(By Andre Lavoie)
“Taking time to connect with employees is a great way to engage them. Whether it’s building houses, enjoying a meal or serving on a sports team together, employees will appreciate leaders that care about who they are both inside and outside of the workplace.“
A good leader values employee happiness. A great leader values the employee engagement that results from that happiness. That is what employee engagement is, after all — the degree to which an employee’s feelings about their job (and boss) influences their willingness to learn and perform at work.
While small perks such as a ping-pong table and free food can help contribute to employees’ satisfaction levels, their engagement level stems from a company’s leadership, above all else. According to the Canadian edition of Deloitte’s Human Capital 2015 Trends report, leadership tops the list of concerns amongst 90 percent of more than 100 survey respondents, followed by culture and engagement (86 percent).
What’s more, employees who are supervised by highly engaged leadership teams are 39 percent more likely to be engaged themselves, according to a Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager study of 2.5 million manager-led teams.
Leaders set the tone for engagement in the workplace. Here are five leadership behaviors that lead to a highly engaged workforce:
1. Give employees something to reach for.
Engagement starts with having something to work toward. An employee who doesn’t have clear work goals will have a difficult time engaging in their daily tasks. Goals drive us, and without them, we’d be hard pressed to get anything done.
The process of setting employee work goals isn’t a one-person job, however. Ideally, it should be a joint effort between employer and employee. Not only does collaborative goal-setting ensure that goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely), it also helps employees better align their goals with the company vision.
Heather Stockton, human capital leader at Deloitte, explains that “Leadership and culture work in tandem. The decisions, attitudes and behaviors of leaders shape an organization’s culture. When an organization’s values and business goals are aligned, its culture tends to drive better employee engagement, customer experience and financial performance.”
2. Embody the company vision.
A company’s vision statement does more than just inform — save that for the mission statement. A vision statement should inspire, motivate and align employees toward a common goal. It should outline where the company is going — in both the near and distant future — and how it’s going to get there.
Embodying this vision is the key to engaging employees. After all, simply directing employees to follow can lead to a stale workforce — inspiring employees to follow leads to increased engagement. Lead by example, and serve as a constant reminder of what the company is working toward and how to make it happen.
3. Get involved in the company culture.
A company that plays together, stays together. And a leader that’s present and sets aside time to get involved with various company culture activities is a leader that inspires and engages employees.
Playing an active role within the company culture not only helps create a more engaged and enthused workforce, it also helps leaders further embody the company vision and values. For instance, volunteering together helps demonstrate the value of making a difference within the community.
Taking time to connect with employees is a great way to engage them. Whether it’s building houses, enjoying a meal or serving on a sports team together, employees will appreciate leaders that care about who they are both inside and outside of the workplace.
4. Use transparency to inspire.
Employees need to see and understand what’s happening within their organization to be able to tailor their individual work goals accordingly. Do they know and understand company-wide goals? Do they know how well (or not well) the company is doing? Do they realize the challenges and opportunities that the company faces? They should.
Employees who are kept in the loop and can see how their work contributes to the overall success of the organization will be that much more motivated to achieve their individual work goals. Foster greater transparency at work by updating employees on both formal and informal matters, meeting with staff on a regular basis and, if you want to be radically transparent, consider sharing company financials with employees.
Being able to clearly see the role they play in overall company success (or lack thereof) helps create a better sense of ownership. Real engagement comes from thinking and acting like owners.
5. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Business has its ups and downs. As a leader, it’s important to keep employee morale up even when business is down. Sometimes that means adopting a “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality.
Employees look to leadership for guidance during difficult times, which is why staying positive and optimistic — even when the company’s leadership feels anything but — is essential to keeping morale and engagement levels up. After all, employees are only as engaged as their leadership team.
Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the first talent-alignment platform that aims to bridge the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees’ work around a company’s vision and goals.