Company leadership styles can make or break employee experience, engagement, and retention. This article outlines 6 practical ways leaders can foster a culture of happiness, satisfaction, and commitment to organizational goals.
The US workforce is experiencing the worst decline in employee engagement in the last decade. Only a third of employees are feeling engaged at work, according to a recent Gallup report.
Two of the biggest reasons for this are a lack of clear job expectations and a poor understanding of company missions. Employees with fewer growth opportunities and who feel unsupported are also less engaged. Finally, a perceived or actual lack of recognition and appreciation can lead to decreased motivation and job satisfaction.
Great leadership is the remedy to all of these issues and more. It is the cornerstone to an effective employee engagement strategy and key to a strong company culture.
As employee priorities shift in the current landscape, leaders will need to continue fine-tuning their approach and style to align with the changes.
In this article, we look at 6 of the latest, most powerful ways for leaders to improve employee engagement. Use these tips to create a positive work environment and bring out the best in your team members.
6 Ways Great Leadership Influences Employee Engagement
Here are six ways great leaders elevate employee engagement, and how you can do it too.
Show passion for the company’s mission, purpose, and values
Today’s employees want to have a sense of purpose in their jobs. Additionally, they want to work for organizations whose values align with their own.
A Gallup study showed that 67% of millennials felt more engaged in their job when they understood how it helped the company’s mission. Similarly, 71% of Gen Z employees were even willing to take pay cuts for more meaningful work.
Focus on clearly stating and championing the company’s overall purpose and mission. Likewise, try to embody corporate values in your own leadership. For example, excellent customer service may be an important value to your company. Be sure to train your employees accordingly and recognize them when they do a good job. You can also turn more sensitive customer complaints into teachable moments. Leading by example is a powerful way to reinforce company goals.
Tie personal goals to company values, especially through disruption
Consistency is key to successfully navigating change and disruption. In trying times, it’s helpful to remind workers of the company’s mission and values, and their roles in its success.
For example, a study by Mckinsey found that the COVID-19 pandemic caused nearly two-thirds of respondents to reflect on their life purpose. If that purpose didn’t align with company values, it led to disengagement and even quitting.
Show employees that you care about their personal goals and values through good and bad times. For example, organize volunteering programs or encourage them to mentor junior workers. Meaningful work keeps employees motivated, productive, and resilient regardless of the circumstances.
Leading your team with consistent enthusiasm and passion—no matter the external circumstances—helps employees feel more stable, even in times of change. It also keeps them focused and creates a positive employee experience, even in adversity.
Communicate clearly and transparently, and listen carefully
Set clear goals and provide regular feedback
Gallup found that unclear job expectations are a leading concern among employees. All other attempts to engage employees are less impactful when they’re unsure of their role and responsibilities.
Check in with employees regularly to ensure they have a clear understanding of both and how their work fits into the company’s overall mission. If frequent one-on-one or team check-ins are impractical, you can use employee surveys to gather feedback.
Finally, set clear guidelines for managers to support employees with setting goals, and encourage them to provide frequent feedback so employees know what’s working and what isn’t.
Listen to what employees need
Of all the leadership best practices that improve employee engagement, listening is one of the most important.
Listening to your employees is the most effective way to understand their priorities. Of course, this isn’t limited to verbal feedback. You can use forms and surveys to understand employee priorities at scale. Staying up to date on the latest research and trends will help you interpret your findings.
For example, the Microsoft 2022 Work Trade Index found that 53% of respondents were more focused on health and well-being after the pandemic. Savvy leaders can translate research like this into real benefits. For example, health insurance, flu/COVID vaccinations, and mental wellness days all help prevent sickness and burnout. In this way, workers know that you listen and care.
Be honest and transparent
Honesty and transparency are two characteristics employees value highly in companies.
To achieve this, companies can:
- Establish an open-door policy and encourage employees to approach management with questions and concerns. Provide training to managers to address these in an appropriate way.
- Be transparent with workers when the company is facing challenges. Help them understand the company’s strategy to get back on track and their role in achieving this. This will make them feel included and boost their commitment to company performance.
- Provide access to information. The more information you can share with employees about internal policies, procedures, practices, as well as overall performance, direction and strategy, the better. Employees don’t like feeling like companies are hiding important details from them.
To communicate effectively and transparently, use a good team management app like Connecteam. It provides you with secure and instant communication features, including one-on-one and group chats, a company newsfeed to provide employees with key updates, and survey tools to gather feedback.
Start your free 14-day trial of Connecteam to boost employee engagement
Recognize employees’ efforts
Disengaged employees can pose a big risk to your organization. When employees feel that their efforts go unnoticed, they feel underappreciated and lose interest in their work and the company. It’s no surprise, then, that a lack of recognition is one of the main reasons why employees quit.
Ensure that you’re regularly recognizing your employees for their hard work. You can appreciate employees’ hard work by shouting them out in a company newsletter or email, or offer private recognition through a thank you letter, email, or message. You can also recognize employees through employee-of-the-month programs.
