Employee engagement is a byproduct of the employee’s experience. Supervisors are a primary contributor to experiences direct reports have and are in the best possible position to affect levels of engagement. In this episode, host Joe White shares ideas for what matters most to today’s workforce.
The SOS Podcast is a production of AEU LEAD, an organization redefining how mid and frontline managers are developed.
Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm Joe White, and this is the Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success podcast. Over the past year, I've spent quite a bit of time working with clients for the purpose of helping them improve employee relations. A driver for many involves the need to better understand why employees are leaving so that stopgap measures can be put in place. The industries that I collectively serve are labor intensive, and many are made up of skilled traits. For most companies in this broad representation of sectors, recruiting employees is becoming increasingly difficult, and retaining them a foremost priority. My discussion today is centered around some of the reoccurring observations I've made, which categorically falls into the heading of employee engagement. As a result of this episode, I hope to share with you some key learnings so that you may take advantage of them where you can. That said, let's jump right into it.
Employee engagement is a term often misunderstood. For many, it's interpreted to mean "interaction with." In practice, employee engagement involves the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs and reflects the level of commitment they have towards their employer. Simply stated, it's a measure of how likely employees are to go above and beyond in the performance of their job. Highly engaged employees often exceed expectations, and disengaged employees seldom meet them. According to the latest Gallup survey on the topic, employee engagement levels have trended more favorably over the past year. That said, there's still tremendous opportunity for growth and improvement.
Among the employees most recently surveyed, only 35% indicated they're currently engaged. More than 50% are disengaged, and roughly 15% are actively disengaged. For those unfamiliar with the term, actively disengaged employees are not only unhappy, they go out of their way to spread discontent, disrupt status quo, and undermine operational initiatives.
As you might imagine, employee engagement directly impacts the bottom line. Disengaged employees produce less, are injured more often, and consume a higher percentage of your time because of performance-related issues. Levels of engagement are also a leading indicator of turnover rates. Where companies are struggling to retain workers, chances are good employee engagement is a primary contributor. Happy employees seldom leave, and disgruntled ones usually don't stick around.
As a mid or frontline manager, it's important to understand your role in helping shape and influence levels of engagement. The ground-level truth is that no one has more impact on engagement, good or bad, than an employee's direct supervisor. I've seen countless examples of this over the past year and want to make certain this point is clear. What an employee experiences in the performance of their job has a direct bearing on how they feel about it. In other words, if you want to improve levels of engagement, focusing on the employee's experience is the key to doing so. That said, what do you do? How do you improve an employee's experience? Here are several recommendations based on key learnings I've had with clients over the past year.
1. Provide for the employee's basic needs.
This one seems almost too obvious, but it's an area many companies have let slip in recent past. I've witnessed countless instances whereby employees are wasting time looking for ladders, rigging hardware, and materials needed to do their job every day. I've had employees express frustration because of how long it takes to get work authorization permits signed at the beginning of their shift. Make certain you're doing everything you can to provide for your employees most basic needs. Until you can satisfy this requirement, there's not a lot more you can do to help improve their experience or levels of engagement.
2. Create a work environment that's viewed as safe and secure.
As humans, we have a basic need to feel safe and secure. This need is inclusive of our physical, mental, and social well-being. Making sure employees are adhering to safety policies and procedures is just the tip of the iceberg. Workplaces must be free of harassment, hazing, and hostilities. Creating and maintaining a respectful work environment for all is a core responsibility and something we must never compromise in providing.
3. Convey a sense of belonging.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are more than trending terms or buzzwords for attention-grabbing headlines. These terms broadly represent guiding principles intended to help ensure the fair treatment and full participation of our increasingly diverse workforce. Regardless of the race, gender, religion, orientation, ethnicity, or nationality of an employee, we must convey a sense of belonging that reaches and connects on a personal and individual level. While a great deal of progress has been made, we're far from checking this one off as complete.
4. Recognize and show appreciation for a job well done.
In terms of employee feedback, this is the single biggest area supervisors have for improving employee relations. If you want to have an immediate and profound effect on the employee's experience, look for ways to acknowledge and recognize them when they exceed expectations. As for my time in the field, I'll convey a direct quote from an employee that I spoke with. "I can do a thousand things right and will never hear a thing. I can do one thing wrong and will never hear the end of it." Let's all strive to do a better job recognizing employees.
5. Provide an opportunity for growth and development.
The days of employee development opportunities being limited to a few chalk-and-talk events each year are gone. Growth and development must be integrated into the job, and learning opportunities must be continuously present. We live in the YouTube era whereby on-demand learning on any topic imaginable is only a few keystrokes away. Find out where your employees have developmental interest and steer them towards podcasts, webinars, and other resources you might come across. Opportunities to continuously learn rank high on the list of priorities for Gen Z. Don't let it be an unnecessary hurdle to working with them.
How an employee feels about their job is an incredibly revealing point of reference. It speaks volumes to the individual's daily experience and can be directly tied to any number of operational metrics. It's also highly reflective of the relationship that exists between the employee and his or her immediate supervisor. Finally, it provides a glimpse into the possibilities and improvement opportunities for those willing to acknowledge them and humble enough to pursue them.
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