Five ways to engage employees

The Gallup Management Journal reports that only 29 per cent of employees are truly 'engaged' in their work. This refers to employees being passionate about their work and feeling a connection to the company. Unfortunately, the majority (54 per cent) of the workforce fits into the 'not engaged' category, meaning they put the time but not the energy or passion into their work. 

To use the words of Gallup: They are sleepwalking through their workday.The remaining 17 per cent are 'actively disengaged'. These employees act out their unhappiness by undermining their colleagues work. According to Gallup, this group of workers costs the U.S. economy $300 billion every year.

So, how can you keep employees engaged? Here are five tips, based on the findings from the study.

  1. Encourage close friendships – 82 per cent of engaged employees said their managers encouraged close friendships between workers.
  2. Create high job satisfaction – Happy workers are more likely to be passionate about their work.
  3. Encourage success – Engaged employees strongly agree with the statement that "This person sets me up for success" - in reference to their manager.
  4. Show understanding – Employees who were engaged said that their manager and colleagues understood when they made mistakes.
  5. Be trusting and supportive – If employees develop a close relationship with you they are more likely to be innovative.

The author Daniel Pink in his provocative and persuasive book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, explains how the notion of reward and punishment to motivate people is not applicable in the modern business world. His findings suggest that to engage and motivate people three things are important:

  1. Autonomy - provide employees with autonomy over some (or all) of the four main aspects of work (what, when, where and with whom);
  2. Mastery - allow employees to become better at something that matters to them, tasks that they are good at;
  3. Purpose - take steps to fulfil employees’ natural desire to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.

Key lessons:

If you manage others think about the amount of time you invest in providing your people with opportunities to use their strengths and coaching them for success.

Reflect on the feedback you provide. What's the balance between positive feedback that motivates them to want to do well/improve and the negative feedback that you provide. Does your feedback help or hinder their performance?

Consider also how you can use the concepts of autonomy and mastery to increase job satisfaction and build on their success.