Executive Education

8 Steps to Transform Employee Engagement into Leadership Gold

Every CEO wants a company with engaged employees. But what’s the magic sauce to turn disheartened, apathetic employees into energized, driven leaders that innovate teams, processes, and ultimately boost revenue for the business?

It’s a real challenge, considering that, according to Gallup, 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. But companies with a highly-engaged workforce outperform their peers by 147% in earnings-per-share.

So, how do you craft a strategy that not only shifts your level of employee engagement, but moves it to a point where your organization is producing leaders for the 21st century?

Here are 8 strategies you should consider:

  1. Communicate clearly and often
    Gallup has found that the level of engagement is highest among employees who have some form of daily communication with their managers. Leaders who combine a proactive strategy of face-to-face, phone, and electronic communication daily tend to be the most successful.

    Employees also place high value on communication from their manager about what happens in their lives outside of work. The best managers make the effort to get to know their employees and help them feel comfortable sharing about any subject, work-related or not.

  2. Define a clear purpose
    Internally, you need to be sure that you have a clear understanding on your company’s reason to exist. What are your core values? What do you stand for as an organization?

    Once that position is clarified, communicate it well and often. Keep the company’s purpose front and center to remind everyone of why they do what they do.

  3. Welcome development conversations
    Millennials, as well as employees of all ages, value the opportunity to grow and develop in their careers. If employees do not feel comfortable approaching their managers asking to learn new skills and refine their expertise, they may feel it necessary to look for growth opportunities elsewhere.

    Managers can promote engagement by initiating and welcoming development conversations. They can invite frequent coaching conversations to discover each employee’s interests and better provide continuing development. This is how leaders can assure employees that their potential for advancement within the company is recognized for its true worth.

  4. Be clear with performance expectations
    Recent research reveals that clear expectations are vital to performance. Employees need more than written job descriptions to fully understand their roles.

    Managers who move beyond the yearly performance review to communicate clearly and often with their employees about their responsibilities and progress, will develop more productive, efficient and creative contributors to the company.

  5. Share ownership of decisions and projects
    Ask for employee input on key decisions to be made. Wherever possible, let them make more decisions when the cost isn’t too high. By giving more ownership, you invite more responsibility and buy-in. But do not ask for input if you really aren’t going to listen, or if you intend to override their decision. That approach will leave you with even more disengagement than before.
  6. Accentuate the positive
    Recent data shows that for employees who agree that their supervisors focus on their strengths (37%), active disengagement dropped to only 1%. Building employees’ strengths is measurably more effective than fixating on weaknesses. Developing a culture that is strengths-based creates the environment in which employees quickly learn their roles, produce more and significantly better work, stay with their job longer, and are consistently more engaged.
  7. Help employees connect with one another
    Relationships are the foundational cement of any company, so why not help employees build healthy relationships within company guidelines? Consider sending your employees to trade shows, conferences, workshops, educational talks—events where they can learn something which will not only satisfy their desire to grow, but will ultimately benefit your company.

    Also, create space for healthy employee connections to form. Use social media to expand opportunities and offer volunteer or community service openings where employees can connect around a common cause.

  8. Recognize accomplishments
    Recognition means different things to different people. You should recognize employee accomplishments in ways that matter to them. Consider sending a fun survey in which you ask employees their preferences for recognition. If feasible, get to know people on your team personally so you know how to applaud them in a way that matters to them, not you.

    Be sure to compliment team members in front of others. By making it a habit to do so publicly, you not only build the relationship with that person, you send a message to the rest of the team that they will also be appreciated.

Employee engagement is worth the investment

The replacement cost of an employee can be 150% of his or her annual salary or more. The reason to invest in the further development of your team is clear. But your people will become an appreciating asset only if you are willing to make understanding and communication part of that investment. You need to understand how to view the world from their perspective.

When you and your managers proactively communicate with the teams around them, based on this shared understanding, it lays the foundation for greater teamwork, productivity—and ultimately increased employee engagement.

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Mark Cole
Mark Cole is the CEO of The John Maxwell Company that offers a wide array of corporate leadership training and coaching programs and personal growth products built on the timeless principles of John C. Maxwell.