Leadership Perspectives

5 ways leaders can promote worker engagement

June 17, 2013

Young Woman Sitting in Front of a Computer and LaughingLast week, a post on the Wall Street Journal At Work blog claimed that over half the workers in the US aren’t enthused by or committed to their work.  The claim is based on a recent Gallup research study and, if it is true, it’s pretty scary.

To understand the concept of engagement, look at yourself.

  • How does it feel when YOU are enthused about your work?
  • How does it feel when you are not?
  • When you don’t feel motivated, how productive are you?
  • When you feel satisfied or even excited by your work, what do other people – your clients, your venders, your employees – see in you?

We know that we do more and better work when we are charged up about what we are doing and who we are doing it for.  The folks that work for you are no different.  Based on personal experience, we know that engaged workers are likely to put more into their work.  They may make fewer mistakes, take more initiative, and be more supportive of the organization in both good times and bad.

As a leader, there is a lot that you can do to help create a more engaged workforce in your organization:

  1. Be clear about your expectations. It’s demoralizing to workers to think that they’ve done a good job only to find out that their work is being judged by criteria that they weren’t aware of.  Leaders have told me that they don’t want to insult workers by spelling out their expectations.  Then say that.  “I don’t want to be insulting, but I need to make sure that we are on the same page here, so bear with me” will suffice.
  2. Be quick to give feedback. I believe that most of us come to work with a basic desire to do a good job.  How do I know that I have done a good job or if I need to change things about my performance if you don’t tell me?  Do you even notice me?  Pat workers on the back for a job well done and provide guidance when a course correction is in order.
  3. Allow workers to develop new skills.  Isn’t that part of what excites you about your job?  In leadership, each day is often different and presents new challenges and opportunities to learn.  Your workers want that experience too.  Most people’s jobs contain a lot of routine elements.  Spice it up by allowing workers to try their hand at something new.
  4. Create stretch goals.  You have aspirations … things beyond the status quo that you want to accomplish in your business.  Be sure to share those things and turn them into goals.  The WSJ article noted that workers in start-up companies are more enthused about their work.  That’s not a big surprise.  Helping to create a whole new enterprise is like working on one huge stretch goal.
  5. Give workers more face time.  The WSJ article also reported that workers at smaller firms or on smaller teams tend to be more enthusiastic about their work.  This may be because they have more direct access to the leader, which helps them better understand expectations, obtain timely feedback, or be right at hand to grab novel experiences and learning opportunities.

Oh, and on another note, if YOU are the one that’s not feeling engaged, check out my previous post “Engagement Lacking?  How Leaders Get Re-engaged.”

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