Getting Engaged

According to 2018 Gallup research, 34% of U.S. workers are "engaged" in their work.  Engagement is measured by employee satisfaction, enthusiasm, involvement and commitment to work and the workplace.  

Engagement is very important within organizations.  High levels of engagement typically result in higher profitability and productivity, improved guest satisfaction and lower turnover.  Low engagement leads to complacency, toxicity and a revolving door of employees.  

When organizations achieve high levels of employee engagement, their team members themselves become their greatest competitive advantage.  

The core of my StrengthsFinder "crusade" has been my belief (Belief #6) that when employees can make a difference in their jobs by applying their natural and unique talents, they will be more fulfilled - or engaged - in their work and workplace.    

A deeper look at contributors to engagement shows that the group of leaders who can make or break engagement at work are at the manager level.  Gallup research reveals that 70% of team member engagement is directly associated with the effectiveness of the direct manager.  

To improve engagement on their assigned teams, managers need to move from performance management to performance development.  Here are four ways managers can shift towards development and build engagement within their teams;  

1. Job Clarity & Priorities 

Team members need to know what is expected of them in their role and what their priorities should be.  This is about the job itself and not the person currently occupying the role.  Managers should be aware of the functions and duties of each job within their scope and then should make sure that formal job descriptions align with expectations.  Expectations include not only the job duties but also the cultural norms (values and behaviors) that are required within the team.  Team members should validate that the job description is an accurate reflection of what they do and should also acknowledge an understanding of the expectations of their role within the team.   

2. Ongoing Feedback & Communication 

Today's employee requires ongoing and immediate feedback vs. the once annual review.  Managers should continually coach their assigned team members and be approachable and accessible.  Team members want constant feedback and communication that will help them learn and grow.  Feedback should be frequent, focused and future-oriented.  I discovered a new word called "feedforward" (opposite of feedback) which prescribes that constructive dialogue about performance should be focused on adjustments in behavior for the future - vs. just acknowledging and grading past performance.  What can be learned from past performance an applied for continual improvements in the future?  

3. Accountability & Measurement 

Talented and dedicated employees want to be held accountable for their performance. They want their manager to know what they are working on and to be coached to become the best version of themselves.  Managers should establish clear ways to measure progress towards established goals and continually recognize success while also correcting what might not be working.  Managers and employees should align on measurable business goals and collaborate on which of the employee's unique talents can be aimed and amplified to exceed the desired mark. 

4. Opportunities to Learn & Grow

People need to be challenged in order to grow.  When people grow in their jobs, they are engaged.  Every day at work can be better than the previous day when team members are encouraged to learn and stretch their talents.  Gallup research shows that 87% of Millennial workers say that professional development at work is extremely important to their job satisfaction.  While formal classroom training and external educational opportunities contribute here, the secret sauce to improving team member development is to remove fear and instill a spirit of "what if" and discovery into everybody's role.  Go from a mindset of working not to lose to playing to win.   Individualize learning and development plans around the unique strengths of each employee.  Know and care enough about your employees to help them define who they can be.  Encourage them to find new ways to insert their talents into their job and to challenge themselves to reach and exceed prescribed goals.  Daily work activity along this journey is the best form of growth and development.  

One last action item for managers; ask every employee once each month to share something new they learned in the past 30 days.  By doing this, you will quickly identify which employees are actively improving and which ones require further encouragement.  

I am a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and a 20+ year leader at Universal Orlando Resort.  I specialize in designing experiences that add joy, adventure and fulfillment to the lives of others.  Find me on Twitter @dpddonovan and Instagram @strengthszone  


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