Additionally, use tailored rewards like gift cards, extra time off, pay raises, flexible work arrangements, and cash bonuses to show appreciation. Employees will know you value their efforts and will keep up their good work.
Be sure to encourage peer-to-peer and line manager recognition as well. Employees should feel seen and appreciated from everyone on your team.
Empower employees and give them more autonomy
Provide training, development, and challenging work
When it comes to employee engagement, leadership teams need to think beyond keeping employees productive. You need to help your employees learn and grow within your organization.
In-person or digital training programs can help your employees strengthen the skills they have and gain new ones. You might even consider creating and leading a few training courses yourself to show employees that you’re invested in their development.
Additionally, ensure you provide some training that’s specifically focused on employees’ strengths. Employees who receive this kind of development can be up to 23% more engaged than those who don’t.
Encourage regular check-ins with employees to ensure they’re not bored with their jobs. Consider moving employees to different departments or offering them more responsibilities to challenge and stimulate them. This will keep them highly engaged in their work and produce better results for your company in the long run.
Involve workers in company decisions
Great leaders empower employees by involving them in appropriate company decisions. Gather employee opinions about upcoming changes or business decisions through online polls, surveys, or focus groups. This can help everyone feel important, included, and connected to the company’s mission.
Give your team more autonomy
Employees are likely to be disengaged and demotivated when they feel micromanaged or controlled. And there’s data to back that up: Authoritarian leadership seems to have a negative impact on employee engagement.
When it comes to great leadership, best practices that improve employee engagement involve letting go and trusting that your employees will do well. Provide workers with more autonomy once they’ve been sufficiently trained. Give them the freedom to perform their duties how they see fit and at their own pace, and regularly offer opportunities for more responsibility where appropriate.
You can give them a clear set of guidelines to ensure that they’re still meeting their goals. Additionally, provide regular feedback so they can feel supported and learn from mistakes.
Show empathy and humility, and lead by example
In an EY Consulting survey, 90% of respondents felt empathetic leadership led to higher job satisfaction. Plus, 88% believed it increased employees’ loyalty toward their leaders.
For leaders to improve, engaging with employees’ personal circumstances is key. Let employees know you’re available to discuss any issue or concern they may have in or outside of work and show compassion for their situation.
They may have childcare issues or a sick parent they’re responsible for. Offer them some support within reason—for example, more flexibility with their schedules. This can go a long way in increasing an employee’s commitment to the company. But make sure you’re consistent with your approach and treat employees fairly.
Garner more trust and loyalty from your teams by staying grounded, open to feedback, and leading by example. A study found that leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work with the group were rated more highly.
Provide leadership engagement and training
As a leader, you need to connect with the company’s mission to inspire others to do the same. You should also model the behavior and ethics of your organization to motivate team members to do the same.
Start at the top by ensuring that you’ve got a solid leadership team in the right positions. Provide them with appropriate training and set goals on employee engagement best practices. They should show their commitment to company values and communicate effectively with their teams. This paves the way for good employee engagement, leadership effectiveness, and a culture of support in the company.
Foster a sense of belonging and focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion
Create a sense of connectedness in the company
A recent Harvard Business Review paper showed that 40% of today’s employees feel isolated at work. This can also apply to employees who work across different locations and feel disconnected from company culture.
Provide staff members with a work chat or social intranet to stay in touch. This can improve connectedness between employees and the company overall. You can also organize virtual events to occasionally bring your team together.
Also, consider leading team-building activities so employees work together toward a common goal. This can increase employee engagement by creating a sense of belonging. It can also strengthen their bonds with leaders and peers.
Focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
The current generation of workers respects leaders who focus on DEI. They don’t want to be associated with any discrimination around age, race, gender, disability, and other factors.
Good leaders adopt fair practices in recruiting, promoting, and compensating employees. Consider providing unconscious bias training. This way, employees can help strengthen the culture of inclusion in the company. Also, ensure that they understand the consequences of discrimination at work.
Finally, factors such as making job sites disability-friendly, celebrating diversity events, and respecting cross-cultural holidays make employees feel safe and valued. Research by Catalyst showed that companies that focused on DEI saw a 35% increase in engagement levels.
Employee engagement should be a top priority for your organization. Disengaged employees lower productivity and increase absenteeism and turnover. They can also damage your company’s reputation with its customers.
Employee engagement levels are on a downward trend. Many underlying factors point to poor leadership. Your employees are likely to be looking to senior leaders for inspiration, direction, and motivation at work. That is why leadership and employee engagement go hand in hand.
Great leaders set the tone for the company’s purpose and culture and display company values in their work. They focus on open and transparent communication. They also support, recognize, and empower their teams. Moreover, empathetic and humble leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves garner employee loyalty and respect.
With so much pressure on senior leaders, it’s crucial to invest in good leadership engagement training. Adopting these insights can help you stay ahead of the curve. It will also help build a team of happy, productive employees who’ll go above and beyond to contribute to your company’s success.