‘Engage’ Is a Verb: Engaged Leaders Define Workplace Environment

engaged leaders

‘Engage’ Is a Verb: Engaged Leaders Define Workplace Environment

Dec. 6, 2017

It’s tough leading a business; every good leader will tell you that. One of the things that makes it extremely challenging is the fact that there are so many moving parts and so many very important priorities that must be addressed on a constant basis in order for things to run smoothly—and for your business to be successful. Employee engagement plays a powerful role in the success of your businesses, with numerous studies showing that highly engaged employees offer not only increased monetary value to their companies, but also better customer service and higher production levels. But achieving a highly engaged workforce can be challenging. It requires time, persistence, and consistency—and with so much to do when it comes to increasing employee engagement, there’s no time for sitting down on the job.

It may sound like a daunting task, but we’re sharing our Secret Steps to Employee Engagement with you so that you can put together a strategy that will turn you into the leadership guru you are destined to be! Not a passive endeavor, enacting an employee engagement platform in any workplace requires active involvement from everyone, all the way from top management positions to clerical positions. It takes energy and determination, but by following the 10 steps below, you will reap the rewards of having an engaged workforce that thrives on communication, inclusion, and participation.

1. Question

Leaders are supposed to know everything, right? Wrong. When engaging your employees, begin by assuming you don’t know things—even the things you think you already know. Engage your employees by asking meaningful, relevant questions about their jobs, their workplace functions, and their concerns, and then follow through by being a supportive leader who is a great listener. Formulate questions that show your employees their thoughts, opinions, and insights are integral to the success of day-to-day business. Your interest in their input will likely be well-received and met with enthusiasm.

Things You Might Try:

  • Give employees a fun three-question survey to answer about work. Be sure to offer the opportunity to list positive as well as challenging things. Also, ask for improvement ideas.
  • Hold a roundtable brainstorm to implement improved processes to help everyone.
  • Implement a suggestion box and a kudos box so that employees can call out coworkers for jobs done well.

“Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” – Zig Ziglar

2. Request

Employee engagement is integral to the success of your business—however, if you TELL your employees they are going to participate, chances are good that you will be met with at least a modicum of resistance. A better approach is to ask for team member participation, expressly letting your employees know they will be adding value by participating and adding their individual contributions. Ask them to get involved and encourage other team members to join in as well. By turning ownership over to your employees and making them a part of the changes happening in the workplace, they will feel compelled to participate and offer their best efforts.

Things You Might Try:

  • Hold a kick-off meeting and invite employees to suggest ideas that will add to the employee engagement program.
  • Explain that community outreach and involvement is a big part of engagement and ask employees what groups or charities they support.
  • Ask for employee volunteers to head up various portions of your engagement program to create a sense of ownership.

“It all came down to employee engagement. It all came down to recognition. It all came down to leadership, which led to every sailor feeling ownership and accountability for the results. You can ask a team to accomplish a mission but you can’t order excellence.”–Mike Abrashoff, Commander USS Benfold (retired)

3. Participate

As a leader, you already know you don’t get to sit in your office and eat cookies while your employees do all the heavy lifting. Especially now, when you are asking everyone to get on board with an all-hands-on-deck employee engagement program, it’s even more important that you visibly put in the work and show your employees how it’s done. Demonstrate how a great employee engagement program looks by leading the charge and being visible on the front lines, participate in the process with your employees, and collaborate with them to create this new way of working that will benefit everyone.

Things You Might Try:

  • Consider setting up a mentoring program at your company to foster career growth.
  • Engage with your employees during special events, such as car-care clinics, fundraisers for charities, and health fairs.
  • Ensure your employees have the proper materials needed to do their jobs. For fun, consider an Office Supply Swap Day.

“Children imitate their parents, employees their managers.” ―Amit Kalantri

4. Practice

Nothing is written in stone, and there is nothing that can’t be reworked—so go ahead and try new things that will get your employees revved up and excited about where they work. Don’t be afraid to implement new ideas and programs, and don’t shy away from new processes simply because they are a part of the unknown. Many companies are successfully implementing groundbreaking employee engagement programs; study them, read about them, and then practice some of the things they are trying. You’ll be glad you did!

Things You Might Try:

  • Offer opportunities for employees to expand their knowledge and grow in the business.
  • Remember that professional doesn’t always mean stuffy. Think about where you might be able to add in some time for fun, or even a lighthearted space for relaxing. (Beanbag break room, anyone?)
  • Consider rounding up some volunteers to be on a Fun Committee. They’ll come up with great ideas (like Sports Jersey Fridays or Ice Cream Mondays)!

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.”  ―Billie Jean King

5. Connect

As individuals, employees naturally tend to form groups or even pull away individually to get work projects completed; but as a strong leader, you are able to see the vision you have for your business, and you know how the various groups within your company can successfully work together to produce the best work. Encourage employees to reach out to each other and be a part of breaking down barriers between departments, groups, and individuals so that everyone can put forth their best efforts.

