Employee engagement is an employee's involvement with, commitment to, and satisfaction with their work. It is an employee's positive or negative emotional attachment and connection to their job, their coworkers, and their organization. Employees who are the most engaged...
- love what they do
- take pride in their organization
- believe they can make an impact
- work in the best interests of their organization
- feel empowered to help move their organization forward
- initiate new contributions to the organization
But every day, you probably encounter employees who are not fully engaged in their job or your organization. These employees lack full commitment, do not take as much initiative to go above and beyond their job responsibilities, show apathy and passivity, take on fewer projects, participate less, take less pride in the organization, and are not as enthusiastic about their work as they could be.
An employee who is not fully engaged usually was once a fully engaged employee, and may still show signs of engagement from time to time. These employees are the greatest source of untouched potential in any company. Here are 5 reasons why they aren't fully engaged and how to tap their potential.
1. They don't love the work they do.
One of the most common reasons that employees aren't fully engaged is that they don't love what they are doing. Either they wound up in a job that doesn't match what they really want to do, think that they aren't doing the type of work they do best, or no longer find their work mentally stimulating or interesting. In general, the work is no longer exciting to them.
Managers should discover employees' strengths and always try to maximize them in the role, because employees tend to broaden and build their responsibilities, be more creative, and seek personal growth and development opportunities when they are using their strengths.
Similarly, managers should also continually find ways to make their jobs more mentally stimulating, challenging, interesting, new and exciting, and less mundane by moving people around in the organization, adding new responsibilities, and giving employees new projects and a variety of tasks. Most importantly, find out what employees love to do and give them more of it.
2. They don't believe that the work they do is important and valued.
Employees' belief in their work's importance, value, and impact to the organization plays a significant role in their engagement. Research shows that employees who see a clearer connection between the work they do and a positive outcome are more engaged.
Managers can improve employees' belief in their work's importance and the value of their contributions by explaining the importance and value of their work, telling them how they make a difference, creating line of sight between the work they do and organizational outcomes, giving them regular feedback about their progress, and recognizing employees when they do a good job. They should also expose employees to opportunities where they can directly serve and impact others.
3. They don't feel involved or empowered.
Chances are, your less than fully engaged employees feel less involved and empowered at work. Employees who interact with other employees and in various parts of the business tend to be more engaged so give employees opportunities to get involved and stay connected with the business by working collaboratively with other employees, on other projects, and within committees and teams.
Managers should also help employees feel empowered in their areas of responsibilities by including them in or allowing them to make decisions that affect their job, letting them "own" their areas of responsibility, and regularly asking for their feedback and input. Let their voice be heard in the organization.
Most employees really want to feel like they are a part of something special in your organization and want to feel empowered to contribute and own what they do.
4. Their needs aren't being met.
Employees become disengaged when their needs aren't being met in the workplace. Common needs often include social support/relationships, resources and information, knowledge and development, and flexibility - to name just a few. Needs can also be more basic such as fair pay, adequate benefits, job security, and a clean and safe work environment. Being a good manager means understanding employees' needs and where the gaps are, and helping to fulfill them.
One reason why engagement tends to rise as you move up the ladder is that managers and senior leaders have more power to meet their needs. They have more discretion over their workload and can delegate less interesting tasks to others, are more connected to others within the organization through meetings and initiatives, have more access to acquiring new knowledge and skills, are privy to more information and resources, and are more likely to be selected to participate in formal training and development opportunities. Their pay and promotional or growth prospects also tend to be better.
Conversely, non-management employees rely on their managers to fulfill these needs, and when they don't, they can become disengaged.
5. They don't feel cared about.
It's all too common for employees to feel small, insignificant, and uncared for in organizations. Employees want to work for managers who care about them as professionals, but also as human beings. Employees are most engaged when they feel that their manager genuinely cares about their well-being, takes time to develop positive and quality working relationships with them, doesn't ignore them, and treats them respectfully and fairly.
Even more importantly, managers need to find joy in employees' success and help them achieve that success. They should make an effort to help develop employees' skills and abilities. Employees hang back and are less committed when they think their manager isn't paying attention to them or doesn't really care about them and their success.
When your employees know you're consistently there for them, care about them personally, and want them to succeed, you’ll be surprised at how engaged they can become.
Next time you feel challenged with your less engaged employees, use this as a guide to increase their engagement. These minor changes to their job, work experience, and your behavior as a manager can often make a huge difference.
Research shows that high employee engagement leads to increased retention, productivity and business success. ERC's Employee Engagement Survey service assesses employees' level of engagement, identifies the drivers of engagement at your organization, and provides recommendations on practical steps your organization can take to improve employee engagement.