Four Factors that Improve Employee Engagement

Employees all want to be happy in their job role and Managers who care about people want to provide an awesome work environment.  Investors certainly want this as well because the best places to work for outperform others by 2 to 4X (re:  Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work).

While this is obvious, it’s not that common.  In fact, Gallop Research shows less than one-third of employees feel engaged in the workplace.  So how do leaders fix this?

Based on our observations of working with hundreds of companies and thousands of employees, we have found there are four factors that drive employee engagement (aka employee happiness).  These factors, ranked in importance, are:

1.  Relationship with Manager (Empathy, Coaching, Recognition & Accountability)

The number one factor driving workplace satisfaction is the relationship between the employee and his/her manager.  Employees want their managers to care about them individually and to coach them to be their best.  Managers who display these two traits create high performing teams where individuals hold themselves accountable for results.  Employees feed off their managers’ positive behaviors and mimic these behaviors with their team and others (customers, vendors, departments, etc).  In addition to better performance, companies also see less turnover when there is a positive relationship between the manager and employee (“53% of people reported that they would remain with their current employers if they felt like they were more appreciated by their bosses.”  —Glassdoor Employee Appreciation Survey 2013).

2.  Relationship with Peers (Trust, Candor, Emotional Control & Reliability)

Employees are more engaged and work better as a team when they trust each other.  This trust is based on observing workplace behaviors that support an organization’s core values.  When employees trust each other they are likely to call their co-workers, their friends.

Managers have a very important role in helping employees build a positive relationship with their peers.  This role not only includes recognizing and rewarding workplace behaviors that build team chemistry but also preventing or removing “jerks” from their teams (i.e. employees displaying negative team behaviors).

3.  Job Alignment (Learning Agility, Behavioral Preferences, Career Growth, Clear Expectations & Compensation)

Jim Collins, the Author of Good to Great has said, you can accomplish amazing things when you have the right people in the right seats.  To do this, you must:

  • Define the job’s responsibilities and expectations for success (Performance Criteria); and
  • Place employees in jobs that match their capacity to do the job (learning agility), motivation, and behavioral preferences.
In addition to matching employees with jobs that best fit them, it’s important to show employees a career path that supports their professional goals and income needs.  If the company’s vision does not support an employee’s career goals and compensation needs, it’s ok.  You just have to realize the tenure may be shorter than you would like.  However, if you support the employee’s career goals, the employee will give you more during his/her tenure.

4.  Culture Alignment (Mission, Vision & Core Values)

Employees want to work for a company with a purpose they believe in.  This purpose can best be explained by answering four simple questions:

One — Why should customers buy from your company?

Two — Why should employees work for your company?

Three — Why should investors invest in the company?

Four — Why should the community support your company?  (How is your company giving back to the community?)

Establishing a future vision of what the company will do and what it will look like over the next 3 to 5 years creates excitement and opportunities for growth.  When everyone shares a common vision, your chances of reaching it are much higher.  There is also tremendous employee satisfaction when each milestone of your vision is attained.   The team understands, “We did this together!”.

Core Values
Your core values drive your competitive advantage because it determines how things are done and how people behave.  When your core values drive performance and foster team chemistry, it’s known as a Performance Culture.  While each organization’s culture is unique, a Performance Culture includes a pattern of remarkably consistent behaviors that support your core values.

Successful organizations clearly recognize their core values and make sure employees who display these values are recognized and rewarded for doing so.

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