Five ways to improve team engagement

Five ways to improve team engagement

Successful teams who consistently achieve superior results are filled with highly motivated, engaged team members who approach their job with energy, enthusiasm and creativity. But where do you find these people who are willing to put in the extra effort? People who provide exceptional customer service, who look for ways to support business growth and who are brilliant at working with others in the team to come up with innovative solutions?

Imagine the results your team could achieve if everyone fitted this description! For many businesses this image is nothing more than a dream. These types of team members seem few and far between, and that’s because they are. Highly engaged employees are rare. According to the most recent Gallop Poll only 24% of Australian team members are ‘engaged’, 20% are ‘actively disengaged’ with the rest being ‘not engaged’.

Engaged employees stand apart from the rest because of the level of discretionary effort they bring to their role. These team members willingly go the extra mile, work with a sense of passion and purpose, and are connected and committed to the company goals.

In contrast, actively disengaged employees are generally disgruntled and looking for ways to disrupt and more often ‘infect’ those around them with their less than positive attitude. And most frustratingly they take up your time and energy managing their behaviours and poor performance. This can impact everything from customer service to sales, quality, productivity and retention.

The group of ‘not engaged’ employees represent the greatest untapped potential for improved team performance and results. Members of this group are not overly hostile but they tend to sleepwalk through the day, watching the clock, bringing with them an unmotivated and uninspired energy to the office. I can relate to this. For most of my working career I have sat firmly in the ‘engaged’ group, willingly going the extra mile to get the best results possible for the business and loving the work I was doing. So to my shock and dismay, several years ago I slipped into the ‘not engaged’ group.

I didn’t have a great relationship with my manager. I felt that the work I was doing was not valued and I was disconnected from the bigger picture and goals of the business. I still enjoyed working with the team but that was not enough. I dreaded the thought of going to work. I watched the clock, counting down the minutes until it was time for coffee, lunch or time to go home. I was going through the motions, continuing to do what was necessary but no more than that.

So with the majority of employees heading to work each day, lacking energy, passion and full engagement, how do we convert these people into highly effective team members to increase performance and sustainable business growth?

Here are five simple strategies from Closing The Gap by Gebauer and Lowman:

1. Know them The relationship between you and you team is a critical factor in team member engagement and performance results. We all respond positively when others demonstrate to us that we matter, that we are respected and that what we bring is of value.

Commit to really getting to know your team. Focus on understanding their strengths, their goals, what drives them, and what is important to them. Get to know them as a person, not just another cog in the wheel.

2. Grow them Being provided opportunities for growth is a significant driver of engagement. A commitment to growth at all levels shows team members there is a future for them within the organisation and a pathway to achieve their career aspirations.

Employees also report a sense of commitment and loyalty towards the business if they have been given opportunities for growth (either formally through courses and seminars or informally through ongoing support, mentoring and advice).

3. Inspire them Engaged employees feel aligned with the business purpose, values and vision. They believe that their work is meaningful and that their contribution is recognised as important.

Team members who put in the extra discretionary effort also like and trust their manager. Inspire the trust and respect of your team through your actions and your authenticity. To learn more about this, check out this article.

4. Involve them Team members must feel like they have an opportunity to really make an impact and to have a say.

Ensure that each and every team member knows how what they do influences business outcomes. Assist them to feel connected to the business vision and part of the success of the business.

The companies that have high employee engagement tap into the knowledge and expertise of their team. Seek feedback from your team ensuring that you genuinely listen to what they have to say. Acknowledge that, given they’re the one on the ‘front line’ their opinion and ideas matter.

5. Reward them Reward and reinforce the behaviours you want. Take notice and provide feedback to your team when you see them demonstrating the behaviours that contribute to team engagement. Likewise challenge behaviour that undermines the team engagement. There must be consequences if you expect behaviours to change.

The performance of your team is directly linked to the engagement of your team. It is your responsibility as the leader of the team to build a culture of engagement. When you do this you will be handsomely rewarded by creating an environment where the team is passionate and committed to producing extraordinary results, maximising business growth and overall performance. And doesn’t that sound like an environment worth creating?

This article first appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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