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How to Encourage and Develop Employee Engagement

(Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Deb Calvert, founder of People First Productivity Solutions, on the "why" and the "how" of driving employee engagement.)

employee engagement

Employee engagement matters in the workplace. In order to encourage and promote engagement, you need to have the right leadership.

Why Does Leadership Matter so Much?

The #1 driver of improved engagement levels is the manager. People who report to a particular manager will be more (or less) engaged based on their interactions with that manager.

Here’s the breakdown:  

  • Employee engagement is “a heightened emotional connection that the employee feels for his/her organization, that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.”

  • “Emotional commitment drives effort. Emotional commitment is 4x as valuable as rational commitment in producing discretionary effort. Indeed, the search for a high-performing workforce is synonymous with the search for emotional commitment.”

  • “The manager has tremendous impact on employees’ levels of emotional commitment to the team, organization and job.”

It’s that emotional commitment that really drives engagement. Once the emotional commitment is there, all the benefits will come after -- including improved retention, higher levels of productivity and customer satisfaction, and both top-line and bottom-line growth.

Leadership Characteristics of the “Most Admired” Leaders

To bring that emotional commitment, supervisors and managers need to claim their place as leaders. People admire leaders who are:

  • Honest

  • Competent

  • Inspiring

  • Forward-looking

These four characteristics are used consistently across sectors and around the world. With these traits, you can motivate the people in your workplace.

All too often, managers focus on results and tasks. They inadvertently message that employees should do whatever it takes to produce the desired results. They compromise their own credibility by not following through on promises made (in an effort to get today’s work done today).  And they get so focused on the short-term that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

As a result, employees feel detached from their work and their managers. They don’t feel emotionally connected or committed because they feel dehumanized by the work-only focus.

Managers who put people first and step into their own leadership are more successful. Why? Because they have more engaged employees.

When Your Company Needs a Supervisor Training Program

Boosting engagement also requires strong-willed management, and that requires training your supervisors. Ultimately, with trained, capable managers, employee retention rates improve. To improve the level of employee engagement, organizations must focus first on supervisor training programs.

Some of the skills managers need for successful engagement include:

  • Communication skills

  • Setting clear expectations

  • Giving feedback

  • Delegating for development

  • Ensuring all team members have a voice

  • Making decisions and solving problems in transparent and predictable ways

  • Coaching

  • Conducting 1:1 and team meetings that are effective and inclusive

  • Leading change proactively

Once top-performing supervisors and managers learn to do their jobs, they can then practice the perfect skills and behaviors to motivate their employees.

Supervisor training can also boost employee engagement with millennials in the workplace. With millennials, you can expect to see even more impact on retention when you work to improve engagement.

What the Best Supervisors Are Doing

The best supervisors have teams with high levels of engagement. But it doesn’t happen by luck or accident. Those supervisors know what to do, on purpose, to engage their team members. And you can too!

By working on the skills that are more likely to boost employee engagement, you can create a workplace culture and environment where people thrive and results improve. If you are deliberate about the certain behaviors and actions you are displaying, then more work will get done. Getting results and seeing engagement is the ultimate deliverable for any manager, one that merits serious thought about how you can modify your behaviors.

(Deb Calvert is an award-winning author and has been a sales and leadership coach for over 20 years.)

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