We agree that engaging our employees is one of the keys to organizational success. In fact, most organizational improvement, at some point, involves actively involving our teams of employees. We have been told countless times that this is the ‘secret sauce’ for improving our products, processes and culture.
The key question is: How do we truly engage our employees in their work?
Engaging our workforce in authentic conversation is not as easy as it sounds. I have worked with peers who have claimed to be experts at drawing out our workers. I once tested this claim by tracking the amount of time my peer talked (95% of the time) versus team members talked (5% of the time) at a session with the specific outcome of ‘hearing’ from the employees!
How then do we ensure that our teams of employees are heard and fully engaged as they deliver on the important work of designing new products, creating better processes, reshaping our culture, etc.:
- Cultivate Understanding of the Work and How It Will Impact Them
- To achieve a high level of commitment and avoid resistance, involve those impacted in the development of the work itself.
- Enable our teams to understand the dynamics of the work being carried out, new behaviors required of them and how their actions will contribute to success.
- Assess the Level of Change Required By Our Teams & Make Adjustments
- Continually assess change readiness levels over the course of the journey and adjust work and change management activities to address issues and gaps.
- Our leaders should be accountable for making sure their teams are understanding and internalizing the work in their respective organizations.
- Align the Organization to Enable and Sustain the Work
- Explore the following elements of the organization: structure, culture, people, rewards, work processes and management processes.
- Ask, ‘Do the above areas encourage or discourage employee engagement and the new/changed behaviors required to achieve the goals?’ Focus on areas that have the greatest influence on desired results.
The above advice involves grappling with complicated organizational dynamics. However, the first easy thing leaders can do is simply to talk less and ask employees more questions.
Had my talkative peer I mentioned above reached even a 50 – 50 split between his air-time versus the amount of time employees shared their thoughts, we clearly would have gained more insight from our workforce. Start by asking more questions. It is that simple.
Questions to consider:
- How should we evaluate the success of employee engagement?
- How can we further transfer ownership of the work to employees?
- What is standing in the way of you asking employees more questions?
Note:The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not in any way reflect the views of my employer.