Steps to Take to Improve YOUR Workforce Engagement
Updated: Jul 10
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report, 85% of employees who work full time for an employer worldwide are not engaged or actively disengaged in their job. The US is at 33%. The report defines engaged as those who are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. The report goes in-depth as to why engagement is low, why it is impacting productivity, and, ultimately, profitability. I come away with one main reason why engagement is low: management practices.
Our current management practices do not focus on the employee; too much control over employees, more focus on processes than people, and lack of commitment from those at the top. The report recommends employee-centered practices, such as positive workplace relationships, frequent recognition, ongoing performance conversations, and opportunities for personal development. However, the report is not intended to give you a step by step guide of how to become more employee-centered. To that end, I will propose more tangible activities and actions organizations can take to improve their workforce’s engagement.
Improving workforce engagement requires desire and commitment from those at the top of the organization. If you don’t believe better engagement is needed, or believe this is just another management fad, then this lack of belief will lead to a lack of commitment. Also, if you are not willing to invest (versus spending), then my recommendations will not be relevant. In most cases, you need to spend money to make money, right?
Listen to employees
Begin a series of activities to listen to employees. Roundtables, surveys, and townhall meetings are examples you can execute. The focus of these activities is to ask probing questions, listen, and not talk. Often, those at the top are good at talking but not listening. Seek to understand why, rather than rejecting it. You can use Survey Monkey or Google docs to launch a survey, or you can use vendors like Glint.
Implement a basic training program
Start with a training program that focuses on the actual work employees do. Develop a training guide, even if it is paper-based (although more advanced mechanisms exist) for new and existing employees. Start with one position at a time, if you don’t have the resources to address this at a larger scale. Also, implement a train the trainer type program that teaches those who will be trainers how to go about it. Training others requires the understanding that it is about the other person, and some techniques help improve the delivery of training. Do know that not every good employee makes for an excellent trainer. Therefore, your superstar employee may not be the best choice. If the size of your organization cannot support a train the trainer program, send your employees to one.
Discuss performance openly and regularly
You don’t need a rating scale and a review form to implement a performance discussion program. Require all managers to have one-on-one meetings regularly (depending on the number of direct reports, it can be weekly, monthly, quarterly) and have them document the conversation. Give the document to the employee to ensure there is agreement and then repeat it throughout the year. Ensure these conversations involve questions about what the employee needs, what he/she likes to achieve, and how can the employee’s strengths be put to use in the workplace.
Interview & Selection
Establish a selection process that involves more than one person to make the decision. If you are the person in charge, allow others to give opinions and make recommendations, and more importantly, listen to them. Ensure those interviewing agree on what each one is looking for and what each one will ask or discuss with the candidate. While there are tools like selection assessments, behavioral interviewing, and others, your selection process requires a coordinated effort and agreement as to what is needed rather than “tools.”
Also, ensure the process is consistent (always executive as agreed), transparent (describe the reality of the organization) and respectful of the candidate (be timely, responsive, and don’t ask questions like why should we select you or why do you want to work here, which are meaningless). The candidate experience, what they see, hear, and feel throughout the process, matters; if hired, what the candidate, now employee, experienced is what they will then provide to others.
Start small. You can begin with a program focused on emotional intelligence, which will expose managers to the perspective of others, while also learning about themselves. You can also implement team building activities that require managers to move away from command-and-control approaches to more of removers of obstacles. This is as easy as committing to asking “what do you need from me (the manager) regularly, and having those managers focus on executing on those requests.
The above steps are general and may have to be adjusted based on organization size, resources, growth stage, and other organizational factors. But what can’t be argued is the move toward more employee-centric practices. The data is clear, the change is happening, and your organization will be in a better position to profit when you focus much more on what your employees need and want.
I help organizations improve their employee experience by designing programs that prioritize culture, leadership, and the use of workforce management solutions and data. I write and focus on career management, HR technology, and workforce engagement.
You can follow me via social media on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can also find more information about career management on my website StretchTheString.com or at GustavoSerbia.com