Three keys to employee engagement
This is possibly one of the most important challenges facing today's leaders.
Employee engagement is about your people's psychological investment in their work. The degree to which their positive or negative feelings about their job, colleagues and employer influences their willingness to perform and learn at work.
According to the famous 2018 Gallup study, less than a quarter (24%) of Australian employees are engaged at work. In case you haven't seen that statistic before, here it is again:
Only 24% of Australian employees are engaged.
Research shows that employee engagement fuels productivity, efficiency and business performance; reduces turnover; drives profits and also has a positive impact on customer retention.
Highly engaged employees tend to stay longer in their jobs. They're also advocates and will say positive things about their employer and workplace. Critically, they're more motivated and likely to strive to help the organisation succeed.
Engagement and motivation are closely linked.
Perhaps one of the most interesting and impactful perspectives on what motivates us is that of bestselling author and speaker on business, work and human behaviour, Daniel Pink.
Pink writes that human motivation is largely intrinsic and has three main drivers: Autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Autonomy is the urge to direct our own lives.
Pink says people don't engage when they are being 'managed'. Of course, he's right. People engage when they are given the opportunity to be self-directed. If you've worked with a leader who has a true coaching style, you'll know the joy and powerful impact of autonomy.
Mastery is our desire to get better at something that matters.
Think about it. Every interview or performance review you've ever done has probably featured one or more of the following phrases: Career development, progression, learn, grow, next step, new skills. This is human nature - your employees want to feel a sense of mastery.
Purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Pink talks about two types of purpose. The type with a capital 'P' is about making a difference in the world, while purpose with a little 'p' is about making a contribution. Both types of purpose are motivating.
Although Pink first wrote about purpose a decade ago, it's only recently that the concept of purpose has come into clear focus as part of the talent recruitment and engagement landscape.
While the 'what' and 'how' of our work is important, the 'why' could be the difference between a happy, motivated employee and someone who's just plodding along.
3 quick tips for leaders to improve employee engagement.
Your employees don't want you to 'manage'. They want to have a degree of freedom and the opportunity to determine their own outcomes (otherwise known as autonomy).
Don't make your people wait until annual appraisal time to feel a sense of mastery. Give continuous feedback and offer new/greater opportunities and scope (even if in small doses) as often as you can.
Purpose and meaning matter - and is not something reserved for charities and social enterprises. Share the 'big picture' with your people as much and as often as you can. The more they know about the 'why' of what they're doing, the more motivated and engaged they'll be - which is good for them - and good for business.