“Employee engagement” is a hot topic among businesses today, and for good reason. Statistics have shown that employee engagement is directly connected to high performance teams and, in turn, to company performance and revenue. There are innumerable theories, tips, and even organizations devoted to the question of how to best foster employee engagement. At 9Lenses, we have found that frequently the best way to make sense of an issue is to go to its source. To truly understand the things that both aid and discourage employee engagement, therefore, we mined our data for the most telling employee engagement quotes. Seven themes stood out in particular due to the number of times we saw employees repeat them. The following quotes illustrate those themes.
Balanced Communication is Key to Engagement
1. “I think within any particular department, communication is good to excellent, whereas communication between multiple different departments tends to be poor and even confrontational.”
Siloed departments are fatal to productivity. The most obvious loss of productivity comes from the time lost searching for information and the defensive posture teams adopt to compensate for poor communication. But lax communication practices across departments can also damage employee morale. Underlying political tension between departments tends to create conflict and sap employee willingness to engage in necessary interactions. This conflict is organic; people tend to value what they understand, and departments performing entirely different tasks within a business will frequently have conflicting values. Without sound cross-departmental communication, conflict will naturally arise from the normal workflow of a business.
2. “A lot of the time we get so many emails I do not know which ones are for [local Account Executives] or [global Account Executives]. Plus I get so many emails I do not have time to read the internal ones as well as I sometimes should.”
On the other hand, communication can be a hindrance if there is too much of it. Frequency or volume of communication is not always directly proportional to good communication. As the quote above illustrates, people can easily become overwhelmed by information, particularly if it is not immediately relevant to their daily work. Leaders need to achieve the delicate balance between giving employees enough information to keep them informed and overwhelming them with so much irrelevant information that they begin to disengage from established communication loops.
Leaders are Key to Employee Engagement
3. “My manager encourages everyone to train on anything and everything they can in their department. A more knowledgeable employee means they can fill in for others that aren’t at work.”
Conventional wisdom suggests that a good leader is one who cultivates the skills of individual team members. Not only is cultivating team skills a good leadership practice, it is also an excellent catalyst for motivating employee performance. When employees see leaders willing to invest in the success of the team, they tend to be more receptive to changes. They also become more personally invested in success because they know they have an advocate who wants to see them succeed. Moreover, employees with a broad set of skills tend to have a greater capacity to contribute to the team, and thus they have more opportunities to engage at work. Leaders, therefore, are integral to providing employees with opportunities to engage and cultivate skills.
4. “The Executive Team spends a lot of time and resources to make sure that we have that clear understanding…and that we also believe in these values and priorities. My direct reports make sure that I understand my priorities and those of the company extremely well.”
Buy-in is one of the many business concepts that is essential to effective engagement, yet it is easy to neglect. One of the persistent root causes for disengaged employees is improper expectation setting on the part of both leadership and employees. Leaders fail to communicate the correct priorities to employees, and employees fail to communicate their lack of understanding to leaders. Leaders who spend the time ensuring that people actually do understand what is important and, more significantly, why certain things are priorities will ensure that employees are far more on board with the priorities of the organization.
Authenticity is Essential to Motivating Employees
5. “While I hear much about the company focus it is usually with the leadership’s ‘positive’ spin and not how it’s viewed in reality or how it affects employees. . . . We are becoming more and more like our competitors and losing [our] brand.”
Trying to cast every decision as a “win” is the opposite of effective leadership communication. Most employees are acutely aware of authenticity. While it is well-intentioned, communication that tries to cast everything in a positive light can come across as artificial and duplicitous. There is much to be said for maintaining a positive attitude, yet leaders should understand that most employees prefer honesty. “Black box” decision making with rose-colored-glasses communication is antithetical to healthy employee engagement. Acknowledging that tough decisions were made takes courage, but if leaders follow through, employees tend to appreciate genuineness.
6. “What I love most from [this company] is that people BELIEVE in what we are building. Therefore, great business culture.”
A leader’s engagement with the goals of the organization is perhaps one of the most neglected topics in employee engagement discussions. It is easy to discuss how to motivate the mid-performers and what distinguishes the top-performers. While these discussions are useful, they will do little to advance engagement if an organization’s leaders do not actually believe in the goals they claim to espouse. Successful leaders truly believe in the mission they have set out to accomplish. They have not pulled their values out of thin air or determined their priorities because it is required of them. Leaders cannot fake infectious energy or pretend to believe in something for the sake of motivating people. The best leaders are the ones who are so invested in the organization’s goals that they infect everyone with that same level of enthusiasm.
7. “We have become so highly motivated by the bottom line that we have lost sight of the values of our corporate culture that we had before we went public. I have had to spend too much time discussing the real reason behind change and acknowledging what the staff already figured out.”
The opposite of authentic leadership is monetary opportunism. To an extent, all businesses must focus on the “bottom line” – after all, a business needs money to survive. That focus on the bottom line, however, should not be the end of the business. Instead, it should be the metric by which leaders determine how successfully they are fulfilling the mission of the organization. Culture becomes the critical element to this goal. If the organization does not have goals beyond seeking profit, employees will often struggle to find meaning in their work. Leaders, therefore, should strive to promote a culture that focuses on fulfilling the mission of the organization.
These seven employee engagement quotes illustrate several of the critical areas of a business that ultimately affect employee engagement. Poor communication, weak leadership, and lack of authenticity can all contribute to employee disengagement. Improving communication, ensuring leadership is engaged, and focusing an organization’s goals and priorities on its overall mission will set the stage for an organization of highly engaged employees.
[image type=”thumbnail” src=”https://www.9lenses.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Strategies-for-Building-High-Performance-Teams-ebook-Download-Graphic-1-1.png” link=”true” href=”http://offers.9lenses.com/building-high-performance-teams” alt=”words leaders use”]