What is your top tip for improving employee engagement in 2010?

I’ve been asking this question a lot lately. Why?

Well I’m seeing lots of research indicating that people are drifting from the fixed grin of relief at being glad to keep their jobs, to a position of wanting to feel more engaged with their work.

Organisations therefore face challenges in engaging and trusting a workforce which is motivated and willing to deliver the service needed to help create and sustain a profitable and purposeful business model.

This feels like a time of great opportunity for people and organisations who can create a sense of trust and autonomy in the workplace. I’m interested to know how you would help to achieve that?

Been receiving some very interesting and useful replies fro across the globe. Here are a few, many thanks to all the contributors and there will be more to follow soon:

Neeraj Sharma wrote:

I suggest employees be given a week or two to work on whatever they wish to work on – and document what they did, what was achieved and how much they enjoyed doing it as compared to their regular responsibilities. The salesperson may design a logo, the accountant may decide to deal with customers etc. It will shake things up, they will feel refreshed as well as challenged, and develop a new perspective and an appreciation for what others do. Some may find their calling.

Ulco Landheer wrote:

I’d have as many employees as possible rotate through an organization (or department or business unit) a few (1-2) hours per month to somewhat random positions. For example, during a meeting of one team, you’d have their work done by random selected people from other teams. That way you’d make sure that the right hand actually knows what the left hand is doing. It’s something I found out to increase the respect between different bloodgroups and the understanding between employees.

Phil Johnson wrote:

Gallup has identified a link between the amount of authentic leadership (leading without a title) within a company and it’s level of employee
engagement. Employees have been shown to increase their level of “discretionary energy” and engagement if they are inspired by the actions of others around them.

Kevin Hardern wrote:

In my experience with large and smaller organisations, the steps are very similar:

– define an end vision and organisational structure to support it which clearly demonstrate value to the workforce and its clients;

– engage some people in the workforce to help define the steps on the way to achieve that end goal, ‘transition states’ which themselves deliver vale along the way

– resource the implementation plan sufficiently but not excessively

External help may be needed to deliver, but the focus should remain equally balance between the tasks and the people, communicating with them regularly and honestly, even when problems occur. People are not stupid and if they are trusted, see value in what is being attempted they will help achieve the change rather than push against it.
The difference between having the people on side and helping achieve a goal is the single most significant factor in achieving successful change in my experience. Most organisations fail because they focus on the tasks in hand and do not tap into this massive resource which is available and if asked, willing.

Using Commitment and Ownership to Enhance Engagement

One of the many links I followed on Twitter today took me to a very interesting piece by Terrence Seamon. The article is called “Engagement: A New Lens on Performance Review”. What I like about it is a) it’s a short and simple read and b) it ties engagement, productivity and performance together neatly. Here’s a brief extract and you can click here for the article on Terrence’s blog. Good work.

If a business leader hears about employee engagement and sees the potential in it to raise his organization’s productivity and profitability, how would he link it to his annual performance management process?

Commitment – Essentially, employee engagement comes down to commitment: How committed is the employee to the organization? Let’s cut to the quick on this and say: Employee commitment is directly related to the degree of commitment they feel from the organization. So, if you want high performance from employees, demonstrate your commitment to them. This can take a variety of forms. In the context of performance review, one thing you can do is “turn the tables” and ask the employee for feedback. Ask: How are we doing? What can we do to provide you with better support this year? What are your goals that we can help you with?

Ownership – Some employees are already highly engaged. If you could “pop the lid” on their psyches and peer inside, what would you see? One of the things you’d notice is that they have the attitude of an owner. They take ownership of the things they do. They don’t need much supervision. And they don’t need your feedback either in most cases. In fact, they are their own toughest critics most of the time.

How To Be A Great Leader – It's Your Choice

Wow! Just when I thought it was all going to go quiet for Christmas, my friend Jonathan Wilson comes up with a powerful piece on leadership in response to a question on our LinkedIn group. Take it away Jonathan:

I have had the pleasure of working closely for airline entrepreneurs Sir Freddie Laker, Sir Michael Bishop and Sir Richard Branson. They were all very different but each shared similar qualities:

1. They learnt to simplify appropriately so that people knew what they were supposed to do and why it was fun and important to do it.

2. They learned to listen extraordinarily well with genuine interest and respect. Then they (mostly) acted on what they heard, especially if they heard it from a ‘junior’ member of the team.

3. They practised and developed very good memories.

4. They engendered a sustained sense of enthusiasm and made people feel they were very important.

5. They made people trust them enough to believe what they said and that they believed what they said themselves. They had the self-confidence to trust other people. Their confidence enabled them to take accountability and to hold others accountable without interfering with how their people discharged their responsibility. This meant that they delegated very well, which meant that they increased their personal power literally thousands of times over.

6. They were overwhelmingly positive, optimistic and future-focused.

7. They had all been, at least once, within days or hours of losing their businesses to bankers or bureaucrats without any vision beyond the procedure they were myopically, even blindly, following – and they had all learned from the experience

8. They were all motivated by something other than money. The money was merely a way of indicating the value they had created, but short-term profits were never important compared to capital growth, At the same time, they were always cash-conscious because cash is freedom. They did not try to motivate their staff with great financial rewards, but were personally generous.

9. They were much more active than reflective, but when they did pause to reflect, they showed pretty high self-awareness.

10. They were very persistent. Very persistent indeed.

I could go on (and on), but enough! I wish there was a secret code, some insight that people could bottle and have to keep, but I’m afraid that if there is one, I have never been able to find it, except perhaps these two insights:

1. Leadership is not something you have or don’t have. Leading is something that you can choose to do, or not do – and you make that choice anew every day and every moment of every day.

2. Practice, practice, practice.

Merry Christmas!