So, what is engagement?
If you are engaged, you have high levels of energy at work, you're enthusiastic about your work, and you are immersed in your work activities. If you are manager, you should also take note that you're potentially the biggest influence on the engagement levels of your staff. Hundreds of studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive, deliver better customer service, are more innovative, and are more likely to remain at your organisation.
To illustrate this, every year, Fortune Magazine publishes their list of “100 Best companies to work for”. Now, this is a great list to be on, but how many of you know that those companies also get twice the job applications and half the employee turnover compared to their competitors? Obviously, people want to work for companies that treat them well, but does this lead to better business outcomes?
What the research shows
Longitudinal research has indicated that those companies who make the grade do, in fact, have higher profitability, company valuations, and shareholder returns compared to their peers who did not make the list. This is a proven but complex relationship, often with many moving parts, but there are some simple things managers can do to boost engagement in their teams and departments.
How you can boost engagement?
Firstly, your engagement initiatives will fail if you think of them as a once off activity. It is not an assessment or a team building exercise by itself. It is an ongoing thing. Make sure that whatever you do, it is a regular thing. This is becoming increasingly important with virtual teams; instant messaging isn't enough. Make sure to make regular times for video conferencing and physical team get-togethers where people can actually see each other and interact.
Secondly, people like working in and feeling part of a team; with those who do, being twice as likely to be fully engaged. As a manager it is your job to include people, facilitate conversations, get tough topics out in the open, and then facilitate safe dialogue between members of your team. Don't let anyone dominate the conversation. Conversational turn-taking has been shown to greatly improved team effectiveness.
Lastly, measure engagement but make sure to link it with team and organisational outcomes. Engagement levels in your team or your organisation can become a highly effective lead indicator of success and as such deserve a place on your scorecard. This will also help you to continuously pay attention to it; greatly improving the odds of you deriving its benefits.
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