On the list of factors that propel businesses forward, employee engagement ranks high. According to studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review, over 70 percent of business leaders consider employee engagement to be a very important component of overall company success. However, in the same study, only around a quarter of leaders indicated that they would rate their own staff members as “highly engaged.”
Though outsourcing company Aon Hewitt reports that overall employee engagement increased slightly among American employees between 2014 and 2015, the disparate numbers from the Harvard study reveal a need for business leaders to make an effort to improve employee engagement within their own organizations. Here are seven tips on how to do so.
1. Find balance between control and letting go
As a CEO, having strong control over the direction of the company is part of the job. But controlling company direction doesn’t necessarily mean exerting strict control over every aspect of the work that your employees perform. Studies show that offering employees a comfortable amount of autonomy within their positions increases levels of engagement and efficiency as well as a greater sense of belonging within the company and personal accountability within work. CEOs should strive to hire trustworthy workers at the outset, and then make room for independence and autonomy thereafter. Freedom to complete work in a way that best fits the employee leads to personal empowerment and stronger communication between staff and leadership.
2. Give feedback that employees can use
Once employees have the freedom to work with a high degree of independence, thoughtful, regular feedback from their leaders can keep them motivated and engaged. In a survey of over 20,000 global leaders, data showed that professionals who ranked in the top 10 percent for delivering feedback led employees who experienced a level of engagement three times that of employees whose leaders scored low in giving feedback.
The most disengaged employees are those who receive no feedback at all. Company leaders should see their responses to employee work as an opportunity to lead, and they should make positive commentary to encourage staff members to continue in the right direction. At the same time, the delivery of constructive criticism can help workers understand where changes need to be made and how they can improve their performance, leading to feelings of personal growth, confidence, and job satisfaction.
3. Be consistent in your leadership style
Because consistency earns respect, CEOs need to be consistent to effectively engage employees. Being a trustworthy, steadfast leader can create a sense of loyalty that drives staff to work harder as a single member of an engaged team. Leaders can show consistency by holding themselves accountable for the work that they perform in the same way that they hold their employees responsible. Additionally, CEOs should show steady support for their employees and resist the temptation to change their approach to management depending on whether a situation is positive or negative. Leaders who cannot be relied upon to maintain core values under pressure tend to leave employees feeling insecure and disengaged.
4. Don’t forget your executive team members
Employee engagement is highly contingent upon the attitudes and management practices of leadership. Staff members who work beneath a disengaged leader can only be motivated so much before the effects of poor supervisory skills curb their performance. To avoid this problem, CEOs must take the time to evaluate the engagement levels of their top employees in order to motivate lower-tier workers.
This task should be undertaken by the CEO personally, rather than delegated to the HR department. The CEO should review skillsets for best fit in each position, and determine whether each member of the executive team is committed to the long-term success of the company. After determining that the correct people are in these positions, the CEO will then make sure that all top employees have a clear understanding of what is expected of them within their roles.
Leaders who outline goals for executives and clearly define the impact that each role has on the success of the company will find that employee engagement filters down through the organization.
5. Create relevant incentives for employees
Over half of American companies use incentive programs to motivate employees. While some workers are best motivated by tangible rewards, others thrive on personal recognition for a job well done. Knowing which type of incentive program will have the greatest impact on your employees can strongly influence how appreciated your staff feels, directly impacting engagement levels.
Whichever version of incentive program is the best fit, leadership should be sure to deliver recognition as often as it is earned. Leaders should also consider putting a system in place that makes it easy for coworkers to recognize each other for excellent work. When delegating praise to your staff, recognition should always be rooted in specifics. Praise for a job well done on a certain project or solving a particular difficult problem shows much more sincerity than general praise, and is more likely to make employees feel noticed and valued.