Why Engage Your Workforce?
Employee engagement is an emotional state where employees feel passionate, energetic, and committed to their work. Why take the time to engage your workforce? Because it translates into employees who give their hearts, spirits, minds, and hands to deliver a high level of performance to the organization. When we first look to join an organization, we may be enticed by some salary promises, the company brand, or cool perks. Important? Of course. But these factors, called “satisfaction elements,” don’t increase employee engagement. Engagement goes beyond satisfaction. The ability to engage your workforce occurs when we find meaning, autonomy, growth, impact, and connection (ENGAGEMENT MAGIC) in what we do.
Meaning: Your work has purpose beyond the work itself.
What creates meaning in the workplace? Two types of meaning contribute to being engaged:
Inherent Meaning, the work itself produces the meaning that the individual feels. Like a teacher helping illiterate children to read or a heart surgeon saving lives.
Associated Meaning, is not found in the work but what the work enables you to do away from the work environment.
Beware of satisfaction factors! These are perks such as espresso machines, ping pong tables, “Taco Tuesdays” and the like. These perks are fun but can lead to temporary happiness and engagement. When taken away these perks can cause more problems. Plus, they can be expensive.
Autonomy: The power to shape your work environment in ways that allow you to perform at your best.
Autonomy is not about leaving people alone. At the same time, too much supervision can wreck productivity. In autonomous organizations, it’s what gets done that matters, with less concern for how it gets done. Hire good people, give them what they need to do their jobs well, and get out of their way. Trust your people. Without trust, autonomy is impossible.
BOUNDARIES + FREEDOM + ACCOUNTABILITY = AUTONOMY
Autonomy is an essential ingredient to engage your workforce.
Growth: Being stretched and challenged in ways that result in personal and professional progress.
We become bored, distracted, and disengaged when we feel that our work is rote, routine, and repetitive. People crave work experiences that challenge their minds and their skills, that are intellectually stimulating, and that offer them a chance to rise to the occasion and excel in high-stress situations.
Growth does not necessarily equal promotion. Growth goes beyond a higher position or a better parking space. It’s the desire for accomplishment, mastering new skills, reaching goals, and the need for achievement.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow. In other words, we’re most engaged not when we’re kicking back but when we’re kicking butt chasing excellence.
Impact: Seeing positive, effective, and worthwhile outcomes and results from your work.
EFFORT + IMPACT = ENGAGEMENT
In organizations where high levels of effort pair with high levels of perceived impact, you get an engaged workforce. People need to see progress in their work and that they are making a difference. Without the ability to see the impact of their work, people can feel futile and helpless.
- Measurement: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” Cheshire Cat. You can’t know your impact if you don’t have any way of measuring it.
- Proximity: Make it easy for everyone to see, feel, and experience the results of what they do every day.
- Context: What’s the story of your organization’s impact? The leader is the reporter of the narrative, so how are you spinning your organizational story? There’s nothing wrong with spin. Shape your story in a way that helps people see the value of what they’re doing.
- Value: Find a way to reward and recognize impact at the individual, team, and organizational level.
Connection: The sense of belonging to something beyond yourself.
Connection is about “we” rather than “I” or “they.” Lack of connection leads to isolation and alienation. It is feeling that being part of your organization makes you part of a community of people who are engaged in something that’s bigger than any one person. Connection manifest as the sense that a place is “special,” that you and your colleagues are a “band of brothers” who have each other’s backs unconditionally.
Trust is the currency of connection. It’s the building block of culture, because an effective culture is one that evokes thoughts like, “I can trust this company to align with my tastes and interests and to represent me, and what I care about, to the larger world.”
Earned trust is built over time and is based on your experiences and interaction with a person or organization. Granted trust is given based merely on position or circumstance. It’s not earned. We all grant trust to the pilot when we fly in a plane.
For more on how to measure and engage your workforce, download our sample survey: