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Employee Engagement: Get the Fundamentals Right!

By Stephanie A. Miller, Director, Associate Relations, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Stephanie A. Miller, Director, Associate Relations, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.Stephanie A. Miller, Director, Associate Relations, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Everywhere you look, there’s another article about employee engagement – how to cultivate an engaging employee experience, who in the organization is responsible for driving employee engagement, how to leverage technology to improve your workforce culture, etc.

Decade after decade, organizations continue to wrestle with this concept – and frankly, have gotten distracted by various ideas that claim to be the answer to all your questions about employee engagement. But rest assured, this article isn’t going to tout a new idea or outline a number of technology solutions with the promise that they will raise the level of employee engagement. Rather, the purpose of this article is to revisit the cornerstones of creating a work environment that increases the level of emotional investment your people have in your company’s mission: 1) hire the right people; 2) communicate with your people 3) make coworker collaboration easy; 4) promote well-being, health, & fun; and 5) strengthen the employee/manager relationship.

Hire the right people

Cultivating an engaging employee experience starts with hiring the right people. What do I mean by this? According to Founder and CEO of Connectifier, John Jersin, it means that it’s a lot easier to find employee who are aligned with your missions than it is to change their values once they start. Your company needs to find candidates with a sense of purpose, interest and passion in what your company is attempting to accomplish. And if your organization could use a boost in finding candidates that align with your organizations’ mission, the market offers a number of intelligent recruiting platforms.

Communicate with your people

When considering improving the flow of information within an organization, there are 3 specific areas to consider: down flow, upward flow, and lateral flow.

In the down flow of information from the senior executive ranks of the organization, sending out mass communications is no longer considered a viable means of communication. Not only can the use of memos, letters, announcements, etc. be overwhelming for the recipients, it doesn’t allow for questions and answers about the information being distributed. Allowing the opportunity for employees to ask questions and receive answers from senior leaders engenders transparency and trust – which contributes to your employees feeling supported and part of the journey.

Additionally, embracing a culture of upward communication is just as important as a frequent and thorough downward cascade of information. It is important for senior leaders to listen to and accept feedback from all levels of employees within the organization – and show employees that you’ve heard the feedback by taking actions to respond to the feedback.

Lastly, lateral communication across an organization breaks down silos which creates barriers to getting work down in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Employees want to feel as though they are contributing to the “big picture” – if there are lateral barriers across the organization preventing execution on business goals, employee loyalty and dedication to the organization erodes.

Make coworker collaboration easy

Facilitating cooperative working can be simple – and your workforce will be happier, more motivated, and consequently, more productive. Some easy tools your organization can use to promote collaboration include:

• File sharing: use one of the inexpensive tools available to store files. It is easy to use, and your organization will have the peace of mind that everything is safe and backed-up.

• Wikis or knowledge articles: create a resource where your employees can find all the information they need on their own to do their jobs. This keeps everyone on the same page and encourages your employees to stay up-to-date on the right way of getting their jobs done.

• Shared whiteboards and forums: consider using tools to assist colleagues in sharing their ideas and work together – there are lots of technology assisted tools that allow coworkers to pass files, brainstorm, float questions and ideas, and compare notes.

Promote well-being, health, & fun

Integrating employee engagement and health is perhaps one of the most underrated components of strengthening company culture. Employees are more stressed than ever – both personally and professionally. High levels of stress directly impacts performance, morale, productivity, and absenteeism. The healthier (mentally, physically, and emotionally) your employees are, the more likely your organization will thrive. Promoting well-being in the workplace doesn’t mean your company must have an on-site gym or juice bar. You can hold “walking meetings” with your employees, wager a friendly steps-per-day challenge for 8 weeks, or provide an incentive to take lunch away from your desk several times per week.

One of the easiest ways to engage your employees is to make the job fun. There are lots of ways to introduce elements of fun into your workplace – examples include: outings, team lunches, and a weekly trivia game. These are great ways for coworkers to bond.

Strengthen the employee/manager relationship

The manager-employee relationship directly affects the engagement level of employees. A weak relationship can be destructive to the organization’s culture and create division within departments. On the other hand, if your company can strengthen the link between managers-employees, your employees will feel more comfortable and perform better.

There are countless ways a manager can better interact with their employees and recognize good work. Share career plans for employees (including identifying specific milestones they need to reach and how you can help). Show sincere and specific gratitude for a job well-done and announce those accomplishments to the rest of the team. Ensure your team isn’t feeling overloaded – if they are, bring in additional workers to help.

In closing, a key component of the organization’s culture is how employees feel about their workplace experience. Building a strong, positive culture hinges on the fundamentals of hiring the right people, communication, coworker collaboration, promoting well-being, health and fun in the workplace, and strengthening the employee/manager relationship. While technology can enhance an engaging employee experience – without getting the fundamentals right, an organization’s culture will manifest regardless if anyone intends for it to happen.

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