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Seven Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

Seven Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

Dave Anderson

The past few years have brought a stronger awareness of the importance of engaged employees in the workplace. In fact, “employee engagement” has become a mantra for manufacturers and dealers alike in their quest to attract, develop and retain talent. At the same time, conventional wisdom has long asserted that happy and satisfied employees should be a priority, and many assume that if employees are happy with their work and satisfied with their workplace that their engagement is a given. This is nonsense, and here’s why:

  • Some employees are happy to hang out by the water cooler much of the day and gossip, snack, and work hard at looking busy. Could you honestly call this happy employee engaged?
  • Some employees are satisfied to do just enough daily to get by, just enough to get paid, and just enough not to get fired; not the behaviors any rational person would deem as engaged.

The reality is that employee engagement doesn’t come from an employee being happy or satisfied; happiness and satisfaction result from an employee being engaged with their work, and at their workplace.  To dig deeper, let’s get past the buzzword aspect of “engagement”, and examine insights into what it looks like in practice and how to create it.

  1. Employee engagement happens when an employee is emotionally invested in the company’s goals. His or her work isn’t just a job, but a cause; they aren’t interested only in what they can get from the job but what they can become as a person while on the job. Yes, the employee wants to make money, but she also wants to make a difference; she doesn’t feel like just a number, but part of something special.
  2. The degree to which an employee is emotionally invested in a company’s goals will depend largely on the strength of the relationship he has with his direct supervisor. It’s incumbent on the leader to initiate the relationship with an employee and take the lead to strengthen it over time. To this end, a leader must prioritize spending time with people-work over paperwork. Otherwise he’s likely to substitute rules for relationships, reaping a banquet of compliance over committed engagement throughout the ranks.
  3. When a leader substitutes rules for relationships he gets rebellion, not engagement. Rebellion manifests in many ways: from coming into work late, to doing the bare minimum to get by, to not speaking well of co-workers or the company when away from the job.
  4. Empowering team members with latitude and discretion increases engagement. Helping your people become less dependent on you by empowering them to make more of their own decisions, solve their own problems, and implement their own ideas builds their self-esteem and allows them to take more ownership in their jobs. Empowering is more than simply telling someone it’s ok to do something; it means creating clear expectations for what you expect and helping them develop the skills to deliver.
  5. Helping your team members develop a personal growth program improves their level of engagement. Little creates more goodwill and engagement than when you take a personal, hands-on interest in helping the people on your team grow personally so they can reach their fullest potential. Helping them define growth objectives, and then determining the resources necessary to achieve them not only increases engagement, it builds a higher sense of loyalty to you personally, and to the organization.
  6. Learning to motivate each team member as a unique individual, rather than like a head in a herd of cattle strengthens engagement. Vince Lombardi was spot on when he said decades ago, “My job is to learn forty different ways to move forty different men.” Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, aspirations and motivational triggers. You must know people to move people in these areas, and to know them you must spend meaningful time with them building a productive relationship; all of which is engaging. When an employee believes his or her boss cares enough to “get” them, engagement soars.
  7. Successfully addressing the three key heart questions elevates engagement levels. While “head” issues are naturally important to employees: compensation, benefits, scheduling and the like, “heart” issues are even more essential if you want to maximize employee engagement. Here are three questions every workplace must answer well to engage employees at their highest level: 1. “What will I become by working here?” 2. “What will I become a part of by working here?” 3. “What difference will I be able to make by working here?” Employees motivated by what they have a chance to become as a person; by being part of a special team, and by the opportunity to make a real difference move from feeling enslaved to engaged; from subordinates to followers; from driven stakes to stakeholders.

There’s much more to say about employee engagement, and dozens of additional strategies and tactics one can use to create it. These seven points, however, provide both a checklist to evaluate how you’re doing as a leader; and a blueprint to begin taking more proactive action to maximize engagement in your dealership.

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