7 Ways Managers Can Keep Employees Engaged

Original Article - https://www.ama.org/partners/content/Pages/7-ways-keep-employees-engaged.aspx

When employees are fully engaged and immersed in their work, they can achieve astounding results. Read more about a manager’s role in employee engagement. 

Engaged employees are easy to recognize. Distinctively energized with confidence, positivity, and an extraordinary will to achieve, their presence inspires those around them to excel. They are leaders by example. Calm, confident, yet intensely focused on the task ahead, they view any challenge as an opportunity.

When employees are fully engaged and immersed in their work, they can achieve astounding results. Team commitment to organizational goals can spread like wildfire, thrusting your business forward with a shared drive to achieve. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that 71% of workers consider themselves unengaged or uninspired at work. If employees are apathetic, dissatisfied with management, or disengaged with their daily duties, an organization is in peril. Without a desire for excellence, employees can’t contribute to the team’s collaborative efforts, causing stagnation that can destroy a business from the inside.

However, the blame rarely rests on one unengaged employee’s shoulders. In the business world, systemic mediocrity starts at the top, and team failure is a failure of leadership. Managers create the environment that can spur engagement, improve performance, and elicit the power of employees working together for a common goal. Through strategic leadership and positive, direct communication, managers can instill a sense of excellence and productivity throughout the organization.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Numbers Behind MBA Online Graduates Survey

Employee engagement begins with the leader, and teams need strong leaders to succeed and thrive.

1. Set a Time and Method for Regular Updates

The primary force behind employee engagement is the communicative environment in which the work takes place. While managers must set realistic expectations and properly delegate to employees, communication is critical. While leaders want to avoid micromanaging their team, they must have a finger on the pulse of operations. Consistently positive interactions with the group and beneficial relations with individual employees are ideal to foster engagement while developing the insight to be an effective manager.

Each employee has a unique communication style, and effective leaders need to understand what works best for him or her. There are myriad ways to check in with employees that will make them feel at ease and able to speak freely. Training sessions, written memos, email communications, and regular meetings can all work toward positive engagement with employees.

2. Give Employees What They Want and Need

Don’t just assume that every employee has all the tools, training, and support from supervisors they need — check in with them personally and find out. Being clear about the purpose when meeting can be beneficial as well.

Before trying to discern what an employee wants or needs, think about the goals in doing so. This could include:

  1. Minimizing resistance
  2. Reducing personal anxiety
  3. Ensuring clarity of objectives
  4. Sharing information or company vision
  5. Obtaining clarity
  6. Minimizing uncertainty

3. Blend Work and Play — Make It Fun to Engage

Blending work and play can transform a workplace, and a touch of humor can go a long way. Engaged employees usually feel that their professional lives are enjoyable, find happiness in their vocation, and have fun being great at what they do. To engaged employees, the lines between work and play are blurred.

When employees are happy, growing, learning, and becoming better, they feel alive and energized. When employees are engaged in their work and contributing to their organization, they expertly combine work and play.

Smile every once in a while. Showing a human side in a position of authority is disarming, endearing, and can be incredibly beneficial. Most employees get much more done when they are enjoying themselves, feel comfortable with management, and take a playful but diligent approach to their career.

4. Implement Incentive Programs to Recognize Great Work

A great way to improve employee engagement and encourage excellence is adding monetary incentives to typical compensation and benefits packages. This rewards professional achievement for individuals and stimulates team performance. In the same spirit, make sure the pay and benefits for the team are competitive. Employees may be uncomfortable or reluctant to divulge unhappiness about their compensation with management, so employers should do some market research.

Positive feedback, recognition, and appreciation for a job well done can be very effective at creating an environment of professional engagement. Managers should never fail to recognize an excellent work ethic, stellar performance, or outstanding results. By expressing gratitude immediately rather than waiting for a quarterly review, leaders are encouraging success, boosting morale, and increasing employee engagement.

5. Set Attainable Short-Term Goals

Being a great manager means setting expectations, delegating authority, and measuring employees’ effectiveness. World-class leaders convey precise expectations that aren’t too high, delegate just enough authority to not overburden employees, and measure effectiveness in terms of reasonably attainable goals.

When managers clearly assign tasks that an employee can accomplish quickly, they will find success and gain the confidence to achieve more. However, if they set unreasonable expectations, delegate too much responsibility, or judge too critically at the beginning of a working relationship, they can cause an employee to disengage.

Some of the best employees thrive on failure, using such experiences to grow, but this only happens in an environment of support and confidence. Set a few easy goals when an employee starts at the company and he or she will be confident from the beginning — and more likely to stay engaged.

6. Clearly Define the Long-Term Goals and Vision

Engaged employees maintain their sharp focus when they feel like they are contributing to a worthwhile endeavor. When the core mission statement is clearly defined and employees can see the same vision for the business that managers do, every task has a purpose. When everyone understands the reasons behind the work they’re doing and shares in a singular purpose, collaborative engagement thrives throughout the workplace.

Making the long-term goals known and vision clearly understood is especially important for senior managers. Every employee is engaged in his or her work as a result of the direction senior leaders provide. Their team should understand the enterprise’s long-term goals, how they drive the overall strategy, and the purpose behind that strategy. Employees are then fully engaged and immersed in the strategic vision, driven to excellence by the knowledge that every task, action, and success is important as a small part of a greater design.

7. Be Transparent: Communicate Well and Often

One of the keys to effective leadership is cultivating an environment of transparency. Employees are engaged when they feel comfortable telling the truth and trust managers’ word. Leaders don’t have to be great commanders to be great communicators, but they must be trustworthy communicators to be great commanders.

Managers should be completely transparent, forthright in their speech, and follow through with actions that align with and back up their words. Through the power of personal integrity, employees will reciprocate their sincerity with dedication, respect, and loyalty that isn’t forced or coerced, but earned. 

Managers who are accessible, fair-minded, and open to others’ ideas will earn their employees’ trust and unlock their professional potential. When employees respect a manager’s word, they listen, are engaged, and can contribute to the shared mission and achieve remarkable results.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Numbers Behind MBA Online Graduates Survey

Learn More

If you’re a working professional who’s ready to develop the critical thinking skills and practical managerial expertise that drive the world’s top companies, the online MBA program from the prestigious Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management is a great way to get started. Discover a values-centered, collaborative, and experience-driven online MBA program designed for working professionals.

Inc.: 6 Ways to Keep Your Remote Workers Engaged and Productive 
eSkill Blog: 10 Steps to Keeping Employees Engaged and Motivated
Business.com: How To Keep Your Employees Happy, Engaged, Productive And Loyal 
Dale Carnegie Training: Engaged Employees Infographic 
Entrepreneur.com: 5 Steps to Getting (and Keeping) Employees Engaged at Work

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