Employee engagement has been deemed one of the most pivotal factors in a company’s success. After all, as Timothy R. Clark noted, “Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.”
Engaged employees — those who feel connected to their work and their company — are more productive, drive innovation and move the company forward, according to the 2013 Gallup State of the Workplace Report. They are also less likely to spread negativity, turn off customers — and quit.
Unfortunately, many leaders miss the mark when it comes to cultivating employee engagement, partly due to lack of management training. The good news is that executive coaching can help leaders develop the skills that help drive engagement in a relatively short period of time.
What Drives Engagement?
Employee engagement boils down to this: They enjoy their jobs, like coming to work, and want to contribute to their company’s success. You will often hear them use the word “we” in casual conversations about their company, implying ownership because they have an emotional investment in their work.
Many factors contribute to employee engagement. A recent study by MSW Research points to “three key drivers: relationship with immediate supervisor, belief in senior management and pride in working for the company.”
According to the MSW Research study, employees cited the personal relationship with their immediate supervisor as the key factor that influenced their level of engagement. The study found that “a manager’s ability to build strong relationships with employees, build strong team interaction and lead in a ‘person-centered’ way creates an engaging environment in which employees can perform at the highest possible level.”
Leaders can help cultivate employee engagement in a variety of ways, including:
- Creating a cooperative workplace culture – Leadership impacts whether or not team members are inclined to help each other, work as an island (only caring about “my job”) or sabotage one another’s efforts. A workplace environment that embodies a cooperative spirit ensures that team members step up to the plate to help when help is needed. It also shows a shared commitment to the project, team and company.
- Making employees feel important and appreciated – Bosses who show that they care have an impact on many levels. Employees like to be recognized for a job well done or for extra effort expended on a project. Just as important, in both the Gallup and MSW research, employees noted the importance of having a supervisor who cared about them “as a person.”
- Setting the stage for success – Giving clear directions, providing sufficient tools, and offering training and ongoing support all prepare team members with the means to accomplish their jobs.
The Executive Coaching Connection
It’s not unusual for employees to be promoted to management positions prior to receiving any leadership training. In “We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders,” leadership development expert Jack Zenger says that young supervisors are learning on the job whether you’ve trained them or not. Likening it to skiing or golf, he asserts that the earlier leaders learn the fundamentals, the longer they have to practice them correctly.
Executive coaching can fill in the gaps and teach both new and seasoned leaders proven strategies to help increase employee engagement. More specifically, executive coaching can help leaders:
- Increase their emotional intelligence, ability to self-regulate and empathize
- Develop accountability practices for themselves and their team members
- Facilitate enhanced communication with and among team members
- Draw the appropriate line in the sand between helicoptering their employees — hovering too closely — or abandoning them, taking the “sink-or-swim” approach
- Provide feedback to employees to encourage their growth and development
With something as important as employee engagement hanging in the balance, why wait?
What other strategies have you found helpful in increasing employee engagement?