Through Emotional Intelligence
In the ever changing world of business and industry, employers and consultants are constantly trying to think of new and innovative ways to improve and increase productivity, efficiency and of course the almighty profit margin and with many studies showing that engaged employees are 20% more productive/efficient than their unengaged counterparts this makes them the most valuable resource in the arsenal of any business. Employers have tried everything from free food in the breakroom to expensive prizes and vacations for top employees, and while the thought of a tasty donut excites the Homer Simpson in all of us, this tactic of “productivity= external reward” is more at home in a three-ring circus than in your office. The point that many employers miss when it comes to engaging their employees is actually quite simple and obvious, they must be engaged. No, that doesn’t mean bosses around the country will start getting down on bended knee to ask for their workers hand in marriage (or will they?). It means that employees are real people; human beings that want to feel autonomous, competent, useful and connected. These needs must be addressed individually and consistently to encourage employees to feel engaged and invest themselves emotionally in their job and in your company.
The first step in engaging your employees is to become emotionally intelligent, don’t worry, the vast majority of studying involved is of yourself. You must be self-aware and empathetic towards those around you. Understand your own emotions and learn to control them regardless of the situation you are in or what pressure you may be under. If you let your emotions control you then you begin to simply react to problems instead of responding and resolving them, this is a critical mistake that can alienate workers by making them feel that management isn’t competent to deal with their issues. Think about how the words and actions of others make you feel and then consider how your own decisions and interactions can affect those around you. Try to foster a nurturing environment where expression is safe and encouraged, this is a relatively new strategy that is in stark contrast to the way many people have been taught to handle themselves at work/school where traditionally emotional repression is supported and outward expression is discouraged. For those who have seen the movie Office Space, don’t be a Bill Lumbergh!
Now that you have the emotional intelligence, patience and empathy of Oprah, Mother Teresa and a Tibetan Monk all rolled into one its time to focus on the actual management of your employees and utilizing their skills and abilities. Try to assign tasks that allow your employees to learn and grow as people, while building on skills they already possess. This will prepare them for even greater roles and increase competence. Be careful though that you don’t thrust an employee into a situation that they aren’t prepared to handle, evaluate their abilities, provide pertinent information, demonstrate work methods and give reinforcing encouragement and feedback on their performance. An employee who feels that they are gaining useful skills/knowledge and are working towards higher qualified positions will be more engaged and productive than someone who doesn’t see any opportunity to improve themselves. Remember, you employ human beings, not robots… unless you actually do employ robots… in which case we want some of those robots…
Relatedness to the broader work of the organization is the next concern that we shall discuss. If you know the work you do directly affects the success of your company then you are much more likely to put your full effort into doing an exemplary job. This fulfills the natural desire we have to feel needed and in control while providing the satisfaction of being responsible for tangible success. Motivation is a large part of cultivating this mindset and continuing positive reinforcement combined with acknowledgement of a job well done goes a long way. Make the success of the company the success of the individual and show appropriate appreciation. Stay away from sales contests or flashy prizes however, as these pit people against one another and feel more like a manipulation technique than positive reinforcement.
Lastly, your employees want to feel like they belong, that they’re part of a community that cares about them more than it cares about the bottom line. Start by reviewing how your company welcomes new workers to the team, do they simply receive a tour of the office and a handshake? Are they introduced to members of the staff that they will be interacting with? Given a new hire mentor? Briefed on the goals of the team? These are just some of the many steps that can be taken to make a new employee feel more comfortable in their professional environment. Additionally, some companies provide services like on-site child care or a wellness program which may include an in-house gym or a company nutritionist. Even simple gestures such as asking about someone’s day and showing genuine interest in their opinions/concerns can convey your appreciation for their contribution to your organization.
At the core of employee engagement is emotional intelligence, a smart leader understands their own feelings while putting the feelings of their team and clients first. Showing people that they matter to your company and that they aren’t just a replaceable asset will foster a symbiotic relationship that benefits all parties and gives your brand the edge needed to thrive in today’s ultra-competitive business world.