Engaged employees perform better for their organization, and according to Dorie Clark and Alexis Redding in the Harvard Business Review, there are four key ways to boost employee engagement.
1. Ensure your employees feel seen
Typically, employees don't respond well to feeling like "interchangeable cogs in a machine," Clark and Redding write. With the rise of remote work, workers may feel like "just another face on the zoom screen." Instead, employees need to feel that what they're doing matters and that their absence would be noticed.
One way to help your employees feel seen is to help employees develop workplace friendships, Clark and Redding write. They add that the "development and transmission of culture has to be a business priority", especially in an era where hybrid and remote work are more common than ever.
"Employees who like where they work don't want to leave — and they're thrilled to recruit their most talented friends to join them," Clark and Redding write.
2. Ensure your employees feel heard
Oftentimes, employees are discouraged from speaking up at work, and if they do, they're often either shut down or ignored, Clark and Redding write.
Sometimes the problem can lie with the ego of a manager or entrenched ways of thinking, but research has found that some organizations create systemic challenges for leaders who may not have the authority to act on an employee's suggestion.
While solving structural problems in an organization isn't easy, Clark and Redding write that it's not impossible, and it's important to understand that "if employees feel that their ideas and suggestions don't matter, it's very hard for them to feel engaged."
3. Ensure your employees feel valued
Research has found that managers frequently overestimate how much appreciation they show their employees, Clark and Redding write. That means that whatever praise you think you're sharing with your employees, do it even more.
Even small gestures, like greeting an employee by name, asking about their weekend, or checking in with them routinely, can help show that you recognize and value your employees as individuals.
It's also important to develop a culture in which "covering" isn't necessary for employees, showing that it's safe to talk about identity at work, Clark and Redding write.
4. Ensure your employees feel encouraged
Leaders are often good at encouraging their employees on a day-to-day basis, but broader encouragement in the form of helping an employee with their career arc is harder to come by, Clark and Redding write. While some managers help their employees navigate their career goals, other managers seem unsure of what to say or how they can help.
It's important for managers to be more creative in how they help and give advice to their employees. For example, when Clark worked in politics and supervised a press staff on a presidential campaign, she felt responsible for creating learning opportunities for her young employees. As a result, she interviewed them about their interests and goals and tried to match them with tasks that could be helpful.
"Employees who feel a genuine sense of belonging at work are a powerful force," Clark and Redding write. "At a minimum, they're less likely to quit, saving companies huge amounts of time and money in training and replacement costs. But their loyalty can also unleash massive gains in productivity and innovation, as they bring their best ideas and sustained effort to bear in supporting a company that they feel supports them." (Clark/Redding, Harvard Business Review, 11/3)
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