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10 Best Practices in Employee Engagement

Monday, September 19, 2016
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People often confuse job satisfaction with employee engagement. But that burst of energy you feel actually comes from being engaged in your work -- not just with how satisfied you are while you're there. It's like being "in the flow" -- when you get so caught up in what you're doing that you lose track of time. You're challenged, but not overwhelmed.

Many leaders assume employees are responsible for bringing engagement to the table -- so they hire for passion or energy. But once these enthusiastic employees start working, your organization needs to support them in ways that keep them engaged.

Here's how:

1. Care for people as individuals. Employees feel more valued when their organization considers their overall health, well-being and performance. And feeling valued is an important precursor to employee engagement. Some things to acknowledge include an employee's life outside of work, aspirations, strengths, weaknesses and personal development.

2. Be thoughtful about job design. It's easy to spend too much effort measuring and improving engagement without considering the actual work employees do. We should pay more attention to the design of a job -- what are the business problems it's solving? Is there the "right" amount of ownership? Is there a balance of challenge and accomplishment? If employees indicate they're bored or unchallenged, re-engage them by redesigning their roles.

3. Value the management function. Managers play a huge role in employee engagement. Uphold high standards for your managers (and don't force people to manage if they don't have the ability or desire). Support their growth by providing leadership training, articulating expectations about their role and ensuring they're working to create organizational trust.

4. Provide regular feedback. Employees need feedback about areas for improvement. Having a meaningful "norm" about giving feedback (timely, specific and actionable) helps employees see a clear path toward their own professional development. Think beyond positive feedback -- employees crave clear, constructive suggestions.

5. Actively support growth and learning. Employees need to feel like they're developing and growing. This means finding opportunities for career movement (not just up), learning new skills, getting stretch assignments, understanding goals and aspirations, and receiving feedback.

6. Give employees a voice. Create mechanisms for employees to have a say -- informal or formal, qualitative or quantitative (optimally, it's a combo of all four). Do you have an employee survey? Can employees talk to your CEO? Do you ask for employee suggestions before rolling out a new program? You need to set up ways for employees to have a voice -- but most important, you need to listen to what they say and take action.

7. Create clarity and connection with the mission. Employees need to believe in (and understand) the company's reason for existing. It's especially important they see how they contribute to it. For example, does an accountant understand how her work contributes to a nonprofit's mission of ensuring all people live their fullest lives? The accountant's manager can share how her work maintains the organization's financial stability, which is integral to its ability to serve clients.

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8. Go deeper with empowerment. Ideally, employees should feel they have the authority to make decisions that impact their job. When they do, they feel a greater sense of ownership and commitment to their work and organization. Push decision making and autonomy to the front lines (your greatest assets). Consider establishing processes where managers sign off on top-level strategies while employees run with their day-to-day tasks without feeling micromanaged.

9. Focus on leadership. Leaders must be honest communicators and create trust throughout the organization. Make sure they walk the talk and understand what's expected of them. And remember: Leaders themselves need to be engaged. Otherwise, they'll have a negative impact on others and can even constrain the rest of the team's ability to be engaged.

10. Identify cultural barriers to engagement. Intentionally build a culture that aligns to your business strategy and supports engagement. Start by conducting a culture audit to see which aspects of your culture support engagement -- and which might be getting in the way.

Engaged employees show passion, drive, optimism and resilience -- but their sustained engagement relies on organizational support and culture. It's up to you to implement these steps across all levels. Not only will your employees thank you, but your executive team will, too.

Limeade is a corporate wellness technology company that drives real employee engagement. Learn more on www.limeade.com.

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