There is clear and mounting evidence that high levels of employee engagement equate to improvement in individual, group and organisational performance as well as being a strong determinant of rates of retention, productivity and loyalty.
In its simplest definition it means that your staff/team actively contribute to the work of the team, have pride in what they do, want to make a difference in the work they do, both as an individual, and as an employee of the organisation i.e. they want to do the work to the best of their ability.
Employee engagement is often overlooked because it is considered too hard, or even worse as a waste of time. A familiar response to investing time in addressing employee engagement is that “Employees are paid to do a job and if it doesn’t suit them then they should find another job.”
Unfortunately this approach overlooks the significant organisational risks of ignoring employees who are not engaged as well as the lost opportunities for improved organisational performance. Problems rarely solve themselves and it is not a solution to do nothing and wait for the employee to leave.
Disengaged employees are not always obvious and judging their level of performance is not necessarily a reliable measure of their engagement. Whilst in some cases it is obvious and readily demonstrated by their behaviour or attitude it can also be quite subtle and hard to identify. Their performance may be satisfactory and they may also appear to go along with ideas and initiatives whereas in reality they may be coasting and leaving their talent and enthusiasm at home, or worse adopting a passive resistance approach to work where they outwardly demonstrate agreement whilst actively resisting goals or objectives.
The causes of employee disengagement can be quite complex and long standing and whilst it may not always be possible to resolve the problems, it is very important to commence a conversation with the employee to at least identify the issues. Once problems are identified appropriate strategies and actions can be developed to address them. Often by commencing a difficult conversation an employee may realise they are not suited to the role and will pursue alternative employment opportunities.
Failing to engage with an employee is a lost opportunity for achieving improved performance and is certainly a much cheaper strategy than continually recruiting and training replacements for disengaged employees who leave. In commencing a conversation with an employee it is important to ask open questions that invite a meaningful response i.e. questions that are likely to receive a long answer as opposed to closed questions which can often be answered with a simple yes or no.
Questions that you could ask include;
- What do you think is expected of you in your role?
- What obstacles or barriers exist that prevent you from doing your job better?
- How would you relate your work to the organisation’s objectives/ goals?
- Are you using all your skills in your work?
- How valued do you feel in your role?
- What opportunities have you had in the past year to learn and grow?
It is also important to remember that employees are people and are therefore susceptible to the usual human emotions of irritation, anger, distrust, disillusionment and boredom. Employees can become quickly disengaged by seemingly innocuous incidents such as an inappropriate public admonishment, being cut off in a meeting, or excluded from contributing to an area of their interest.
Supervising, managing and or leading a team of people is a not an easy task, nor is encouraging people to give their best. Some people appear to have it naturally, but it is also a skill that can be learned through development and practice.
The Training Consortium regularly offers a range of development courses that can assist in people management skills. A few examples coming up over the next few months are:
- Developing Effective Teams - Hobart, 10 March 2011.
- The New Supervisor - Hobart, 30-31 March 2011.
- Managing People Effectively - Hobart, 7-8 March 2011 and Launceston 19-20 April 2011.
- Engaging in Conflict (Practical tools for managers and supervisors) - Launceston, 6 April 2011
More information can be found on the Training Consortium website.