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5 Tips for Building an Engaged Workforce

Feature Article | November 15, 2016 by Jewell Parkinson

Perhaps the worst kept secret is that engaged employees are essential to sustain a high performing organization. After all, engaged employees drive the results most business aspire to achieve – productivity, retention, customer loyalty, profitability and increased shareholder value.

These outcomes fuel growth and innovation, and offer a competitive edge.

Engaged employees drive results for businesses that fuel growth, innovation and a competitive edge

When you have highly engaged people, the sky is the limit and the impossible becomes possible. Power and potential are unleashed by people who are emotionally committed to the purpose and goals of an organization. Conversely, when employees are not engaged, this can spell disaster. What it takes to promote a highly engaged organization is simple: meet the needs of people.

Here are five ways organizations can increase engagement:

1.  Treat your employees like your customers

We treat our customers with respect, we listen to them, we encourage them and are attentive to their needs. We go above and beyond to show we understand them, their ambitions, their concerns, their constraints and help them visualize and realize their potential. We mobilize resources and dedicate time to serve them.  We empathize with our customers and strive to create memorable experiences that build loyalty and earn trust. By valuing your employees through your actions and words, this will increase engagement. This value can be demonstrated by being observant, providing fluid and frequent feedback, serving as leader, cheerleader and coach, and investing in their development.

2.  Promote purpose and exploit passion

As William Shakespeare once wrote,This above all: to thine own self be true.”  Stay true. Be clear why your organization exists, embrace your humble beginnings, and be consistent with your values and how they translate into the everyday work experience. Hire and promote leaders who embody these values. Own what it is you strive to do to advance society and serve the common good. These seeds, when planted, produce pride which employees need to grow to strengthen their commitment and engagement. This pride must be interwoven into the fabric of the culture.

This sense of pride can also be bolstered by involving employees in philanthropic efforts. Encouraging employees to participate and give back to our communities helps boost engagement as it links a company’s enduring cause to the passions of the individual. People want to work for a company that is committed to make an impact beyond the bottom line. At SAP, our vision is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. This is a profound endeavor. It’s one that all our employees relate to and embrace. We do this not only through the technology we produce, but through social sabbaticals, Month of Service volunteer offerings, and a multitude of sponsorships and related activities. In 2015, over 7,500 SAP North America employees completed over 33,000 hours of community service. Employees feel good about making a difference and having the opportunity to help improve people’s lives.

3. Embrace a servant leadership

The reality remains that most people join companies and leave managers. Leaders play an indispensable role in creating and sustaining the environment for engagement. Focus on the unique needs of each team member to build a sense of community and belonging. Acknowledge the perspectives of others, empower and provide the support needed to meet their professional and personal goals, involve them in decisions, share information, and recognize differentially in ways that resonate with the individual. This leads to higher engagement.

4. Inspire through an inclusive and diverse culture

Qualitative research reveals that employees feel more engaged by being able to bring “all of themselves” to work. Employees are diverse and seek an inclusive environment to contribute their talents and where they can be their authentic selves. This atmosphere cultivates a climate of trust, and with trust comes the freedom to take risks and offer up creative and innovation ideas that result in high quality solutions and services. This also allows for a more enriching collaborative employee experience that is at the heart of a highly engaged workforce and also paramount to producing high performing business outcomes. When employees feel valued and empowered to focus on their strengths and honor their differences, this drives engagement and also serves as a strong competitive advantage.

5. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

As the song title goes, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” … well as it turns out, they’re not the only ones… in fact, we all want to have fun!  We need to laugh, we want to connect, and we want to belong, realize our dreams and have the opportunity to seize the day. Good humor, as opposed to negative sarcasm, can positively impact employee engagement. It serves to help us mange through conflict and find middle-ground. Sharing a good laugh can foster and strengthen relationships.

As noted by David Zinger, humor “can be a retention strategy because when you laugh, you last. When we play together, we stay together — and feel stronger connections.”   

Competition isn’t your enemy and can be a source of productive fun and a catalyst to new ideas. A little friendly competition between employees fosters collaboration and teamwork and can increase employee engagement. Whether it’s creating a cool video, sponsoring a step competition using fitness trackers, or introducing a “shark tank”-like digital innovation virtual competition – this drives innovation in a fun, collaborative and highly engaging way.

Top image via Shutterstock

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