As a leader working in corporate, I continually get asked the same question… how do you keep your employees engaged? Really? I mean, it’s not like there is a secret sauce or secret plan; honestly, it’s really simple… first I observe and then I listen and then I… !
What do you mean observe?
“I observe my employees all the time and they still seem disengaged” says a co-worker. If that is the case, then you haven’t really observed them; you have just looked and made assumptions. What’s the difference? When you are just looking at your employees, you may notice they may become excited with certain contests or activities you make up. However, when you actually observe… you notice their attitude throughout the activity and their interaction with each other. Then, you are not making assumptions on how much they are engaged, you take note of actual facts happening within the activity.
Case in Point
I began to observe tension between a few of my employees. It could have been jealousy among each other; maybe they had “beef” about an issue outside the job but but then brought it into the team. Who knows! I had to nip it in the bud quickly b/c it’s one thing I can’t stand is teammate rivalry b/c NOTHING gets accomplished. In addition, I believe in teamwork and collaboration so when there are adversaries within the team, it causes more drama than needed.
To bring up morale, I introduced a game as something different than our normal individual contests. Also, the game content didn’t have anything to do with work. I wanted to get their mind off the workplace drama so the content was based on current events and worldly entertainment. Seeing that I had a team made up of 80% millennials, I saw this as fitting. They absolutely loved it! For an hour, their mind wasn’t on work and each other. It lightened the mood enough for me to give a 5 minute lesson on teamwork in the end and why it was important. Not too long after, I saw a difference within the team. They went back to helping each other with process questions and participating in group chats when before, they were ignoring one another. Advice: Observe by catering a solution that is right for them, not for you.
How do you listen?
Easy… I get them involved! I don’t always come up with the answers! Yes, you are their leader and you have the final say-so but do always have to live by a dictatorship? Can’t you try a democracy? The difference in a manager vs. a leader- a manager does what they are told. They usually don’t put any effort into trying new ideas; they are the ones that usually “crack the whip!” A leader listens to her employees ideas and then, goes the extra mile by getting them involved.
Case in Point
One year, my team wanted to have a Christmas potluck. Well, the employee in charge thought it would be a better idea of she collects the money instead of asking everyone what they wanted to bring. She thought it would be more efficient doing it this way to save everyone time of cooking or heading to a store. Her heart was in the right place but her first mistake was not asking everyone, what did they think of the idea. She also came up with the theme herself- a Mexican theme. Ok, even I (her leader) thought the idea was a little intrusive b/c I don’t eat Mexican that often and I don’t see having Mexican during Christmas; seems unnatural- LOL! I’m in the mood for turkey, maybe ham and all the soul food fixins (as the southerners say)!
As I suspected, people began complaining on what was happening. I heard complaints like… “how dare she ask for money during the holidays”; “I don’t celebrate Christmas so I don’t want to participate in the potluck”; she is making us feel guilty if we don’t give money; “shoot, I don’t want to give money, I like cooking so I want to buy my own food to cook!” Long story short, I pulled Missy aside and expressed the concerns raised by the team. I told her I understood her intentions but from the team’s perspective, you are telling them what to do and not asking them what they want. She later apologized in a team meeting and started over by sending out surveys and she even formed a committee to get more people involved to help. Advice: Listen by remaining quiet and allowing others to voice their opinion.
What is another way I show engagement?
I show compassion! Many times your employees just want to be heard. They can change managers many times during their career so many times, they feel they are treated as a number. Well- not on my team! Have you ever heard the saying… “happy employees = happy customers.” How do you make your employees happy? It’s not bribing them with gifts; it’s not letting them have anything they want… while all of those things are nice, it has been my experience that when a leader shows their employee they genuinely care via actions and not gifts, they are more apt to work hard for that leader.
Case in Point
I had an employee that was going through a dark time in his life. He was telling me how hard it was to pay his bills b/c much of his finances was going to childcare~ man, can I relate. To top it all, a relative passed away and he needed extra days of bereavement b/c he had to travel for the funeral. The type of relative that passed… he was only allowed to get one day of bereavement but he needed at least 3. Due to high call volume, he couldn’t get paid time off b/c the PTO book was closed. After pleading his case with me and b/c he had a good track record and pretty good performance, I was able to pull some strings to get his days approved. He was so grateful, he pulled me in a room and just started crying. Never would I have thought to see a grown man, around 6 feet just break down and cry in front of me. He said he had so many burdens weighing on him that when I showed him a small bit of compassion, it felt like 50 pounds of them were lifted. I thanked him for being a good employee and that my prayers was with him and his family. When that employee came back from his travel, he moved up to the top 10% of staff and remained there the rest of the year, where before he was just average. Advice: No amount of kindness is too SMALL; you just need to take action to see a BIG conclusion in the end.
Here are some more tips:
- Lead by example– Don’t ask anything of your employees you aren’t willing to do yourself.
- Follow through– When your employees ask you to do a task, do it! Taking days to complete a task… eventually you will lose your credibility.
- Remain knowledgeable– Always brush up on your company processes. However, if you are unsure of an answer research to find the accurate one. Again, you don’t want to lose your credibility by providing bogus information.
- Be creative– Find ways to do things differently. Many of our staff is made up of millennials nowadays and they get bored really quickly. Play a game instead of having your regular business meeting, for example.
- Recognize them– Always show them gratitude by passing on a “high-five” or just a “thank-you”. Take it a step further and make up certificates to hand out each quarter.
- Delegate duties– Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Employees love to know they are valued by providing them other responsibilities outside of their regular role. Read this post on delegation techniques to learn more.
LIKE and COMMENT Below: How do you keep your employees or peers engaged during the work day?