How to create engagement at work

woman sleeping at her deskThe problem today is that more than 80% of employees are not fully engaged at work (source: Gallup). What a waste! We owe it to ourselves to be as engaged as possible, to value our own time in such a way that our working days become as valuable as possible.

Leaders play a big role in employee engagement, as many engagement factors are within their sphere of influence. But ultimately we are all responsible for our own engagement, so it must start there – each person deciding for themselves that they want to be as engaged as possible at work.

The reasons for lack of engagement can range from boredom to when we’ve done the same job for a very long time – to not being able to do a good job due to lack of knowledge and tools – and everything in between.

Regardless of the reason, lack of engagement is not just boring for the employee, it’s also bad for business. Customers can literally FEEL disengagement and will not engage with the company in question. And together with lower productivity, the bottom line suffers.

Disengagement means that team members don’t operate at the level of efficiency they are capable of and therefore only perform a limited amount of work. On top of that, disengagement is contagious and it often drives engaged employees away and you’re left with those who aren’t.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Employee engagement can definitely be improved and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Employee engagement drives customer engagement, which in turn drives revenue. This makes employee engagement a major factor for sustainable business results, which needs to be the focus of every single leader.

Let’s look at 6 proven solutions for engagement at work:

The key to engagement is involvement

By involving your team members, rather than just telling them, you invite them into a conversation that can engage interest and ownership. It is a known fact that the greatest buy-in happens when people have been involved in a solution rather than just being told what to do. You are showing that they are important by including them, and that’s hard not to connect with.

It’s not a tick box

Whatever you do though, don’t make employee engagement a tick box exercise! There is nothing “tick boxy” about getting your team members engaged. Engagement is an emotional connection so it cannot be ignited through action alone. It’s how you behave whilst taking action that makes a difference. So if you are serious about this, be

  • genuinely interested
  • inspiring and enthusiastic
  • positive
  • trustworthy
  • curious and open-minded
  • conscientious
  • caring

Not only does it keep you engaged, it is infectious and makes staying disengaged close to impossible.

Clarify expectations

Make sure everyone knows and shares the team’s common purpose. This may sound basic, but you’d be amazed at how many teams don’t have this. Engagement starts with a clear understanding of what’s expected, roles and responsibilities, the overall purpose and goals. Without it it’s impossible to know if you are doing a good job, as you have nothing to measure against, hence making engagement elusive. Involve your team in discussions around how to fulfil the purpose, and how to work together to make it happen.

A team we recently encountered had clear financial goals, but no clear understanding of how to achieve them. The results varied between team members so the leader decided to clarify what else was expected of them. They had a discussion on how to work to achieve the goals, where successful strategies were shared. Amongst other things, this highlighted the need for regular, structured communication with key stakeholders to retain their ongoing support. It became clear to them all that they hadn’t previously understood all the factors involved in being fully successful (and therefore engaged) at their job.

Ongoing development

Once everyone knows what is expected, let them know how they are doing. Have regular follow-up and development discussions, and make they truly two-way. Don’t wait until the yearly appraisal. Share helpful feedback, including what you’ve seen them do and the impact this has had on the team or others around them, and therefore their results. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers to someone’s development; be creative about it – development doesn’t have to be a promotion, it could just be a new challenge. Ongoing development creates a sense of progression, which engages.

Invigorate the job

Have a brainstorming session on how to invigorate the job, to break the boredom of monotony, stagnation and disengagement. This could and should include questioning processes that don’t add value, responsibility overlaps, process handovers and particularly time-consuming tasks. Use these questions to help drive innovation forward:

  • What could we change to make the job more interesting/fun?
  • Are we doing things that are repetitive, boring and bring very little value? If so, could they be stopped/changed/improved?
  • If possible, what could we stop doing? What could we start doing? What should we continue doing?
  • Could any tasks be swapped between team members?

Team members get a sense a control, hence become very engaged when encouraged to innovate around their own jobs and roles.

Manage change carefully

Unless carefully managed, change can create disengagement and disillusionment. So talk about the change; listen to people’s concerns, involve your team. Plan the change and its implementation, including the needed communication. Keep in mind that if you are the leader, you are probably further along on the change curve than those you are communicating with – so slow down and put yourself in their shoes when you communicate. Engagement happens when people feel listened to, especially when it comes to change and how it affects them personally.

While going through a merger, one of our clients struggled with this as change needed to happen fast to make investors trust in the merger. From previously having divided up the work by geography, they were now supposed to divide it up by industry. This change was introduced without involving the employees affected. As a result, team members got frustrated because they weren’t able to do a good job and they felt as if the decision makers didn’t understand their reality. So the leaders didn’t create the change, they created disengaged employees. This wasn’t solved until they sat down and listened to concerns and suggestions, which gave them information on how to best implement the change with minimum disruption.

mandy elisabet featuredAbout the authors

Mandy Flint & Elisabet Vinberg Hearn, award-winning authors of ”The Team Formula”.

Their new book ”Leading Teams – 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions” is out now, published by Financial Times International.

Praise for ”Leading Teams: ”This book is a 21st-century guide on how to build a world-class team. I highly recommend it” Steve Siebold, Founder, Mental Toughness University, Florida USA.

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1 Response
  1. Great article, and I agree that involvement is the key, which naturally happens with economic transparency? Treating employees like adults, involving them in the economics of the business, helping them to think and act like business partners, consistently driving profitable growth. The information engages their minds, and the trust engages their hearts. For 20+ years, clients of mine have consistently improved profits and the lives of the employees who drive those profits. Often referred to as Open-Book Management, here are a couple of articles that provide more context:
    These two videos of clients of ours may also be helpful:
    Carlson Travel call center video:
    Anthony Wilder Design Build video:
    More information is available at our website:
    Are you familiar with OBM and if so, are you a fan?