local governmentEmployee engagement studies have magnified the challenge of engaging public sector employees. Threatened benefits, public scrutiny, and an improving job market make public sector employment seem less appealing than ever before.  Yet, when managers build strong connections with employees, regardless of the larger environmental pressures, engagement happens.

Many managers struggle with creating these integral connections for a lot of reasons.  Employees may be disenfranchised with how the organization has managed through recent fiscal crises.  They may be disconnected because they haven’t been asked about critical workplace changes.  They may be disengaged because no one has invited them to the table.

Engaging employees doesn’t have to be a monumental project or an initiative.  To strengthen the connection with public sector employees, try these simple approaches:

1. Conduct regular one-on-one meetings.  Regular, structured conversations with employees allow you to hear about their successes and challenges. A regular touch-base meeting gives you a chance to give feedback to the employee, and it gives the employee a chance to do the same for you.  Ultimately, regularly scheduled performance-related meetings build trust. Guides to leading one-on-one meetings are readily available.

2. Use a talent management system. Integrated talent management systems help to track and monitor the communication between managers and employees.  Talent management systems enable employees to track their progress on goals and critical performance measures.  Likewise, managers can record key performance milestones and maintain conversation records with the tool.  A talent management system frees managers from the burden of keeping paper files related to performance so they can focus on the important conversations they should be having with employees.

3. Conduct regular stay conversations.  Originally defined by Beverly Kaye & Sharon Jordan-Evans in their book, “Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay,” the stay interview is a simple conversation that allows you to learn what motivates your employees. It also conveys to the employee that you value them.  Ultimately, stay interviews increase levels of employee retention and boost satisfaction.  A stay interview can:

  • identify whether the employee is at risk of resigning and allow you to prevent their departure
  • provide a snap shot of the employee’s level of satisfaction
  • identify factors preventing the employee from performing at their best
  • alert you to any issues or potential problems that are brewing
  • give you valuable insight into overall staff morale

Creating and fostering connections with employees is the key to creating an engaged workforce.  Connections are created one conversation at a time. Boost the conversation and connection skills of managers throughout your agency and you’ll drive employee engagement levels higher.

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