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Every day, rev up the RACE to employee engagement

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The news media regularly report that the U.S. economy is on the rebound.

As businesses begin to hire again and expand their operations, it is important to consider recruiting new qualified employees. It also is equally important to work to retain and grow the existing talent pool.

Businesses need to ensure that both new and veteran employees remain engaged in their work.

You want engaged employees – those who are enthusiastic and committed to their work – in your organization.

According to recent Gallup polls, only about 30 percent of employees are actively engaged, about 50 percent are unengaged and 20 percent are actively disengaged. To put that in perspective, if you have a room of employees, about three-quarters of them are not engaged in their work.

This is a huge problem for employers. Attitudes are contagious; positivity can spread just as quickly as disinterest can spread. The negative attitudes of those unengaged employees can bubble over and infect the entire organization.

The good news is that there are ways to engage your employees.

First and foremost, engagement must begin with the managers. Gallup found that engagement is highest among managers. Use the positive attitudes and skills of your managers to help turn around your workforce.

Engaged managers are excited about their work and excited about the goals of the organization. They can do a lot to create better engagement throughout the workplace.

An acronym, RACE, can help you remember tips for engagement.

RESPECT

Your aim should be to respect employees as individuals. That means that you should respect their ideas, inputs and problems and be aware of how this can affect the organization.

Understand other people's work styles and preferences and trust them to get the job done.

APPRECIATE.

Thank them for the work they do for the little successes we all have. Let them know what they do for you is important.

Send thank you cards after a big project or find something that you can offer within the rules of your organization that can reward them for the work they do.

CONNECT.

Be sure to connect with your staff often. Let them know continually where they stand.

If you do quarterly or annual reviews, that is fine, but those formal reviews should not be a time of stress or uncertainty for them.

They should know walking into those formal reviews how they are doing because you continually connect and provide feedback on their performance, as well as expectations, as part of a team.

EXEMPLIFY.

Positive emotions and attitudes are contagious. Though everyone has days when work is a bit less fun, managers should strive to continually show positive behavior.

Avoid office gossip and avoid bad-mouthing leadership or organizational directions.

Do not neglect training and professional development.

It is important to have great employee benefits such as paid time off, maternity leave and a great working environment, but investing in skill development for your staff is equally important. It sends a message that they are important to the organization.

Offering things such as tuition reimbursement or opportunities to hone skills and interests on company time and money illustrates that you value their commitment, hard work and skills.

It gives them skills that can further help and promote the organization's goals.

A large employer in the central Pennsylvania area had an ongoing leadership academy that went on for many years.

Employees who were picked to attend the biannual workshops truly felt honored to be chosen.

The company president would attend to view final projects and speak to attendees. Graduates would hang their certificates on the walls of the offices and cubicles. It was something they were proud of.

These engaged employees stayed with the company and remained engaged because of it.

BE AN EXAMPLE

What do we do about actively disengaged employees?

Fortunately, some of their attitudes can be changed with the tips mentioned here. If they cannot be changed, more than likely will self-select out. They will find new work or leave the organization.

Don't give up on them, but know that many will leave on their own because they are not a good fit. It's OK to lose people.

Foster engagement every day. Exemplify it yourself, and give your all-stars chances to shine.

Their commitment and energy will be contagious and you will find yourself with engaged, happy employees.

Tom Bux is the director of the Center for Leadership and Workforce Development (workforce.lccc.edu) at Lehigh Carbon Community College, Schnecksville. He can be reached at tbux@lccc.edu.

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