Engagement is a buzz word that’s been circulating the HR industry the last few years. It has been increasingly important especially as millennials, who have been referred to as the “Job-Hopping Generation,” are taking majority share of the workforce. However, it’s not a topic relevant to only one generation – it’s important for everyone in the workforce. Most professionals understand the what behind the word “engagement,” (that is whether employees have a positive emotional connection to their work and/or the company they work for), but few understand how to actually achieve it. Fortunately, we’ve found a great resource to help demystify the mechanics of engagement: “Elements of Engagement” by Rusty Lindquist. This periodic table of engagement outlines all the factors that contribute to employee engagement and success. In this post, we’ll look at four of those factors.
Objective –What is the goal? To be successful, employees need to know what exactly it is they are supposed to be doing. What goals are they trying to achieve? This may seem obvious at first, but you know how it goes; you get busy, you take on additional responsibilities here and there, and priorities change. With the hustle and bustle of day-to-day tasks, sometimes the real purpose of our actions can get lost in the mix. So, what can you do? If you are an employee and you feel your objectives are unclear or your career path is undefined, let your uncertainty be known. Communicate with your supervisor. They can’t fix it if they don’t know it’s broken. If you are a supervisor, make it a point to have regular conversations with your employees about their goals and about your expectations, especially as their careers develop and expectations change.
Alignment – Work that fits You may wake up tomorrow and decide you want to be a rocket scientist. You’ve done some research and understand the purpose of rocket science and the nature of the work that needs to be done, etc., but mathematics is something you struggle with and do not particularly enjoy. If that’s the case, then the truth is that rocket science is probably not a good fit for you, no matter how passionate you are about rockets. Now, I’m not saying you can’t be a rocket scientist, but imagine how draining it would be to work on something day after day that forces you to exert yourself on skills you don’t naturally possess. Sooner or later, the strain of suppressing your natural abilities in favor of those you don’t inherently have would lead to exhaustion and eventually disengagement. That is why alignment is so important. Success stems from playing to strengths. Make a list of skills that come naturally to you or that you really enjoy. Next, make a list of skills you struggle with. Now look at the skills required to do your current job. Does your job mostly require skills from your “natural ability” list or from your “struggle with” list? If it’s the former, chances are you are a rockstar in your current role. Keep up the good work! If it’s the latter, your career may be out of alignment. If that’s the case, talk with your supervisor about your strengths and weaknesses. Find a role that leans heavily towards your natural skills and, chances are, you’ll be amazed how much you look forward to coming to work each day.
Plan – Knowing where to go and how to get there Say you want to be a millionaire. This is your objective. You could think about being a millionaire every day from now until forever, but just thinking about it isn’t going to make it happen. Long-term goals, like becoming a millionaire, need to be broken down into a bunch of short-term goals to make them attainable. These short-term goals are essentially your plan for success. The same concept applies in the workplace. You probably have an idea of what you want your future career to look like: a certain promotion you want to receive or a level of responsibility you want to obtain. It’s important to make a plan for how you’re going to achieve these goals, so at the end of the day you can analyze where you are on your path to success. In other words, having a clear objective will keep you engaged, but only for a short time. The plan is what will keep the fire burning long after the starter fuel burns off.
Space – Freedom to do what you need to do You have defined your objective, your career is in alignment with your natural abilities, and you have a plan to make your goals reality. Now all you need is space to do your work. That doesn’t mean a desk to dock your laptop on, although that would be helpful. The space we’re referring to here is metaphorical in nature. You need the liberty to do the work that’s been assigned to you. Supervisors and managers are a critical factor in this step. So, if you are in a supervisory role, pay special attention here. Once you’ve given your employees all the tools and information they need to do their job, you need to empower them by stepping aside and trusting them to get the job done. Sure, mistakes will be made, but those mistakes are important lessons. The road to success isn’t paved every 5-10 years; it has pot holes and speed bumps. In fact, it’s mostly gravel. Every bump in road is a teaching moment for you as a supervisor, and by allowing your employees the freedom to make mistakes without fear of persecution, you have built trust into your relationship, and you’ve given them a fundamental skill needed for success: confidence. So, I know it’s not easy; you may have some cringeworthy moments, but you’ll find the ROI for instilling trust and confidence in your employees is worth every bump you encounter.
We’ve walked you through some of the key factors you may have been missing on employee engagement. You’re well on your way to creating an atmosphere of success for yourself and the employees you work with. Be sure to check out the rest of the 16 Elements of Engagement on Rusty’s LinkedIn page. Now go out there, and get engaged!
About Kat Tarver
Kat Tarver is the Director of Human Resources at Foresite Group. With over 10 years of experience in the customer service environment, she is dedicated to providing exceptional professional service to everyone she encounters. Kat is passionate about employee engagement and retention and is committed to helping Foresite Group succeed in these areas.