In the new world of work, innovating, growing and achieving a winning presence in the market requires a new kind of leader—one who makes inspiring and empowering people his or her top priority. The truth is that differentiating your business does not happen through a process or investment; it happens through human beings. For this reason, accelerating engagement needs to be the new number one job of today’s leaders.
To cultivate business growth, leaders are increasingly being held responsible not only for the financial health and market health of their organizations, but also for its cultural health. More and more boards of directors (and I’ve seen this with multiple clients) are demanding that leaders create an extraordinary employee experience. Boards are now expecting leaders to foster an environment in which people are able to break free from the stagnant current state and break through to the next level of productivity and quality. However, this is easier said than done.
Accelerating engagement has become a key priority for leaders who know they need to move past outdated business differentiators that were once key to driving business. Productivity as a differentiator, for example, has been lackluster for quite some time. Most organizations have used process optimization approaches and technology to remove waste and streamline core business functions. While the buzz around the latest technology is important (and cool), many of these gained efficiencies are no longer unique and have now become the norm.
As a result, business leaders find themselves challenged with leveraging the only thing that is unique in their organization: the employee. Employees can be challenging, but moving the needle on employee engagement might be simpler than you think. Here are the three ways organizations can foster employee engagement:
Identify Your Best and Brightest Teams: The first step is recognizing that most teamwork today is not reflected on the organizational chart. The boots-on-the-ground teams that get work done on the frontlines are known as dynamic teams, which are highly social and mobile in nature (they are constantly changing, and most people are on more than one dynamic team at a time). Identifying these dynamic teams allows leaders not only to recognize exceptional performance, but also to understand what drives success in the organization.
See Engagement Where It Happens: Give all your leaders—and especially those working on dynamic teams—the ability to measure engagement in real time. Engagement happens in teams; we should measure it in teams. And please, let’s give the data to the people who can use it, the team leader. That way engagement efforts can be tied to the work currently being done and the direct result.
Be Prescriptive and Push Frequent Check-Ins: Finally, successful business leaders must provide light-touch tools in the flow of the work to create sustainable rituals that grow a highly engaged organization. The strongest amongst these tools is embedding regular check ins into the fabric of the organization. Check-ins, in contrast to the dreaded status update, are conversational light touches and focus on what the leader can do for the team member rather than the other way around. Research shows that checking in with team members roughly once a week is the right level of frequency.
By continuing to do business as usual, an organization might survive, but it certainly will not thrive. As innovation is driven by human talent more than ever before, it is important to actively take the steps to build engagement throughout the organization. Today’s employees are playing a much greater part in the health and success of the company far beyond just their role. For this, I encourage leaders to make a conscious effort to prioritize employees through a variety of tactics, as it is quickly becoming one of the most strategic decisions a leader can make in today’s business.
Read more: Beyond CSR: Leading With More Purposeful Engagement