Author: Sarah Charles
Editor: Rachel Bryars
Do you regularly find yourself daydreaming about your next vacation while counting down the hours of the workday? Do you have team members who often seem unmotivated? While it is normal to feel that way now and then (especially in a pandemic), consistently low levels of involvement, enthusiasm, and job commitment in yourself or others may signal low employee engagement.
Employee Engagement Matters
Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.
Why does engagement matter? “Organizations and teams with higher employee engagement and lower active disengagement perform at higher levels,” wrote Gallup’s Jim Harter. “Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability. Engaged workers also report better health outcomes.”
According to Gallup, the percentage of engaged employees in the U.S. rose to 39% in January 2021 after understandable ups-and-downs in 2020. The number of actively disengaged employees who are miserable at work and spread that feeling to others is about 14%. That means a whopping 47% of workers are “not engaged” — defined by Harter this way: “They may be generally satisfied but are not cognitively and emotionally connected to their work and workplace; they will usually show up to work and do the minimum required but will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer.”
Engagement matters in yourself and others. If you think you or your team members may be sliding into the not engaged “meh” middle — think about trying these three practical ways to improve engagement:
1. Provide Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is “the belief that your environment is safe for interpersonal risk-taking,” according to organizational and behavioral psychologist Amy Edmondson. People who feel psychological safety at work are more likely to be engaged. Building trust is a fundamental and critical element in facilitating engagement in the workplace and includes creating an environment in which people feel it is safe to make mistakes and even fail.
Brenè Brown says: “Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; its engaging. It’s being all in.” When we can be honest about risk and failure being part of the route to success, more people will feel safe enough to make mistakes without fear of the consequences. Showing up and being seen requires vulnerability and trust that each organization can cultivate. One practical way is to encourage assertive communication and honest feedback. When discussing goals with employees who may fall short, allow them autonomy in identifying strategies to reroute their goal and to find the lessons along the way.
2. Seek and Model Values- Driven Motivation
In order to be more engaged, we need to feel a sense of connection and belongingness in what we do. It’s important to identify our values and determine how they drive our daily behaviors. Think about your commitment at work — do your values align with the organization? If for instance optimism is a value you hold, is that value showing up in how you handle and deal with challenges? Often, we can lose perspective of the importance of what we do if we allow our values to become detached from our day-to-day efforts. Instead of focusing on all the challenges the day might bring, think about what you can do to contribute to a more productive, engaged day. Ask yourself — what am I choosing to focus on right now and is it within my control? Think about the perspective you bring to the office and how might your day be different by adding a healthy dose of your values.
3. Empower Through Servant Leadership
In the movie Remember the Titans, a football player says; “Attitude reflects leadership, Captain.” A leader’s attitude can influence the team dynamics within an organization in positive and negative ways. For a team to be engaged, their needs to be a sense of camaraderie, commitment, and teamwork.
Engagement is fostered by servant leadership — a form of leadership that focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. One way to be a servant leader who fosters engagement is to actively listen to your team members. Make sure their voices are being heard. At meetings ensure everyone gets to share their input when making team decisions. Recognize employees for their contributions and show them how their work contributes to the mission. Let them know you genuinely care for their wellbeing by your words and actions. Check in with your team on their individual and team goals and invest in resources they need to succeed.
How we show up for ourselves at work matters. Engagement is critical to the success of any organization or high performing team. The more we lean in and engage, the more innovation, connection, and success we achieve. If you’re interested in high performance strategies to help enhance employee engagement reach out to the HigherEchelon team.
About the Author:
Sarah Charles is a Program Manager & High-Performance Coach for HigherEchelon, Inc. She has worked with a wide variety of different organizations and populations including the U. S. Army, U.S. Air Force, Transportation Security Administration, and high-performance athletes. She has dedicated several years focused on optimizing Soldiers’ readiness through teaching how to perform at their best under pressure and stress. Sarah has also conducted resilience training for Soldiers operationalizing their skills in extreme tactical environments and special operations. Sarah earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University at Albany and her Master’s degree in Sport and Performance Psychology from the University of Tennessee.