How do you engage with you employees?

Businesses who create a good workforce, who seek ways to speak directly with employees flourish. They do this because management understand that by enabling the right environment in which to work and be recognised for your individual achievement is self fulfilling and provides a strong foundation for continuing that success.

Maslow (1954) in determining his hierarchy of needs understood that people have a physiological drive or motivation. Such a theory should stress and centre itself upon ultimate or basic goals rather than partial or superficial ones. There are usually various cultural paths to the same goal. Therefore conscious, specific, local-cultural desires are not as fundamental in motivation theory as the more basic, unconscious goals.

So how does this apply to your employees? Applying Maslow to more recent research into behaviours have developed new theories such as Organisational Citizen Behaviour (OCB) (Robinson, Perryman and Hayday, 2004; Rafferty et al., 2005).

Overlaying research as a comparison further helps management to enable the right environment.


The 4 Enablers of Engagement

1. Create a strategic narrative

Where do you fit in? What experience do you bring? Where are you going? I hope from an organisational perspective you company have career planning in some form. But do you feel part of that narrative?

MacLeod and Clarke (2014) state that if a business can communicate their vision and values alongside their work ethic clearly to employees then it lets them see how the work they do fits in with the business’s goals. The key is to ensure your personality, style and leadership is clear and visible in a way that reinforces the messages of engagement every day. It is almost like telling a story!

Find a way to repeat the story over and over again to give your people a sense of ownership in it.

2. Engage managers

It may seem simple but if you try to engage your workforce without first engaging your managers you may get limited results. Many employees’ motivation and engagement will depend on how they feel towards their managers. And if those managers are not engaged themselves, where’s the motivation to engage their people?

According to MacLeod and Clarke, engaged managers:

  • focus their people and enable them to get the job done;
  • treat their team members as individuals; and
  • coach and stretch people.

MacLeod and Clarke argues that if managers build bigger relationships with people as individuals, those workers will make bigger contributions.

So, if you want to raise engagement levels across your workforce, be sure to take a look at your managers first.

3. Give employees a voice

“Communications are very important but what matters is: do you listen?” Clarke says. Listening is a key part in giving employees a voice but it doesn’t stop at the 360-degree survey. Clarke adds: “If you’re lucky, the survey will tell you how people are feeling at a certain point in time but it doesn’t tell you the important thing: why are they feeling like that?”

And this is why the employee voice is crucial. Staff have insights into why and where things are going wrong. As Clarke points out, nearly every public inquiry brings up one clear finding: somebody knew before the event that something was going to go wrong. The problem was that they didn’t speak up or they weren’t listened to. If employees feel that their managers and their organisation listen to them they will be much more likely to point out problems before they become a disaster.

Another point to remember is that employees who feel able to speak up without retribution will share the good as well as the bad. They will share their ideas and, if they feel that these are listened to, this will increase their engagement in their work.

4. Make sure there is organisational integrity

How many of you have experienced at least once in your working life a manager displaying the behaviour of “do as I say, not as I do”. If an organisation’s values are not reflected in day-to-day behaviours of managers or colleagues then it will be interpreted as a “smoke and mirrors act” and will not be trusted by employees.

MacLeod comments: “All organisations have some values on the wall. What we found was that when those values were different from what colleagues and bosses do, that brings distrust. When they align, then it creates trust.”

For example, he adds, one value will often be something to do with innovation. The key indicator as to whether or not this value is reflected in the behaviour of the workforce is what happens when someone tries something new and it fails. For innovation to take place, failure has to be accepted as part of the process.

Every organisation is different and has something about them that makes them unique. “Employer actions seem to really make a difference to the presence of engagement enablers. Levels of voice are higher in organisations where there are meetings between employees and senior managers, particularly when employees are given the opportunity to raise questions or offer views.” (Macleod and Clarke).

So what is your engagement plan?

This article was researched from the report “Engaging for success, enhancing performance through employee engagement” – David Macleod and Nita Clarke  prepared for the Secretary of State for Business 2009.