Employee engagement has long been viewed as the key to promoting productivity and increasing retention. However, the actual definition and process of engagement requires rethinking for a workforce that is seeking greater meaning on the job. A typical annual survey to gauge employee attitudes does little to create organizational change. A few company events that give workers a chance to rub shoulders with upper management in an atmosphere of forced joviality won’t make employees feel more like family. Here are three ways to think differently and engage your workforce more deeply as a result.
#1 Start Building a Community
Instead of running a workforce like a machine, consider the organization as more of a tribe (a la Seth Godin). In this model, each person understands their role, willingly takes on responsibility for fulfilling it, and sees an obvious connection between promoting the good of the whole and enjoying their own life and career. Instead of asking employees the standard engagement survey questions, ask them to describe their organization as if it were a tribe and define their own role within it. Let them be as creative as they like in their answers. You might be surprised by the results. Pinpoint the areas where people see their roles differently than managers or coworkers do. These are likely to be the areas of greatest friction where engagement suffers.
#2 Speed Up by Slowing Down
When workers feel overwhelmed, it can be difficult for them to even identify what would make them feel more engaged. One day per month, set aside one hour of the day during which employees are asked to perform all but the most time-sensitive tasks as slowly as possible (guarantee they won’t get in trouble). This change of pace provides an opportunity for employees to breathe deeply and notice what they enjoy most and least about their job, their physical work environment, their manager, and the overall workplace culture. At the end of the day, gather feedback on how workers felt, what they noticed, and what they would like to change. Simply slowing down gives employees a chance to feel more involved in what they are doing—they may even notice that they love their job!
#3 Turn Workers into Innovators
“Big Data” and analytics are providing deeper insight than ever into what makes customers tick. In addition, the advent of cloud infrastructure and development platforms has reduced the cost of technical innovation to a fraction of its former cost. Now, even small businesses can afford to develop new ways of interacting with customers through improved websites, mobile apps, and internal CRM software. Make business intelligence available to your workforce and ask for ideas on new ways to engage and satisfy customers. When employees strengthen their role in bridging the gap between your company and your customers, they feel more connected themselves.
Today, the opportunities to create true engagement are greater than ever. Now is the time to embrace doing things differently as the way to help employees realize how much you really have in common.