By Anne Evenson
These tactics inspire your team to perform at the highest level, while also fostering a supportive work environment.
“Great leaders inspire people to have confidence in themselves.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, American political figure, diplomat and activist
Do your employees arrive at work every day passionate about their jobs and ready to contribute to organizational goals? If not, you may have an employee engagement gap, where staff feel unmotivated and disconnected from their roles. A disengaged team is a significant problem and can have adverse effects on productivity, retention and customer service.
If you’re uncertain about how to cultivate an engaged and motivated team, don’t despair. There are plenty of strategies you can use to foster an environment full of positive energy, purpose and commitment. Here are five ways to align your employee engagement strategies with your business objectives.
Set Realistic Goals & Clear Expectations
Each time you approach your team with a project or set of assignments, remember to define your expectations clearly. If your employees are confused about their objectives or how their work fits into the organization’s larger goals, it will be difficult for them to muster enthusiasm for their work. Be as detailed as possible when outlining project parameters and verify that everyone understands your instructions, and encourage questions to clear up any confusion. Once you’ve outlined a project for your team, be sure to monitor their productivity. Tracking team progress will help you know whether you’ve succeeded in motivating and engaging your employees and allow you to course-correct when necessary.
Urge your team to break out of their comfort zones by setting stretch goals. Establish targets that are just beyond an individual’s current capability, and you’ll inspire them to move past their perceived limitations and make significant professional breakthroughs. Ensure that these new responsibilities are manageable for your team members while also remaining challenging enough so they can learn new skills and have fresh experiences. Stretch goals are also a great way to show your staff that you believe in their ability to perform at a higher level.
Trust is the foundation of every relationship, and it all begins with good communication. Start by always keeping your team in the loop to maintain their connection with the organization. Update your staff regularly on the organization’s financial situation and long and short-term goals. Explain how this information will affect them and their jobs. If you don’t share crucial company information, your team will likely come to their own conclusions, which often results in confusion and conflict.
Don’t micromanage your employees. Some managers think that giving their team too much latitude creates a lax environment that will result in employees slacking off. There’s no faster way to torpedo your team’s motivation than by removing their agency. People value their independence. Granting your staff autonomy demonstrates that you trust them to take ownership of their work and time. If possible, let your staff set their schedules and show that you trust them to get the job done under their own recognizance. Emphasize results instead of rules, and you’ll be astonished at how energized your employees are to meet any challenge.
Show Them You Care
Get to know your employees so you can connect with them. Ask them about their families or interests outside of work. The more you know about their experiences and what’s important to them, the better you’ll be at identifying their motivators.
Encourage your staff to practice self-care by offering more work/life balance opportunities. Offer telecommuting and flexible work hours so they can meet their personal and professional responsibilities without suffering from burnout.
Be kind. Nothing kills an employee’s spirit faster than an insensitive manager. Every person on your team is a human being and deserves dignity and respect. Try to address individual behaviors rather than personality quirks. Be tolerant of mistakes and only offer constructive criticism. If someone is performing at a substandard level, communicate this to them privately with care and tact.
Acknowledge Good Work
When your staff members successfully achieve their goals, recognize a job well done. Many times, a heartfelt thank you is all that’s required to let your employee know that you appreciate their efforts. There are also more tangible ways to express your gratitude, like taking them to lunch or offering gift cards to their favorite coffee shop or restaurant. Non-financial rewards include extra days off, a public shout-out on company social media or a VIP parking spot.
Reward ingenuity and innovation. Give your team permission to think creatively and brainstorm new ideas and initiatives. Let them know you value their opinion. They’ll likely be more invested and engaged if they’re working on things that they helped conceptualize. If someone’s suggestion for optimizing a new communications strategy doesn’t pan out, don’t criticize them. Instead, use the opportunity as a teachable moment and encourage your staff to apply lessons learned to other projects.
Support Career Advancement Opportunities
Support your team’s professional aspirations, so they know their work benefits the organization and their career. Speak with your employees about their ambitions and work with them to meet their goals. Offer members of your team opportunities for promotion. One of the biggest demotivators is when people feel stuck in the same job with no chance for advancement. If you demonstrate commitment to promoting from within, your employees will work harder to climb the ladder.
And most importantly, monitor your staff salaries and benefits. Money isn’t usually the only driving force behind workplace enthusiasm, but it’s still an essential element. Be sure that you’re offering compensation and incentives commensurate with or above average for your location and industry, if possible.
An organization’s employees are its largest resource and most important asset, so it’s critical that they remain motivated and engaged. If you consistently strive to offer support, encouragement and inspiration, you’ll attract and retain the best individuals for the job and create a place where people want to work!
Anne Evenson is a marketing specialist and copy editor working in Austin, Texas. She holds a BFA in Fibers and Printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute.
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