Quick! How engaged are your employees? If you don’t know, you may have more than an engagement issue – it may be affecting productivity, too. So, how do you put together a team and work environment to create the best results?
According to Aberdeen research, people stay in their jobs because they’re challenged and intrigued.
Having a “challenging and intriguing” atmosphere doesn’t necessarily mean “exciting.” It’s more about whether people are engaged. Do your employees believe what they’re doing is tied to the business’s mission and values?
Establishing core values and having support for them is the foundation to an engaged, productive workforce. Values help you decide who you’ll hire, and how and why you’ll do business – and with whom. It also shows the world what it can expect from your company.
The first step is deciding what your company’s values are – then live them. Are they clear and easy for people to translate into actions? Create a line of sight between why the business operates and the people doing the work. Prepare to spend significant amount of time to define your real values.
Next, be specific about what constitutes good performance. Values without a clear measure of what productivity looks like are not very effective. You and your employees need to find the right balance between performance goals and the autonomy in deciding how to achieve them.
It’s about finding out what lights people up about their work and how it ties with the mission and vision of the company. That’s how engagement is created, and engagement is a catalyst to productivity.
But, how do you cultivate engagement?
The No. 1 characteristic of a successful team is communication, according to a survey by the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness. It’s a matter of communicating things that are important, and it often falls to the manager to make that happen.
Managers bring the vision and mission from higher levels of leadership. But, it also works the other way. Rather than communication coming from the top to bottom, it may mean listening more to what employees have to say.
Oftentimes employees are on the front line dealing with customers and clients. You’re missing out on a good information source if you’re not tapping into your employees’ knowledge base and experiences. It may shake up your idea of how communication is supposed to flow, but it encourages employee engagement.
It takes finesse to know when to not over-communicate. When do you give employees the room to take a chance and let them flourish? Having this latitude is fundamental to whether people are happy and productive. They will thrive with a degree of autonomy and flexibility to help clients or see something through to final resolution.
Sidestep the stumbling blocks
Be mindful of rules and other things that get in the way of people delivering the ultimate experience/service/product to the customer. You need to pay attention and find out whether there’s engagement among your employees.
There will always be frustration or stress. It’s up to you to make a distinction between that which is natural to your business and that which can be eliminated. What can you do to alleviate the stress? Is there someone who’s not in the right position? Are you playing to everyone’s strengths? Are there bottlenecks or inefficiencies? Are you listening to your employees?
As companies grow, it sometimes becomes more about the process than the delivery to the customer. Is there a workflow issue?
Things that get in the way of productivity
- Leadership: Sometimes production problems have nothing to do with the employees. Make sure all of your leaders are aligned with the business’s values. It’s up to you to build trust and promote communication.
- Environment: This is both physical and cultural conditions. Physically, it doesn’t have to be fancy. If you’re a growing business, it probably isn’t. But, do your employees have the tools they need to do their jobs? What about access to simple things like clean restrooms and a break area? Is there an atmosphere of openness and acceptance?
- Collaboration: Are people talking with one another? Is there an emphasis on working together, collaboration and teamwork?
- Process: Are you serving the customer or a process? Process is important, it usually leads to efficiencies. But, if it stands in the way of productivity – or if your employees don’t use it because it’s too cumbersome – something needs to change.
At some point, employee engagement can’t just be a buzzword. It’s truly a way of listening and being authentic with people.
You should encourage openness and upward communication through employee feedback. Some of it’s going to be negative – and that’s OK. Hearing from those on front line is valuable; they’re the ones in touch with your customers.
You might consider an engagement survey to find out how your employees feel about their jobs. You’ll find out things such as: What is it about the job that your employees like? Do they feel you value their input? Are they able to use their skills in their job? Do they understand the company, its mission and its values?
Manage growth spurts
The need for engagement changes as a company grows. When small businesses grow from five employees to 30, it becomes a different ballgame. Communication is organic when there are four, five or even 10 people in a company. But, when people are added, they may be hired for a specialized expertise and less for their communication qualities. As employees are assigned to their silos, communication breaks down: You end up with a bunch of hard-working people who never speak to each other.
If you’re in this situation, it’s time to take action. For so long, it may have been a foregone conclusion that “this is what we believe and this how business is done.” But, as you grow, make sure your core values are solidly defined and part of your hiring and onboarding process.
The hallmark of good values is that they stand up over time. They may need tweaking because of changing times, a volatile marketplace or other influencers. But, they should be strong enough to endure at their core.
It may be contrary to your management practices to focus on employee engagement as a means to success and productivity. But, having employees aligned with the company’s core values and engaged in its goals also are important to employee retention.
For a more tips on how to build a more productive workforce, download our free guide, Aberdeen Group Report: How to Recruit and Retain Top Talent.