Employee engagement is the key to productivity in the workplace. Without a high level of employee engagement an organization will never be very productive, effective or efficient.
There was a survey just released this past week that showed that cell phone usage was seen by many employers as the number one “roadblock to productivity.” Please keep in mind that the survey is blaming a “symptom” for lower productivity, not the cause. It is the employee’s attitude, his or her level of engagement that determines productivity levels in the work environment. Overuse of cell phones is a result of someone not being fully engaged in the process of getting work done, not the “cause” of lower productivity.
So what is engagement? Engagement is that thing that psychologists and social scientists call “discretionary effort.” Each one of us has the capacity to choose to give (our discretion) either more or less in any endeavor. To liberate that extra effort in someone is to engage them and enroll them in giving us more. Yet that discretionary effort is driven by the phenomenon called Motivation, and here is the secret, you can not “put” motivation into anyone else. All of the motivation you could ever want is already inside of the individual. The key to effective leadership and supervision is “liberating” that motivational energy. As my dad used to say, “Son, any darn fool can tell you that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. A good leader knows all you have to do is get the horse thirsty and you can’t stop it from drinking!”
What can employers and supervisors do to liberate that discretionary effort? It is simple, create an environment in which employees experience being valued, vital and purposeful. In fact, the research from Blessing and White’s 2013 survey on engagement shows that the biggest factors influencing engagement levels are how the supervisor supports and treats people reporting to him or her and also the level of communication provided to them. How do you do this? Use the following 4 simple Staub Leadership Principles of Engagement:
- Focus attention on the Purpose of the enterprise, the fundamental social value, need or perceived need that it serves as well as on what effective productivity and service means to the active and continued employment of colleagues and others in the work place. All the research and empirical evidence shows us that people are more engaged when they feel they are part of something meaningful and significant.
- Use the “2 ears and 1 mouth” awareness that supervisors and others in leadership roles need to listen twice as much as they talk. This means asking good and even powerful questions or employees and then “actively” listening to them and showing they are heard. This send the message, “you and your thoughts and observations matter.” That is very engaging.
- Show appreciation and recognition for the effort people put into getting their jobs done. This is not simply “pats on the back” it is finding ways throughout the month to show appreciation by talking to others about what they have done and how they have done it. By the way, recognition can also be about things that need to be improved. It can be very motivating for an employee to be respectfully coached on how they can grow and improve in their duties, IF, they have also been appreciated earlier for good work they have done.
- Clearly communicate expectations and then provide updates on progress noted against those expectations. Employees want to know where they stand, how they are doing, indeed to “know the score.”
If you are doing those four things above, you are head and shoulders above most organizations and supervisors in Corporate America. And, if you are doing that, you will consistently have more engagement, higher productivity and better bottom line results than those who don’t.