A recent study on employee engagement from Blessing White revealed that 52% of those in their research felt neither engaged nor disengaged. The other 48% went like this: 31% are engaged; 17% are disengaged. That’s some good news. Translation, the majority is or wants to feel connected to their work, to be a contribution to the organization, to be engaged.
So leaders this is an open invitation to strengthen or restore morale in your company. You may be saying, “It’s not that simple. At my company, it’s different.” If this is what crosses your mind, I remind you of a simple truth: the business of business is people. How you get things done is through your people. This is not unique to your company. It’s a universal truth. And the nature of people is to want to belong, to make a difference. What the report shows is that you’ve got a willing group of employees waiting for you to show up, give clear direction and lead them to better times, to revive the workplace.
State the obvious. With your people gathered together let them see you know how tough it’s been for them. Don’t make it about yourself. Acknowledge that tough management decisions have impacted the work environment and you want to do something about it.
Have a conversation. Actually gather with your teams and ask open-ended questions – the type of questions that elicit more than a yes or no reply. A good place to start is, “What would you do to improve our work environment?” Let the question set in with employees. It may be quiet for what may be an eternity. But be bold and remain quiet.
Commit to action. In the conversation, have another manager capture ideas employees share. Be sure all can see the ideas. Where you can, commit to immediate action. Ask employees to make ideas become reality. Leverage their strengths. Focus on opportunities. Let employees set milestone dates. Negotiate dates if not possible. Be honest with your reasons when a suggested milestone date is not possible.
Follow-up and keep it visible. Make note of any ideas that need approval and/or input from others not at the gathering. Commit to an update and follow-up on or before the promised date. Whatever you do, do not miss the update.
Also, keep the action items developed in the meeting public. Make sure every employee can see them. And make sure the items are marked complete. This needs to be visible. Why? You want people to see that your word and actions are aligned. You are rebuilding trust and respect. Honoring your word is an important first step.
Reconvene and discuss. After a few milestones are achieved, reconvene with your employees. Don’t expect the 52% who are on the fence to feel engaged. That will depend on your situation and the honesty in your communications and alignment with your actions and words. But ask how things are going? What’s improved? What can be done better or differently? Frame your questions by focusing on what’s possible or what’s missing. Avoid framing questions that look for problems or what’s wrong. The conversation will spiral out of control and not accomplish what you hope to achieve.
In the end, reengaging employees will require a serious, focused, and honest conversation. And removed from the conversation is the “management knows best” perspective. In its place is a “we’re in this together” belief.
The workplace has changed. But the people working want what they’ve always wanted – to add value, to be your enthusiast.
They’re waiting for you. Will you rise to the occasion?