Engagement is a journey, not a destination, but the culture you foster is the place to start.
6 min read
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Have you ever worked at a job that you had mentally checked out of? It’s not great, right? You’re no longer invested in much of anything in the job anymore. You don’t really bother to get closer with any of your coworkers. You’re literally just there to do what you’re asked and then get a paycheck.
As hard as it is to work a job that you’re not engaged in, it may be just as hard, if not harder, to try to supervise a group of employees who are no longer engaged. Maybe you know what that’s like from personal experience. If so, this article isn’t about judging you. It’s about helping you. Dealing with this is rough, but now is as good a time as any to overhaul the culture in your workplace and help your team get engaged and motivated.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the elephant in the room. As a manager, your team has a vested interest in giving you the answers that you want to hear. You directly influence whether or not they can pay their bills. So it will take intentional effort on your part to make sure that your team feels safe speaking with you about important things regarding work.
Start with simple things. Most companies say they have an open-door policy, but do your employees actually believe that? Take steps to convince them. Consider hosting feedback sessions to get your team accustomed to the idea of speaking plainly with you. Ask for feedback during meetings, especially from team members who may not usually voice their opinion. Maybe even try an anonymous form of feedback. Google docs can help you make anonymous surveys for your employees to use.
It’s of course not enough to just ask for feedback. Take a look at what your employees wrote and make whatever changes you can. That sounds obvious, but it’s important to demonstrate to your team members that their opinions will be valued and reflected in their work experience. These things will help get the ball rolling. But the work is far from done. It may take time for your team members to warm up to the idea of giving open feedback, so let’s work on getting them plugged in.
Focus on building team connectedness
Along with a culture of openness, your team needs to feel connected and engaged. That can be tricky in the time of Covid-19. But it can still be done. You probably already know that virtual meetings are a crucial part of helping things feel normal. However, those meetings really only help if everyone keeps his or her cameras on and you keep the meetings relatively short. Let’s be honest: Nobody likes a meeting that could be an email — even if it is on Zoom.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when utilizing these virtual meetings. Zoom can be used for work meetings, but it can be used for other things. Try setting up a virtual break room. This will be an effective way for people to still socialize with their coworkers and managers even when they have to work from home. If you feel comfortable with a bit of planning, try hosting game days or nights for employees to have fun together. Maybe even put some of your team in charge of running game night. The goal isn’t just to have fun, but to form connections with coworkers and their employees.
Feeling connected at work can make us feel more productive. Researchers have found that work friends can positively influence performance overall. In turn, productivity often increases. Workers are also less afraid to ask for help from people they were already friends with. Like I mentioned earlier, you want to form bonds, but not turn your office into a hangout. You keep the goal of your office in mind without stifling engagement by empowering your team.
Empower them to pursue their interests
Once your employees are more open and more connected than they were before, you should direct your energy toward empowering them.
What do I mean by that? It might be time for a few one-on-one meetings with your employees to get a feel for what they’re passionate about or at least interested in. Be transparent with them. These meetings can help better align your team members with roles that they’re more likely to enjoy and be engaged with.
You can also glean some additional information from these meetings about potential side projects. Side projects are a great way to both help employees find their strong suits and empower them to practice leadership. The additional responsibility can get them more engaged, and you also can get a closer look at whom you may want to promote to managerial positions in the future.
Those side projects don’t even have to actually be work. You may want to present your employees with some personal projects that might interest them outside of work. These projects can line up with some of their work interests while still giving them something enjoyable to do outside of their job. Volunteer opportunities can even help in this regard as well. Try simply encouraging your team to develop hobbies. Seriously. Researchers have found possible links between hobbies outside of work and productivity inside of work. It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to get them more engaged at work is to encourage them to do something different when they’re not at work.
Related: 6 Steps to Build a Strong Team
Engagement is a journey, not a destination. Consider this the first step in keeping your team engaged. If you’re honest with your employees and willing to try something new, there’s a good chance you’ll be keeping them engaged for a while.