Things You Might Try:

  • Encourage employees to get to know each other outside their individual work groups. Try something like a game to kick off your staff meetings.
  • Call on a volunteer to be in charge of your team’s birthday and anniversary calendar—celebrate everyone with a balloon on their special day.
  • How about Food Friday once per month? Invite everyone to bring a favorite treat to share, and before you know it coworkers will be mingling.

“The role of the CEO is to enable people to excel, help them discover their own wisdom, engage themselves entirely in their work, and accept responsibility for making change. (164)” ―Vineet Nayar, Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down

6. Learn

Sometimes it is difficult to remember, but you are not an island. There are other individuals and companies who either are at the same stages of implementing employee engagement programs OR have already implemented world-class programs and have employees who are productive, happy, and providing over-the-top customer service. Learn from them. Absorb what they have to teach by mimicking their processes and their programs. Read about them online and find out what you can do to make your employees over-the-top engaged as well!

Things You Might Try:

  • Check out TED talks for leaders. They are full of great ideas and will point you in the right direction.
  • Research the latest online Gallup surveys for insights regarding employee engagement.
  • Implement some of the things being done at top companies, like: recognize social connections and professional endeavors, offer training, offer rewards, integrate fun during the work day. (Check out companies like Google, DreamWorks, and Zappos.com.)

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” –Jack Welch

7. Observe

Most people would probably agree it would be difficult to walk around with a paper bag on their heads all day, what with all the bumping into things and simply not seeing what’s going on around them. You are leading a company, growing a brand, and shaping a culture, so you can’t afford to walk around with a paper bag on your head—NOT EVER. The best thing you can do to understand your employees and learn how to engage them in the workplace is be present in day-to-day life. What are your employees saying? What do they like or dislike? What are they participating in, and in what areas could they use more encouragement? Observation of your corporate culture is continual, and you’ll want to ensure you communicate with employees about their concerns and ideas on an ongoing basis.

Things You Might Try:

  • Set aside days to have lunch with your employees throughout the week.
  • Start the day with a morning coffee meeting that can be a mixture of business and casual conversation.
  • Be sure to involve your employees in updates and meetings when changes are occurring. It’s OK—and good—to get their input regarding changes. This way you’ll be able to gauge their feelings about new and updated policies or procedures.

“Culture is about performance, and making people feel good about how they contribute to the whole.” –Tracy Streckenbach interview, Clear Goals Matter More than Mission, The New York Times

8. Interact

You are busy running a successful business, but the best thing about running a successful business is having engaged, trusted employees to help you along the journey. Don’t get so focused on paperwork, behind-the-desk tedium, and red tape that you forget to maintain a relationship with your employees. Be visible, interact, and let your employees know you are one of them! If you are approachable and likeable, chances are they will feel more comfortable coming to you with concerns and issues, and you’ll be able to avoid any potential problems down the road.

Things You Might Try:

  • Consider an optional event like a weekend picnic or family outing for all of your employees.
  • Celebrate when large or complicated projects are completed and recognize those who participated.
  • Coordinate a Dealership Olympics, including games like the Post-It Dash, the Standing Stapler Jump, and Pass the Paperwork.

“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person–not just an employee–are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” –Anne Mulcahy

9. Create

Businesses run on numbers and facts—everyone knows that. But as a leader, everyone also expects you to be the person who is able to weave the complexities of your company and the hard work of its employees into a compelling narrative that explains the WHY of everything. Why does everyone do what they do? What is the payoff? Your employees want to know their work is significant and meaningful, and alongside the numbers and the spreadsheets, you will need to tell the story of how every single individual has contributed as a team to form a meaningful organization.

Things You Might Try:

  • Award employees with plaques or prizes for jobs done well. Reward them for doing the work they love with zeal.
  • Create a photo wall of business successes, featuring employees at their best.
  • Develop a brand statement that encompasses what everyone strives for each day. Place it in a prominent location.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” –Steve Jobs

10. Serve

Engaged leaders lead to engaged employees. You won’t suddenly look out your office window and see an entire workforce of engaged employees if you aren’t demonstrating what that behavior looks like. When your employees see you providing the powerful example of what engagement can do to bring a company together, they will all want to be a part of the “something great” that is happening in the company, and you will be serving every employee by providing an example of engaged leadership. Inspiration is contagious, and once you start spreading it, your entire company will catch it!

Things You Might Try:

  • Inspire others by offering praise and encouraging every employee to be the best he or she can be.
  • Let your optimism show every day and demonstrate how employee engagement is improving the workplace.
  • Be consistent in offering your time, your patience, and your ear when it’s time to listen. Chat in the break room often with employees.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Ronald Reagan

Remember, as you work toward growing a more engaged workplace, you will be using your strengths to encourage every employee at your company. It is a hefty job, but one worth doing—and worth doing well. Those companies that are succeeding and reporting high levels of employee engagement are truly at the top of their game when it comes to productivity, customer service, and employee satisfaction, and this is the direction you are driving your business as well. It takes time and effort, as well as trust and confidence on the part of your employees, but once you are able to create a culture of energized and enthusiastic employees, your company will be unstoppable in the marketplace. “Engage” is most definitely a verb, and it’s true there is a lot of work that takes place in order to create this type of workplace environment, but the payoff is tremendous.

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