Not so long ago, I had the delight of working with a very creative leader. There had been a recent merger of departments and we had been tasked with putting on a market stall event to share what all the parts of the business did. Our Team Lead held a meeting suggesting we took on the theme of a funfair for our stall. By carefully painting the vision of how it could look, other team members were soon clamouring to add their ideas and the team set to work to create the stall.
Even more to the point, the Manager took a few of the team for a walk around the pound shop to buy materials from jumping beans to coloured cardboard! I think what stood out to me was that the Manager was clearly prepared to invest in the event, knowing it would give the team a buzz and unite the team together in a very productive manner. That Leader always had a very united, loyal team and this was partly down to the creative atmosphere she fostered.
Recent studies show the UK continues to rank the bottom third for employee engagement and that’s despite the majority of companies investing in increasing their employee engagement. (See the link here for some statistics)
Bringing fun into the workplace
What stands out to me over the last 30 years is how life at work has become more intense and less fun-filled.
We are at work for enough hours to affect our whole work/life balance and as Employers, we need to invest time into building some fun into the workplace.
I’ve been known to hide hearts around the workplace on Valentine’s day for employees to find. With a prize at the end for those who handed their hearts in. Other fun activities have been a buffet with a funny hat’s competition – nothing like having a straw hat with teddy bears having a picnic on and walking around with it on.
I’ve also had Managers dress up for Halloween and team members have devised their own version of apple bobbing etc. All these events went well down with the teams and built togetherness across the teams.
As a Lead, employees will then see you are happy for work to include fun, be flexible and it makes you more approachable. Big bosses worry about the downtime but management information taken at the time, showed an increase in productivity prior to the event and then afterwards, making up for the time lost. This increase continued for many weeks.
What also clearly works in building employee engagement, is where there’s a problem, to include the team in identifying the root causes and then coming up with solutions. If the team are involved, then they will buy into the outcome and will work to make the solution a success. I’ve seen an aversion to trying new ideas. There seems to be a worry that if it goes wrong there is no going back, but in the majority of ideas I’ve been involved in, there is very little to lose, other than time.
A leader who stands up and says sorry, I got it wrong, will find that it improves their credibility, providing it is genuine. It just makes you more human and down to earth, and again builds employee engagement.
What else works well in building engagement is recognising hard work and achievements.
Where there is a reward involved though, then there needs to be a clear and consistent approach as otherwise, it can create a divide if an employee gets a reward but another person, for a similar input doesn’t. And we all think it doesn’t get out in the public domain but let me assure you it usually does.
Do you remember the days of written thank you notes?
They were lovely to receive. How about trying this approach with your employees? Another approach is encouraging employees to nominate one another for a helpful colleague award or even simply just thanking their colleagues for support.
How often do we really appreciate what others do for us? Also encourage employees to celebrate one another’s successes, as it builds the team and engagement.
In my early working days, bosses tended to keep “inside information” away from employees and employees would see Leads and Managers whispering in corners. Thankfully I don’t see this often these days.
It is worth remembering though, that employees like to be part of the inside knowledge before it is released to the general public. It makes them feel they are all part of the bigger team and that they are trusted.
Trust builds loyalty and commitment.
Another way to build engagement is to treat your employees like adults and give them responsibility.
Times I’ve seen Managers treat their team members like children and not delegate tasks because they felt they couldn’t trust the team members to get the right outcomes.
The thing is how do you know if you don’t give it a go?
And how do we learn but by taking on new tasks?
Yes, the Manager needs to support through this, but they mustn’t take over the task. And if the person doesn’t get it right then don’t take the task away, just coach the person to a successful outcome next time. Taking away a job reinforces to the person they are a failure and demoralises.
Lastly, if you are following all the employee engagement tips and have researched and implemented them and your employee engagement is still low, then you really do need to reconsider your recruitment processes and induction process.
If you are getting this right, then you are bringing the right kind of employees into your business to make it a success. The Induction will set the scene on the business’s culture and vision and pave the way to future engagement.
Want to understand how to influence people at work then why not listen to the podcast or read the blog here.
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