Shedding Light on Good Employee Engagement

Arizona SunsetIn The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, I shared why employee engagement is vital to organizational success and how managers play a key role. In The Bad and The Ugly, I discussed some common causes of disengagement. Today, we will look at specific managerial behaviors which foster engagement – a.k.a. “The Good”.

Finding the Good

When I graduated from college, I was hired by a prestigious corporation with a 100+ year history of industry leadership. I participated full-time in their award-winning management training program by working in all areas of the company, traveling to many locations and being taught by their top leaders. A lot of trust and authority was placed in my hands and I was assured a fast-tracked career.

The person who ran the program recognized my ability to learn quickly. He asked me to continue working with him instead of taking a field job. Other program participants moved on to different managers at other locations. To my surprise, it was not long before they became disengaged or actively disengaged employees. Within the next two years, over 90% of them left the company.

From this experience, I learned that managers often feel incapable of being agents of change in bad or ugly environments. However, this is preciously the time and place they are needed most. A good manager is like a ray of sun in a dark place. They bring hope to their employees and shed much-needed light when challenges abound.

Tip #1: Face Time Is More Than an App

To develop and maintain healthy working relationships, communication with individual employees is essential. It needs to be clear, consistent and constructive.

Team meetings, email and instant messaging are not substitutes for talking one to one with employees. While these three things are great ways to share quick facts, assign tasks and provide general information, they do not work well as tools for developing employee-manager relationships.

Regarding logistics, individual meetings may vary in length, format and frequency based on the needs of the situation (ex. remote v. on-site employee; tenured person v. new hire; entry-level v. executive). The main thing is they occur regularly. An occasional happenstance meeting or the periodic performance review meeting are not enough on their own to ensure employee engagement.

Tip #2: Open Approach

Good managers are approachable. They share critical information with their teams. They also encourage employees to share important information with them.

They set viable & clear goals; give & receive feedback in a constructive manner; and advocate on the employees’ behalf when resources are required or roadblocks are hindering progress on key priorities.

Another is also understanding that having an open door is not about a physical door being open or shut. Instead, it is about their attitude and active listening skills when employees express concern. They do not have to agree with all employee feedback, but they do need to demonstrate respect by listening to their viewpoints on critical issues.

Tip #3: Teaching & Learning

Great managers take it a step higher by developing their employees and themselves. They provide their teams with the means to learn new skills. If they cannot teach them, they look for alternate solutions such as a department mentor, online training or cross training with another team.

Lead by example – demonstrating their knowledge & abilities; acquiring new skills through training & practice; and (when needed) learning from their own mistakes.

Moreover, if those mistakes have a significantly negative impact on their employees, they apologize and (if possible) provide a solution to the concern. It should be noted here that if the manager already has healthy relationships with engaged employees (see Tip #1), the employees are more apt to overlook the mistake.

What’s Next?

You may wonder what happened to the company I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Over the last 20+ years, I followed them in the news as they lost sight of their roots, stopped innovating and started making very costly choices. Eventually, they laid off most of their workforce, were removed the Nasdaq and declared bankruptcy.

The moral of this story is…. managers make a difference. The choice is up to them as to whether the difference they make is for The Good, The Bad or The Ugly. In the short term, they may not see the effects of these behaviors on employee engagement. In the longer run, the effects will be resounding and seen by all.

Therefore, if you are a manager, I encourage you to consider your choices, remember your impact and choose The Good. If you are an employee, look for what is good in your organization and extend a word of encouragement or appreciation to those who are fostering engagement.

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