Opinion: Sean Conrad: 5 ways to boost employee engagement 

Employee engagement is a complex thing, influenced by myriad factors. But if you look at the heart of most of the more popular instruments for measuring employee engagement, like the Gallup elements and others, you’ll note that most of the factors relate to the human need for fulfilment, meaning and growth.

Why is employee engagement important?

Because it drives better business results. Engaged employees are more productive, more apt to contribute discretionary effort, more customer focused and more loyal, among other things.

So how can you support better employee engagement in your organisation?

Here are five employee performance management best-practices that can help.

1. Setup a process by which employees get regular feedback on their performance

Most employee engagement surveys point to an employee’s need to know how they’re doing, whether they’re meeting expectations, and how they can improve. The best way to provide them with this information is through ongoing, regular feedback and coaching.

Yet few managers feel equipped to provide this, or make time in their busy schedules. You can address this challenge by providing managers with regular training in the art of giving feedback and coaching their employees, to increase their proficiency and comfort.

But you can also institute practices like monthly one-on-one meetings and quarterly performance reviews, and provide simple tools for giving and collecting feedback ongoing feedback to help support a continuous manager-employee dialogue about performance.

2. Ensure employees have clear goals

Related to this, employees want to clearly know what is expected of them, but also want to know that what they do every day at work has a purpose and matters.

You can address this need with best practice goal management that ensures employees are assigned SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) goals that are directly linked to high-level organisational goals.
This goal linking gives employees the important larger context for their work, helping them see its meaning, impact and value.

3. Support employee development

To be engaged, employees also want opportunities to learn, grow and advance. While you should certainly support this with formal training, it’s important to recognise that the majority of learning takes place on the job.

So you should also support employee development through coaching, stretch assignments, job shadowing, mentoring, secondment, multi-disciplinary projects and a host of other on the job activities.

Using these methods, you can create a learning culture that encourages individual growth and fulfilment.

4. Recognise and reward performance

Everyone wants to be “seen” and appreciated for what they do. It’s human nature. So make sure you recognise and reward performance in a variety of formal and informal ways.

You can start by linking pay to performance, so those who go above and beyond receive greater remuneration than those who don’t. But you can also find ways to thank employees, publicly acknowledge and praise stellar contributions, provide meaningful, personalised perks, like extra time off, a special assignment or a small gift.

All of these things tell employees that they matter, that they aren’t taken for granted, and help strengthen employee engagement.

5. Involve employees in their performance management

Lastly, you need to involve employees in their own management, to better engage them in their performance. Performance management isn’t something that should be “done to them” it’s something that should be “done with them”.

So involve them in assessing and improving their performance by completing self-appraisals, ask them to draft their own goals and development plans, challenge them to solicit feedback from others, invite them to tell their managers what the manager could do to better support their performance.

Employees should “own” their performance

These are just a few ways you can involve employees and make them more accountable for their own performance.

Building employee engagement requires some conscious actions on the part of your organisation, your managers and your employees. None of the practices outlined here are onerous. They’re simply management best practices that yield numerous benefits to the organisation, including increased employee engagement.

Sean Conrad has explored the concept of employee engagement in numerous articles and blog posts. He’s a product analyst, HR strategist, speaker and frequent blogger for Halogen Software (www.halogensoftware.com)

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