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Five steps to achieve staff engagement

By Paul Keijzer
Managers play a leading role in establishing and fostering employee engagement. PAUL KEIJER outlines five ways to improve staff motivation and emotional wellbeing.

How often have you heard that famous sentence from management trainer Marcus Buckingham, “People don’t leave companies, they leave managers”?

In a landmark 2004 report titled, Engaging the Workforce, The Corporate Leadership Council (CLC) identified that line managers have the largest impact on employee engagement. The reason for this is straightforward: no one can influence motivation, sense of belonging and emotional wellbeing as much as the boss.

1. Have clear expectations

The most common complaints I hear from staff when their boss tells them that they haven’t completed a task properly are as follows:

  • It wasn’t clear what was expected

  • The expectations changed half-way during the assignment

  • The employee didn’t understand why they had to do a certain task.

This links perfectly with the results of the CLC report, which identified three levers that had the largest impact on staff effort and engagement. Employees must understand:

  • How to successfully complete a task

  • The connection with their work and the strategy of the organisation

  • The impact of their contribution to the success of the organisation.

According to the report, if an employee is clear on these three levers then their commitment to make an extra effort increased by up to 30%.

2. Remove barriers

One of the key jobs of a manager when helping a team member perform is to remove all barriers that could stop staff from delivering results. A reader recently contacted me with some feedback on how to remove barriers, saying, “Breaking down those barriers that tend to exist between a manager and an employee takes place one-on-one.

"No one can influence motivation, sense of belonging and emotional wellbeing as much as the boss"

I encourage managers to meet weekly with their direct reports and ask three questions that help drive the conversation to be all about the employee, not task discussions or ‘what did you get done this week’ discussion.

“Those three questions are ‘What did you do last week that you are proud of?’, ‘What would you like to learn next week that will help you be more successful in your job?’ and ‘How can I help?’ This is a powerful exercise that goes a long way toward that engagement issue.”

3. Encourage effort and reward results

Recognising an employee for their delivery goes a long way to engaging that employee and ultimately helping them to perform. Furthermore, encouragement is not only important to the person who receives it but also sets a standard for colleagues and fosters positive competition.

AFT Pharmaceuticals

4. Have that difficult discussion today

Research by the Institute for Employment Studies indicates that managers who are good at engaging their staff are also good at doing the difficult stuff.

“Line managers of highly-engaged teams referred to the need to be firm and clear about the standards they expected and to take action quickly but fairly – if necessary, to get tough and go to formal procedures,” the study reported, adding that managers should tackle issues of poor performance immediately, explaining why things aren’t right and work with people to make things better.

The key is to have these difficult discussions whenever the issue arises and not at the next employee performance. The consequences of not having these conversations are significant and may result in the following:

  • The performance of the individual not improving

  • Causing confusion for the employee since they won’t know why they’re not growing within the company

  • Creating a situation where other team members assume they can get away with under-performing

  • Loss of respect for the line manager due to the perception that they’re not doing their job

  • Overall decline of the team’s performance.

5. Identify what drives the team

Different things drive different people. Here is a list with seven different drivers that can motivate employees.

Employees might be looking for any of the following:

  • Vision – being part of creating the future, something that is important and bigger than themselves

  • Development – being given the opportunity and support to grow, learn and develop themselves

  • Recognition – being recognised, rewarded and celebrated for their contribution

  • Impact – being able to make an impact on something that is meaningful

  • Sense of belonging – being able to pride themselves on belonging to their organisation

  • Challenge – being given challenges that stretch their capacity

  • Empowerment – being given the ownership and autonomy to take initiative, operate and deliver.

Leaders should take 10 minutes and reflect on what motivates and drives each member of their team. Pick the top two for each employee and write down an action that can be taken to drive that employee’s personal motivation.

Transitions Optical

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