We won’t bore you with yet another recitation of Employee Engagement stats. They’re ugly. And it’s costing businesses worldwide more than anyone can afford. Way too few people are excited about their work, and the organizations and people they work for. And it shows. Before (but not in place of) worrying about what you’re doing to increase engagement, let’s take a whack at three things you could stop doing that are presently depleting this precious commodity.
1. Giving Fake Reviews – A sizeable movement has been afoot for the last few years suggesting that we should either somehow make performance evaluations more fun (what is it, a dance party?), or perhaps eliminate them altogether.
Why? Because they’re hard… It takes time and effort to prepare for a fair and factual performance discussion; the conversation can be contentious, particularly if that conversation converts to money; and like many other leadership responsibilities, we’ve done an awful job of teaching leaders (at all levels) how to do them, or even providing a good example to emulate. So we should just stop doing them, right? Wrong! Under that logic, we should all stop brushing our teeth, too.
Who ever said leadership was easy? Lots of tasks that come with the territory can be hard and time consuming. This is just one of them. Sadly, many of us take the coward’s way out by deferring the conversation until the last possible moment, and then serving up some innocuous pablum that steers clear of any possible unpleasantry. It’s like showing up at the doctor’s office with clear signs of heart disease, and being told you’re fine.
We all have a need and a right to know where we stand in the workspace, how our work is viewed by others, where we’re leading and lagging expectations, how we can get better, be more competitive, earn more, and where to turn for help in doing so. It doesn’t matter how this gets done as long as five essential conditions are met. The feedback should be:
- Timely. The “ban the review” crowd seizes this point to suggest that annual, or even 6-month reviews are too late to be of value, and on this point, they’re right. So let’s speed it up.
- Focused on things that really matter.
- Helpful, and encouraging to the extent possible.
- Factual, with input from all relevant stakeholders.
- Discussed (really) and documented.
2. Saying Your People Are Important to You, While Your Calendar Says Otherwise
Stop what you’re doing for a moment and look at your calendar. What portion of your time is meaningfully committed to some of the most important people in your life, your teammates? I’m not talking about being present with them at some mandatory event, but rather, in an endeavor or conversation that is at least as important to them as it is to you. I’m willing to bet that number is less than 3% of your available total. Does that justify the claims that we’ve all made: “my door is always open”, “I’m here for you…” and the like? Probably not.
On the strength of the axiom that what doesn’t get planned usually doesn’t happen, try this: Create a standing (as in both upright, on your feet and recurring), scheduled 20 minute meeting availability every week with each direct reporting team member. The primary purpose of that available time slot is to afford the staffer the opportunity to discuss items of importance to them. Your agenda plays 2nd fiddle. If one of you has a need to meet, do so. If not, repurpose the time, while knowing that the opportunity was there.
3. Timid Risk Taking
If you need people to walk through fire with you, they first need to see that you’ll do the same with (and for) them. If your teammates are moving as fast as you’d like them to, they need assurance that when they make the inevitable misstep, someone (preferably you) is going to step in, help them get back up, dust them off, and fend off the inevitable darts and spitballs headed their way from the cheap seats. Otherwise, their need for self preservation causes them to operate at a slower, personally safer speed. The need for clear evidence that you really do have their back is real, and it’s tangible.
So, the suggestion is that you be a little quicker to expend time, effort, political capital, even real capital to demonstrate that this really is a “we” venture.
Employee Engagement is more, much more, than a buzzword. It matters. It’s profitable. Its absence is costly. Stop doing the three things above. We’ll be back soon with a few things to start doing.