Management: 9 Ways To Boost Engagement
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The first sign of a highly productive and engaged team is how well they work together. Do they naturally seek to serve each other? Are they motivated to step in and support a team member who may be falling behind? When you see your team working really well together, finalizing tasks and achieving bigger goals collaboratively, then you have proof of an engaged team. Here’s a deeper look at three more key indicators of engaged teams.
Team members who are engaged typically have close relationships with their managers. They feel like they are in a safe space to bring up concerns or even confront a behavior that conflicts with the company’s core values. They have the confidence in their relationship with their manager to speak their mind and share openly in 360 reviews without fear of repercussions. As managers and leaders, we can build trust by keeping confidences, while also showing our vulnerabilities. Sharing our concerns openly and asking for feedback on how we can improve as leaders elevates everyone.
Fewer sick days and lower turnover are also indications of a supportive environment and engaged employees. As leaders, watch for an increase in sick days or tardiness. These may indicate a personal issue, a temporary setback or it may be an engagement issue. Perhaps the team member needs a new challenge or to take on a special project to feel reinvigorated. The pushback I get when I share this with managers is that they don’t have the time to check in on “every little issue.” To this I say, “You can make the time now or suffer the consequences later when it becomes a pattern and a habit that negatively spreads throughout the entire culture.”
Teams who form special bonds and friendships, and connect outside of work hours, are good indicators that members are engaged. Employees who truly enjoy each other’s company and form friendships will also work collaboratively as a whole to succeed. The mentality becomes a “us as a team” vs. an individual journey to success.
If you notice that your team members display most or all of the above and their production levels and sales numbers indicate that they’re meeting their goals, chances are you’re doing an exceptional job at employee engagement.
However, if you’ve read this list and are concerned that you have minimal or mediocre engagement, here are a few concrete ways you can positively impact engagement to give your team a boost.
Your health and your employees’ health are of utmost importance. When your team feels that you truly care about them as a whole person, they will work with a different level of commitment for you and your organization. So, where do you start? You don’t have to create a complicated health and wellness program; it can simply be getting a conversation started around mental health.
As a leader, be transparent about your own journey towards optimal mental health and overall well-being. When you’re struggling, share that with your team. Many people cringe at that notion, so hear me out. When you’re having a rough day or rough week, and you tell your team that you’re struggling and need support or some time off, you make it OK for others to also not be OK. We must be an example to our team so that they know when to stop and recharge. It can be tempting to put production first, but if we burn the candle at both ends, we know it doesn’t end well for us or for the team that we’re pushing.
Peer-to-peer coaching and accountability partners are simple ways to boost engagement and add a sense of heightened camaraderie. I do this with a weekly informal check-in which helps team members keep each other accountable for their work goals, personal goals, dreams and aspirations.
Having team members take charge of engagement is always a great way to get buy-in. Small committees or “culture pods” can implement exercise clubs, adventure games, hikes and rewards for eating healthy or exercising. Let them take the lead and participate to show support and let the company provide the financial backing to help make each program a success.
It doesn’t have to be costly, although it can. We used to do expensive grocery programs and order in organic snacks, but we found that smaller grocery store runs alongside employee-led health and wellness initiatives were most effective.
You can also boost engagement and team camaraderie by increasing the number of team socials you schedule. This gives team members a chance to see you and each other in a relaxed setting with no agenda. It’s a refreshing chance for everyone to reconnect.
Book clubs are a terrific way to get everyone on the same page (literally) about a topic of interest. They also increase a sense of purpose, growth and achievement. People want to develop themselves; they want to know that they’re not the same person they were six months ago or a year ago. Book clubs that encourage personal development and have a discussion with action steps help accomplish this. We do this monthly and rotate which team member choses the book, so we get a variety of topics and authors. We also have discussion points and action steps facilitated by a peer to get the team talking about their aha moments.
Town hall-style meetings can be a great way to be transparent and share the numbers as well as provide a safe place for team members to share unique ideas. We have Think Tank Tuesdays where we focus on innovation as well. Whatever it is that you do, if your intent is to provide a safe place for your team to express their creative ideas, concerns and challenges, you will naturally increase engagement.
Challenging your team members in the most positive way to step outside of their comfort zone is also a terrific way to increase engagement. When you provide a space for them to stretch their courage muscle, they will be reenergized and excited about coming to work. So how do you go about doing that? Find out what each employee is deeply passionate about. Find out what special projects they wish they could participate in or lead the charge on, and then relinquish control to give them the space to expand their skills. Provide a safe space if the project goes sideways and always recognize the growth journey and courage to try something new.
So, who knew that our accounting lead was unbelievably creative until we encouraged her to jump into design work? She astonished us with her creativity and beautiful layouts for our Sigma Sales Playbook. It was through a coaching session that we discovered her real passion was marketing and design. Once given the opportunity to learn and grow with it, she’s blossomed and is feeling reinvigorated and enthusiastic. She still does accounting, and does it very well, however, we’re keeping an open mind. Perhaps her career plan includes leading an accounting team at a high level 50 percent of the time and working in design 50 percent of the time. That’s the point! Great engagement means being flexible to team members’ needs, giving them the independence to flex that muscle, and try and realign when they find their sweet spot.
If you’re like me, you sometimes feel like you must lead each meeting or have the final say or wrap up. This has been a big lesson for me. I’ve intentionally started asking team members to lead meetings. I’ve asked team members to report back on planning, even though I’m excited to do it myself. I’ve learned that when I’m always front and center, it leaves little space for others. Am I still learning in this area? Absolutely! I’m determined, though, to keep at it and give team members an opportunity to build their confidence as leaders.
Wondering if your team is engaged or not? Download Sigma Promotions’ free assessment to find out:
Nikki Pett is founder of distributor Sigma Promotions Inc. in Newmarket, Ontario, and the company’s SigmaU business education program. Author of Relationship ROI and Leadership ROI, she has been in the industry for 18 years and leads a growing team of nine. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.sigmapromotions.com.