People Work Best When They Feel Engaged With One Another

People want to enjoy what they do. When they are heard, encouraged when things are difficult and thanked for what they achieve, everyone feels engaged.


James L Katzaman

2 years ago | 6 min read

Taking time to say thanks helps everyone do a better job

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

People want to enjoy what they do. When they are heard on ideas, encouraged when things are difficult and thanked for what they achieve together, everyone feels engaged.

More specifically, that is information management and digital transformation specialist Larry Mount’s vision of employee engagement.

He talked with social media manager, author and blogger Carol Stephen and Randy Clark about how employee engagement works and where it can improve. Clark wrote “The New Manager’s Workbook: A Crash Course in Effective Management,”

Engagement is a four-letter wordWorkplace culture bridges gaps in employee

“Employee engagement is when employees interact with and are in alignment with their company’s goals,” Stephen said.

Too often that’s a vision out of sync with reality.

“From my experience working with organizations, employee engagement is something often given lip service, but little is followed through with,” Clark said. “Ask employees what motivates them. Don’t assume you know or it’s the same as what motivates you.

“Involve people,” he said. “Seek input, ideas and advice. Ask others their opinion. Let people know that what they think matters. Listen to them.”

Then take relationships a step further.

“Catch people doing things right,” Clark said. “Recognize more than results. Share appreciation for activities and character traits.

“For many — especially those in small business — the most difficult part of employee engagement is getting started and then committing the time to continue the effort,” he said.

Overcome Emotional Distance

Stephen recalled that when she worked at big companies, they often encouraged employees to engage and share their personal experiences.

“As a contributor to engagement, I find the size of the public sector effort on an annual basis to be emotionally distanced,” Mount said. “The annual survey measures pan-department, but little effort really occurs in the local segments, save for that by really good managers and leaders.

“As a manager with responsibilities for direct reports and a community of information management and information technology professionals, I make a real effort to engage directly and in person,” he said. “It’s challenging. I now blog and will soon create a podcast to help engage with mechanisms for feedback.”

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Companies often rely on staff surveys to help assess employee engagement. Stephen believes surveys could be effective as long as they are anonymous.

“Anonymized surveys at least present a set of questions around which you can measure specifics,” Mount said. “Repeat use of the questions on a set rhythm can help determine if improvement is being achieved. That anonymity can mask how to get at the red flags being waved at you.

“Dip testing — everything from asking probing questions to inspecting documents and re-performing calculations — and measuring trends can be a really useful way of tracking moods across different groups,” he said. “When you deliver a presentation, do you check that your messages were clear and understood?”

Those looking at the results need to have a clue about the company.

“I once had a hired consultant tell the management staff I wasn’t a good fit for sales because I wasn’t money-motivated,” Clark said. “She didn’t know I was the top salesperson in the company for the year.”

Capitalize On Downtime

Leaders should make time to assess moods and empathy within their employees.

“As a manager, I have ‘downtime’ sessions with my team,” Mount said. “We talk about life stuff so that — as a group — there are things around which we have empathy. The upshot is that I can ask my team for genuine feedback on how the workload is looking, what help they need and so on.”

In short, assessing is a continuous process.

“Assess employees’ moods and empathy all the time, not once in a while,” Stephen said.

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Aside from surveys, tools for engaging with employees are not that technical.

“Speaking directly with employees is an excellent way to engage with them,” Stephen said. “People will often say things when their words aren’t being recorded.”

Clark offered these tips:

  • Offer continuous training.
  • Develop team-building activities.
  • Give recognition and share successes.
  • Show a vision path for employees.
  • Learn what motivates an individual.
  • Ask for their advice.

“Placing employees in win-win situations may be the best way for you to connect with them,” Clark said. “Teammates won’t forget what you did for them.

“Ask others to tell you about their position, responsibilities and challenges,” he said. “You’ll be rewarded with a better understanding of the entire operation. Plus, most people enjoy sharing.”

Managers have to take the initiative by asking how they can help.

“Look for specific areas where you may assist, and don’t end it there,” Clark said. “Leave the door open for others to call on you in the future. If you become known as the person who helps, people will want to help you.”

Remember the Data

Onboarding and exit interviews also contribute to engagement.

“I’ve participated in exit interviews,” Stephen said. “They’re very important. They can work to reduce people leaving the organization.”

Their effectiveness depends on how — or if — the results are applied.

“I fear we do not make best use of the data captured,” Mount said. “Knowledge management in organizations generally is a constant source of missed opportunities. The chance to refocus skills, pass on experience and evolve with changes to how we work are affected.”

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Recognition should be used to reward ideas, good work and loyalty.

“We have minor and major awards,” Mount said. “Some are financial and some in the form of public recognition — the Public Honors List. Loyalty is not so well recognized these days. No silver fob watch for me.”

Benefits from engagement extend beyond pocketbooks.

“I’ve participated in reward programs in the past,” Stephen said. “I found them to be very effective. They’re mostly not about the money, but being recognized.

“A little thank you goes a long way,” she said. “It costs nothing and makes the workplace so much more pleasant.”

Personal reassurance is the greatest morale builder.

“Most people want to know what they do matters,” Clark said. “When a team feels like they make a difference, they strive to reach their goals. A mission statement is only words. They may be great words, but they mean nothing until they’re actualized.

“Great leaders take a step further and offer thanks for specific actions,” he said. “Nothing wrong with platitudes, but specific recognition goes a long way.”

Build On Positives

Happy employees are productive employees. It doesn’t get more complicated than that.

“Promote a positive work environment,” Clark said. “Where do you think more work gets done — a positive work environment or a negative one?”

Every action leads to some sort of reaction.

“Well-being and performance are intrinsically linked,” Mount said. “It’s not a level playing field, though. Larger organizations may have better gearing for welfare and well-being support to employees. Also, where in the world you work matters because legal rights vary so much.”

Workplace social systems are important to the modern employee.

“That’s true if they’re positive and even fun,” Clark said. “People who have fun together appreciate each other more than those who don’t. When people appreciate each other, they help each other get the job done.”

Good alignment puts your values top of mindCore values need to be relevant to and reflect

Traditional workplace concepts successfully retain their original purposes.

“The old ‘tea break’ allows people much needed downtime during a shift,” Mount said. “They recharge, refocus and come back refreshed a little. The same applies to other social network opportunities. These mechanisms allow for ideas to be tested.”

Above all, an organization’s goals and objectives influence both leaders and their employees.

“This takes me back to Maslow and Herzberg and the hierarchy of needs,” Mount said. “Most objectives and goals are set without regard for how they can or will be completed. So quite often, the lack of buy-in upfront is matched by a lack of enthusiasm to switch-up.”

The reverse is what organizations from top to bottom should strive to achieve.

About The Author

Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


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James L Katzaman

Jim Katzaman is a charter member of the Tealfeed Creators' program, focusing on marketing and its benefits for companies and consumers. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as subscribing here on Tealfeed.







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