Before we look at ways to create an engaged workforce, last week we talked about the importance of employee engagement, including what the phrase means and some of the tangible advantages it can bring to any organisation. Here, we will go through a practical eight-stage process that will help towards making that engaged workforce a reality.

1) Get to know people

People like to be treated as equals. Spend time with employees and you will find out what drives and motivates them. That doesn’t mean hauling them into the office one at a time to quiz them on their dreams and aspirations — just taking the time to ask them about their families or chat for five minutes on non-work topics will help staff feel valued and appreciated as part of the team.

2) Give them the tools they need

If employees are not clear about what they are supposed to be doing and lack the skills to do it effectively, they will never feel engaged. Ensure adequate training is provided to allow everyone to fulfil the role allocated in his or her job description. An “open door” policy to troubleshoot problems before they get the chance to fester is also a practical policy.

3) Foster development

With point two in place, employees have the chance to thrive and flourish, so take a step back and give them the space to do so. The best employees will start to develop and outgrow their roles, so ensure they have the opportunity to branch out and try new things — for example, give them the opportunity to manage their own projects.

4) Avoid mushroom management

Mushrooms grow best when kept in the dark and fed on a diet of manure. It doesn’t work with people. Keep the workforce regularly updated on how the overall business is doing through meetings, newsletters and bulletins. After all, the success or failure of the organisation depends on everyone.

5) Encourage teamwork

We are social creatures and the notion of being part of a winning team gives us a satisfying, cheerful feeling, whether it is at work or on the sports field. There’s nothing like pulling together to win that big account or deliver a major project ahead of time and below budget.

6) Invite feedback — and listen to it

We have posted before about how communication can sometimes be a one-way street. Ensure everyone in the organisation has the opportunity to have their voice heard, whether it is through meetings, questionnaires, surveys or other means. Just as important is ensuring that the feedback is acknowledged and, where possible, acted upon. Wherever this is not feasible, ensure that staff get some response to show you are listening.

7) Carrots, not sticks

If people feel intimidated at work, they will not be engaged. Yet many organisations run performance-based processes where targets must be met, and the consequences of failure can be unpleasant. Targets and objectives are fine and can foster engagement when they are realistic, attainable and everyone is working towards them. But add a fear of failure into the mix and the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

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