Engage More to Increase Employee Performance

John R. Stoker is the author of  “Overcoming Fake Talk” and the president of Dialogue WORKS, Inc.  His organization helps clients and their teams improve leadership engagement in order to achieve superior results. He is an expert in the fields of leadership, change, dialogue, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence, and has worked and spoken to such companies as Cox Communications, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and AbbVie. Connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. 

I was recently sitting on an airplane working on a piece on employee engagement. The gentleman seated next to me was curious about what I was working on, so he asked me. I told him that I was working on some survey questions that could be used to assess the level of engagement between managers and their employees. He promptly offered, “I don’t do much of that. I have so much work to do myself that I rarely have time to check in with my people.” The first thought that crossed my mind was, “You mean you don’t take time to check in with your people.”

His reply is not uncommon. In 2017, Gallup determined that roughly 67% of the workforce was disengaged. Another study conducted by Quartz at Work identified that 70% of managers are afraid to talk to their employees. No wonder employees are disengaged or disconnected from their leadership! Employees and their managers are not talking to one another to make vital connections and increase the effectiveness of their work.

Here are 10 questions that you might ask yourself to help you assess how engaged you are with your people.

1. Do you talk to your individual employees about where they are and how they are feeling? Feelings are the fuel to action and performance. If individuals are feeling insecure, abandoned, or unsupported in the work they are doing, then they are not as engaged in their work as you would like them to be. Understanding where they are and the current state of their work life will help provide a snapshot of how they’re feeling and uncover what you can do to help support them in their work to achieve both current and future goals.

2. Do you know what is most important to each individual employee? Gaining the answer to this question will allow you to assess an individual’s interest level in their current work. This question also serves as a barometer between current activity and what matters most to them. If you discover a gap between the employee’s work and what matters most to them, it is time to discuss how you might increase their interest and purpose to improve engagement and motivation.

The degree of employee engagement is a direct reflection of your engagement with them.
JOHN STOKER

3. Have you helped each employee identify where and why they may feel stuck? Notice that I am assuming that individuals may feel stuck. This may not always be the case. But if they are feeling stuck, wouldn’t you want to know so that you might help address the situation? If you discover that they are in need of clarification, additional training or resources, or simply more time, make the necessary adjustments that will help these individuals be successful.

4. Have you crafted a plan to help your employees learn, grow, and develop their talents and skills? While you can determine a plan for each individual, involving them in the process will be much more effective and motivating. Take the time to hold individual conversations with each employee to determine their needs. When you establish a plan or a goal to help others, you are much more likely to execute what you have thought through and taken steps to put in place. Without concrete and deliberate steps to help develop others, there is a likelihood that nothing will happen going forward. Hold the conversation, identify a plan with each individual, and execute and support the plan you have put in place.

5. Do you regularly express your appreciation for the work and contributions that others make? Regularly means more than once a month! The challenge of making verbal acknowledgements of others’ performance is dependent upon you noticing the positive behaviors and activities of your people. Often we become so busy that we do not make a conscious effort to notice what people are doing right. Noticing the contributions of others and expressing appreciation for what they do will make your employees feel they are a valued part of your organization and will promote continued excellence.

6. Do you take time to connect with your people on a personal level? This does not mean that you have to know everything about them. However, it does mean that you take time to know them as an individual, their aspirations, their areas of expertise, and their professional goals. Just taking a minute with someone to ask them how they are doing and how you might support them says volumes about your interest in them as a person.

While doing some consulting work for AlliedSignal, I had the opportunity to meet the CEO, Larry Bossidy. He asked me a bit about myself only for a moment or two. From then on, every time I saw him, he called me by name and asked about something that I had told him. He did this with everyone. He took the time to connect with others as a way of expressing value for the individual. Consequently, his employees felt noticed and appreciated.

7. Do you know how to coach and mentor others to be successful? If you are unsure how best to do this, you can begin by learning how to provide feedback to others in a respectful way which helps establish and maintain dignity for the individual. Knowing how to mentor and teach others what they need to know or how they might improve is the hallmark of great leadership.

8. Do you tell your people specifically and clearly when they are not meeting your expectations? Being able and willing to hold people accountable is an important part of being engaged with your employees. If you are not giving people the information that they need to improve and change, then you will most likely continue to get the results that you don’t want. If you find yourself continually frustrated with the performance of others even after holding accountability conversations, perhaps you can consider how you contributed to the results and what you might do to foster positive change.

9. Have you established a clear vision and purpose for the work that people are doing and have you communicated that vision and purpose? People are more motivated when they understand how their work contributes to the success of the organization, the team, and their workgroup. There is little excitement, motivation, or engagement in doing the same things day in and day out without knowing why. Helping people catch the vision and purpose for their activities will increase involvement and directly impact productivity, performance, and the culture amongst those with whom you work.

10. Is there a fit between an individuals’ expertise and what they actually do? Talk with people to find out if they feel there is a degree of alignment between what they do and what they want to do. Also, you might explore an individuals’ expectations for what they are currently working on and what they would like to do in the future. Remember that most individuals will not directly approach you and tell you that dislike their work. They will just leave and find another job. Understanding the answer to this question will not only increase engagement but will also increase employee retention.

The degree of employee engagement is a direct reflection of your engagement with them. Taking a moment to assess the degree of your engagement will help you become more aware of what you might do to increase the connection you have with your employees. Improving the way you communicate, lead, and connect with your people can have a huge impact on performance, results, and culture within your organization.

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