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How managers can survive an employee engagement crisis

How managers can survive an employee engagement crisis

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According to a report regarding the State of Employee Engagement in Australia, our nation is experiencing a considerably low level of employee engagement. 

This represents a significant issue to businesses nationwide, as employee engagement not only correlates with employee loyalty but also the effort employees will put in at work. The same report found engaged employees scored 77% higher in effort than disengaged employees. 

Australia is experiencing an engagement crisis and frontline managers need to do something about it.

Leadership Expert and former ‘Best Place to Work’ award winner Kevin Kruse claims that employee motivation and engagement can be achieved by focussing on management and relating the company’s goals to individual values.

Kruse claims that top-down initiatives to improve employee engagement are on the rise but are a waste of time if they don't change the behaviour of individual managers. This has become a problem, as these initiatives tend to focus on cosmetic employee benefits that don’t actually increase motivation.

In recent years, companies have tried to increase their staff’s motivation by introducing employee ‘perks’ such as casual Fridays, employee appreciation events like picnics and dinners, and adding game tables and televisions to lunchrooms. Although on the surface these initiatives may seem to have an impact on an employee’s happiness at work, they do not improve the performance of managers and therefore will not increase engagement.

Kruse looked at employees of large retail businesses to understand the impact of individual managers on their employee’s engagement levels. He found that although employment conditions are the same across the network, employee engagement scores varied considerably – which he attributed to the behaviours of individual store managers.

Employee engagement defined

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to their company and organisational goals. The more the employee cares, the more effort they are likely to put in.

Kruse defines the three key triggers that a manager should consider to increase the engagement levels of their employees as:

Growth: Challenging employees and encouraging them to learn new things

Recognition: Ensuring employees feel appreciated by their colleagues and superiors  

Trust: Building trust between the employee and their manager, their company and their future possibilities within the business

How to manifest the three triggers

Growth

Give your employees a reason to try. If the tasks they're assigned to do are too easy, they may start doing the job mindlessly and become disengaged. Give them a challenge by assigning tasks where they are given the autonomy to think for themselves to come up with solutions. The sense of achievement after completing these tasks will leave them wanting to do it again or to do better next time.

If your employee is not yet capable of performing such tasks, invest in their learning and train them up for the job. They'll feel valued and more willing to put in the effort.

Recognition

If an employee is already self-motivated and putting in the effort, make sure they know that you recognise this. Not showing recognition will break motivation. Why would you try to do something if it doesn't even matter? Seeing the effort that someone puts into doing something and letting them know that you can see it will encourage them to try even harder next time.

At Fuse, we come together at the end of every week where we each anonymously nominate a person we think has lived the Fuse values. Each vote is read out loud in front of the group. The person with the most votes at the end of the month gets a small prize. This sort of recognition is what motivates each person to do their job better. The prize is just a bonus!

Trust

Investing in your employees' growth and development is not enough to build trust. After mentoring and training, they need the autonomy to go off by themselves without having someone micromanage everything they do. What's the point of training your employees if they aren't trusted to implement what they've learnt? If your employees don't feel trusted to make their own decisions, they will simply stop thinking for themselves and require your input for everything they do. This kills productivity and kills any sort of possible innovation.

It’s essential that businesses, and more importantly individual managers, shift focus from the overall organisational goals and consider specifically what's important to their employees. Managers can then refocus their workforce around employee objectives and align them with overall corporate goals to generate increased business success through a more engaged workforce. This is a process that takes time, but the returns are unquantifiable.