What a feeling! You’re looking around the room and seeing happy coworkers, putting their heads together to achieve a common goal. The feeling is palpable. You can nearly taste the cohesion, and if you could, you would take it, turn it into a powder, and put it in a little canister to sprinkle on bland workplaces everywhere. Employee engagement is in the air.
Reality check? Yeah, that’s not exactly what your workplace looks like at the moment, but you dream big, and you believe this kind of atmosphere is entirely possible. Guess what? We do, too!
Now, where to begin? The best place to begin is always right where you are. Once we help you determine square one, we can outline the 6 ways to improve your employee engagement.
Truth be told, many people feel the need for change, but often they aren’t even sure exactly what needs to be changed. Is that you? If so, don’t be ashamed—it’s totally normal! A typical reaction to being unsure about where to begin is to give up on seeking the change you know you need. So, let’s figure out how to be confident that you know where the root of any staleness in the atmosphere is coming from.
Using the OODA Loop
Now, for any of you who are military-savvy, I’m taking this right out of the U.S. Air Force playbook. In fact, it’s a little something called the OODA Loop. The loop prompts you to do exactly what I’m about to explain.
- First, observe. Look around your workplace and notice what’s going on. Which employees are working well together? Which seem to have interpersonal strain? Which employees seem to stay to themselves? Be aware of not only words but also tone and body language.
- Second, orient. That means you will use your own personal knowledge of the people within your workplace to orient yourself with the different ways you will need to go about making changes.
- Third, decide. Make a decision and stick with it; don’t be wishy-washy. Know that your decision stems from what you’ve observed and what you know about your employees. This will give you the confidence that you are making the right decision.
- Last, act. This is the point when all the dreaming becomes a reality. Don’t back out now—you’ve come too far.
There is another strategy for determining what needs to be changed in your workplace, and it’s virtually effortless: use a survey! A survey is a simple and efficient way to collect data in both a quantitative and qualitative way (and here you thought your research days were further in the past than your last student loan payment… they’re back!). You can gather information about how your employees feel regarding the workplace atmosphere. An easy way to do it is by using an online tool.
One online tool made for this specific instance is Journey’s Employee Engagement offering. Send surveys and view answers quickly all within one place. Your team can provide real-time suggestions via an online suggestion box. This lets them know you truly value their opinions and suggestions. Within the same tool, employees can even recognize each other’s achievements and build unity with an online recognition wall. Now that’s engaged!
There are also various online survey providers out there, including SurveyMonkey. Using an online survey provider will allow you to collect data, analyze, and save the data for future viewing.
The 6 Ways Boost Employee Engagement
Whether you use the OODA Loop or decide to opt for a survey, or if you choose to use a combination of the two, you will arm yourself with the information you need to begin implementing change. Once you know your people, and you know you’re going to make a change, here are the 6 ways to boost employee engagement.
1: Discuss the future
Sometimes the workdays seem redundant, and one after another, they can blur together. Whatever you do, try to keep the blur to a minimum. That doesn’t mean that your employees should never feel a sense of understanding and comfort with the job they are performing. Rather, it means that you should give your employees something to look forward to.
It may seem obvious, as you’re discussing sales goals and company strategies, to discuss the future. But try to take it down from a company level every now and again, and make it about your team and what your goals and hopes are for the people right in front of you. Everyone knows that you have things that need to be accomplished for the company, but make the future of your team a priority as well.
What’s an easy way to do this for your organization? Mark the future by always keeping your sights set on the next company holiday, instead of fiscal mile markers. Have employees work toward a team goal (whatever you all agree it should be!) and celebrate when you achieve it.
2: Know your employees
Remember how we did the orient piece of the OODA Loop? Well, the reason the OODA Loop is a loop and not a line is that you don’t perform this strategy once and then forget it—you will do it over, and over, and over again as many times as necessary. Continue to orient yourself with your employees.
Know what they enjoy doing, and if possible, show that you recognize the things that interest them by weaving it into the conversation, or asking them about how “x” is going. To take it a step further, you could get each employee a mug with a quote about their passion, or a calendar that pertains to something they follow.
3: Be a team
While it might be tempting to utter the words, “What I want from you…” or “What I’d like to see is…” don’t. Yes, you are the boss, and yes, your opinion does matter, but overusing “I” is a surefire way to land yourself a front row seat of the Employees Zoning Out show.
Try using phrases such as, “What we should be focusing on is…” or “Our current goal is…” which will help employees feel like you are just as much a part of the solution everyone is working toward, instead of you just standing up there cracking the whip. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get down and dirty with them, either. They will respect you even more if they know you are willing to do anything you ask of them (even if they are better at it than you are!).
4: Remember individual goals
You undoubtedly have recurring team meetings, but how many times have you hit “postpone” on that one-on-one meeting you have with an employee? STOP DOING THAT! Rude. Yeah, I said it. Postponing or canceling meetings with your team members tells them that they aren’t significant enough or worthy of your time. Or at least it can come across that way sometimes.
Of course there will be times when your only real choice is to postpone (the president of the company is in town, and she scares your hair back after laser hair removal). So when that situation arises, make sure the employee knows that he/she is a priority, and that you look forward to sitting down once your calendar opens up. When you are in the individual meetings, remember to take time to discuss that employee’s personal career goals, and create a strategy for growth. Make the meeting as much about the future of that employee, because your team meetings should be about the team.
One more thing: notice when an employee is struggling to balance work and life (you might hear some clues in the things they say during these individual meetings). Always encourage your employees to take the time necessary for staying sane and healthy. Employee engagement isn’t necessarily only about work!
5: Include the team in the hiring process
This one can be a little tricky because the truth of the matter is that the talent acquisition team and HR department exist for a reason. They are experts in matters of scouting and hiring employees! However, there is one little thing that can be an asset where existing employees are concerned: they might have a gut feeling about someone, and could possibly mutually agree that someone may or may not be a perfect fit for the team.
So, let your employees meet the candidates. Let them ask a few pre-approved questions (make sure they are HR-appropriate!). Then, ask your employees what they think, and hear them out if they have any hesitations. Who knows? They could help identify the perfect person for the job, or they could help you dodge a bullet.
6: Be open
When some bosses say they have an “open door policy,” some employees silently think, “Yeah right.” If this is something you say, mean it! This goes for all matters, including you encouraging employees to come to you first if they are thinking about seeking employment elsewhere. The cost of employee turnover is high, and you would be better off trying to work (and maybe even negotiate) with a valued employee than to go through the process of hiring a new person who you really know nothing about.
You are looking around the room and seeing happy coworkers, putting their heads together to achieve a common goal. The feeling is palpable. You might not be creating cohesion powder yet, but you are finally seeing your dreams beginning to become a reality. Employee engagement is in the air, and you plan to use everything you now know to keep it that way.