7 Leadership Practices to Boost Employee Engagement

“Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.” Jim Goodnight

The success of an organisation depends on the people who work for it. Motivated, engaged employees are the foundation for success with highly engaged employees producing better business outputs, more loyal customers, fewer ‘problems’ and superior financial performance. Engagement goes beyond employee happiness or satisfaction, it refers to an employees’ level of psychological investment in their organisation (i.e. their motivation to go above and beyond when it matters most).

So, how do you go about improving employee engagement?

Most strategies for driving engagement share common goals, such as helping employees to feel valued and emotionally connected to their work. Here are 7 leadership practices to help you boost employee engagement in your workplace.

1. Treat people with compassion, mutual respect and kindness

Employers that understand and value their people reap the benefits of an engaged workforce. A work environment in which people feel valued and heard is critical to employee engagement.

Your Action Plan: Be visible, approachable, open minded and actively seek and listen to the thoughts and perspectives of employees. Treat employees as individuals and show compassion, support and civility. Find meaningful ways to acknowledge, reward and recognise efforts. It doesn’t need to cost a lot, sometimes a simple thank you, a team lunch or sharing wins with the wider organisation can go a long way to making people feel valued.

2. Bring engagement to life

Too often engagement is restricted to a number on a report that is discussed between managers and leaders at the top table. In reality, engagement sits in the hearts and minds of all employees, and this is where efforts and actions should be focused.

Your Action Plan: Involve all employees in the process of assessing, improving and generating ideas to improve employee engagement. Define engagement in realistic terms that relate to day-to-day experiences and discuss it frequently. Describe what success looks like, to help give meaning to goals and build commitment within a team.

3. Support opportunities for growth

Organisations that support continuous development and employee growth send a clear message that they value their employees and believe in their potential.

Your Action Plan: Support employee growth by providing education and learning opportunities, cross training and coaching. Train your managers and leaders and hold all employees accountable to their continuous learning and development.

4. Create the conditions to get the job done

Unsuitable tools, inefficient processes and bureaucratic structures hinder employees' ability to get things done, and diminish employee engagement.

Your Action Plan: Ensure the presence of an ‘enabling infrastructure’ where people are in the right role with the right resources and are supported with efficient processes and enabling leadership.

5. Make work meaningful

Engaged employees believe their work is of importance and value. They also understand how their role contributes to the company’s mission, purpose and objectives.

Your Action Plan: Reinforce the importance of an employee's role to the organisation as a whole and help them see the direct connection between their activities and company success. Set goals and challenge your employees to meet them to promote a sense of purpose.

6. Get social

Humans are naturally social beings who enjoy a bit of fun. Feelings of isolation, loneliness and monotony drive disengagement.

Your Action Plan: Create a shared sense of belonging by fostering relationships, being inclusive, involving others, collaborating and sharing. Consider team activities that break the routine of work and drive creativity and collaboration. As a leader, step away from solving problems yourself and empower your team to take responsibility and work through issues, problems or projects collaboratively.

7. Inspiring and supportive leadership

Competent, passionate and supportive leadership is critical to employee engagement. Engagement is contagious, so engaged leaders that ‘walk the talk’ drive team and organisation-wide employee engagement.

Your Action Plan: Show your own passion and enthusiasm for your work and ensure your behaviours are aligned to what you say. Take a genuine interest in your employees by investing time to understand their needs and aspirations. Build trust, goodwill and a mutual desire to succeed.

If you want to boost engagement, remember that employee engagement is all about people. A great way to start is by simply asking them – the answers may be more straightforward than you initially thought.