trust. Conversely, most individuals respond poorly to continual oversight or micromanagement.
Manager Tips to Improve Autonomy
- Decide where you can grant more autonomy and offer it. Is there flexibility about how they do their work, when they do it, where they do it, or with whom they work?
- Provide clear direction and boundaries so that employees don’t get overwhelmed trying to figure out what you want.
- Celebrate success and don’t punish mistakes.
“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”— Harvey S. Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company
Employees experience growth by being challenged and stretched in ways that lead to personal and professional progress. Growth is a key factor leading to employee engagement and retention. Managers can help their team members by being attentive to their career and development goals. Having regular discussions to plan and check in on career development can be very helpful and motivating to team members.
Manager Tips to Improve Growth
- Make sure each employee has an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and review it at least quarterly.
- Talk with your employees about their career aspirations.
- Regularly coach your employees.
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”— Jackie Robinson
People experience a sense of impact when they see the difference their work makes, or when they feel valued for the contribution they make to the organization and its mission. A manager can help team members improve their engagement by showing them how their contributions are integral to the success of the larger team, the organization, and to the organization’s customers, clients, or patients. Taking the time to recognize the efforts and contributions of team members can also help them feel a sense of impact, not to mention a sense of connection and care.
Manager Tips to Improve Impact
- Set clear goals and objectives that are challenging with your employees.
- Define success and track it.
- Regularly Recognize your employees’ contributions.
“Communication—the human connection—is the key to personal and career success.”— Paul J. Meyer
Of our employee engagement ideas, this is one of the most important. Connection is the sense of belonging a person feels when they are part of an organization or team. Our research data shows that a strong sense of connection is one of the most critical factors in determining the engagement of organizations and individuals. Individuals connect to organizations through social relationships, enjoyable work opportunities and experiences, congruent values, and common purpose.
Manager Tips to Improve Connection
- Show that you care about your employees so that they trust you. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable to your team. Let them get to know you personally.
- Provide space and activities so that your team can have fun and get to know one another.
As you have probably noticed, these tips appear to be simple and you may be one of those managers that practices them on a regular basis. But based on our survey research, we find that many teams lack managers that are either good at these employee engagement ideas or do them consistently. When was the last time you had a conversation about your employee’s career aspirations? Or do you recognize your employees on a weekly basis?
As you look at this list, consider which of these keys is most important to your engagement and the engagement of each of your employees. We are all unique, so each key will rank differently in importance. As you conduct one-on-ones with team members, ask them about these keys and find out how they play into their engagement. Better yet, have them take our free Engagement MAGIC® Self-assessment and review the results together.