“As a leader, it is your job to construct the framework, the environment, and the culture where people are engaged and can be successful.” — Chris Ihrig, CEO of FiredUp! Culture
There’s a flawed way of thinking common in business, where leaders and team members believe that things will “work themselves out.” But the reality is, nothing happens on its own or goes away without action.
An unengaged workforce can cripple an organization. Team members who aren’t engaged are less productive, less fulfilled, less creative, and more likely to quit if they can find a position elsewhere.
But creating an engaged workforce is not something that happens without mindful, strategic, and persistent efforts on the part of leadership. It starts by recognizing that engagement is a problem that needs to be addressed.
The Root of Real Engagement
When people are engaged, they work harder, feel a shared sense of accountability, and tend to work more cohesively with their teams. A sense of engagement can come from many sources, but in our experience, there are three main components.
Engagement happens when people…
- Feel that they are productive
- Believe that what they do is meaningful
- Know that their contributions matter to the success of the team
As a leader, the road to better engagement starts by talking with and listening to your team members. To help you get started, ask yourself these questions about each member of your team.
- What do they do well?
- How can you reward them for doing those things well?
- How can you celebrate the accomplishments of everyone, not just star players?
It’s easy for star players to feel engaged. They’re constantly reminded of their value because their contributions, for whatever reason, are more visible or “important.”
But creativity is a finite resource and team members whose work is more mundane or repetitive are at much greater risk of feeling disengaged, even though their contributions are critical to the success of the organization.
Tim Yeomans, FiredUp! Executive Vice President recalls one school district he worked with, where elementary school teachers were feeling disengaged. So, the school district made a change. They invited every teacher to high school graduation.
“And then we had graduates share stories about things that made an impact on them in elementary school. So, teachers could actually see where their contribution had led, and it completely changed the culture of this organization,” says Yeomans.
Keeping Engagement Constant
Once leaders begin to engage with team members, the work doesn’t end. Like any sort of training or practice, you can only expect to get out of it what you put in. When leaders stop paying attention to engagement, it’s only a matter a time before they end up where they started.
To keep engagement constant, leaders should regularly ask…
- Are we constantly evaluating engagement?
- Do we have a way to measure the engagement of our team members through surveys or other tools?
- What is reinforcing the behavior of people who want to stay engaged?
- What do we do every single week that reinforces engagement?
- Do we call out examples of how everybody around us helped us and did well?
- Are we celebrating? Are we uniting as a team? (For example, having team lunches or happy hours.)
Ultimately, engagement comes down to providing team members with the perspective they need in order to grasp the impact of the work they do.
Think of being on an airplane. You’re sitting down, enjoying a cup of coffee hardly aware of the fact that you’re moving. But if you look out the window, you’ll see the ground hurtling by. Suddenly, you’re very aware that you’re going hundreds of miles an hour.
Engagement happens when you pull up the window shade and show people what they’re doing, what they’re capable of, and what’s possible when they all work together.
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