How Leaders Can Improve Employee Engagement — Even During Challenging Times
Chief Commercial Officer at automotiveMastermind, overseeing new business, customer retention, account management and marketing.
Leaders are responsible for keeping teams inspired, informed and working toward collective business goals. This can be challenging in “normal” times, let alone now while most industries are facing unprecedented challenges.
But despite everything happening in the world right now, the reality is that businesses need to keep moving forward to succeed. Success starts with employee engagement. Employees need support from leadership now more than ever, and it’s critical to communicate — even if you don’t yet have the answers.
An engaged workforce drives positive momentum within an organization. According to 2017 Gallup research, engaged employees lead to about 17% more profitability, 41% fewer absences and up to a 59% reduction in employee turnover for highly engaged business units.
Improving your bottom line starts with highly engaged employees. Evaluating and enhancing your internal dynamic is key to improving overall business operations — and ultimately keeping your company profitable and successful during difficult times.
So as a leader, how do you guide your team to success?
The 3 C’s Of Employee Engagement
Navigating and fostering positive relationships and momentum with employees, especially during times of uncertainty, requires clarity, communication and coaching — three C’s that you should work into every leadership strategy. While your team may be working remotely, returning from temporary unemployment or managing the new day-to-day business modifications as a result of Covid-19, leaders can provide the consistency everyone is craving.
Finding Understanding Through Clarity And Communication
Before you can build a genuinely engaged workforce, you must have a firm understanding of the people working on your team. Employees need strong leadership during times of uncertainty. Even if you don’t have all the answers, you should be present for your team and commit to supporting them. Connecting with your team on a human level is the highest form of authenticity. The fact that you kept lines of communication open — and created new avenues to connect — is what they will remember six months from now when the Covid-19 crisis is (hopefully) behind us.
As we continue moving forward in this “new normal,” it’s important to keep employees in-the-loop as much as possible with clear, consistent communication.
• Be transparent. Lean into sharing as many company updates as possible so employees have a shared understanding. Bad news doesn’t get better with time; your team will respect honesty now more than ever, and transparency can be key to growing stronger together.
• Be a good listener. Great leaders ask great questions. Shifting to the practice of “over-communicating” can not only make employees feel supported and heard but also provide leaders with new perspectives. Having conversations with people from different teams and beyond those who directly report to you is an effective way to engage employees at all levels.
• Be the energy you want to see. Effective leaders lead by example. It’s difficult to remain positive and passionate if that same energy is not reflected throughout the workplace. The first step to improving employee engagement is to create and embody a strong company culture based on your organization’s core values and ethics.
• Be humble. Remember, it’s okay to not have all the answers. Don’t fake it. If you don’t know the answer, admit it and commit to finding the answer. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Humble leaders don’t think less of themselves; they just think of themselves less.
Onward And Upward: Promoting Professional Growth
With a newfound understanding of your team and a foundation of trust and strong communication in place, the opportunities for all employees — and in turn, your company — are endless. Keeping this positive momentum going requires consistent coaching.
• Understand your team’s ‘why.’ As a leader, once you understand why each member of your team shows up for your company each day, it becomes easier to help them advance personally and professionally. Also, share your “why” so everyone is aligned and can communicate more effectively.
• Promote personal growth. Coach your team to approach each day with intention. Setting actionable short-term goals helps individuals achieve success with long-term professional growth.
• Celebrate small victories. It’s easy to overlook small wins when you’re focused on a big goal. Leaders should take the time to recognize team members who are doing great work (more than just once a year at an annual review) and helping the company advance toward that big goal. They need (and deserve) that encouragement.
• Never stop learning. Leaders should strive to learn from other great leaders. At every level, it’s important to continue reading, listening, watching and absorbing new information.
Business disruptions associated with Covid-19 have applied pressure for leaders at every level to become more effective, intentional communicators. With this expectation in place as the “new normal,” leadership teams are responsible now more than ever to listen to and encourage their employees — which can result in a more engaged workforce.
My company has adopted the ideologies from the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling to help us set goals and measure growth. I challenge you to explore new resources, continue learning and find what works best for your team.
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