Some employees just aren’t into their jobs. In fact, that may be true for most of them. The Gallup organization, which regularly measures employee engagement across the country, reports that just 32 percent of employees say they are enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though, says Kerry Alison Wekelo, author of Culture Infusion: 9 Principles to Create and Maintain a Thriving Organizational Culture (www.kerryalison.com). With the right approach, she says, business leaders can improve their corporate culture and motivate employees to perform at their highest capacity.
"Successful leaders are the ones who intentionally use their behavior as a positive example," Wekelo says. "If you expect employees to work overtime for important deadlines, for example, they are much more inclined to do their best if you also stay and work the overtime."
To really get those employees engaged, a leader also must commit to supporting the growth of people and not just systems, products or processes, says Wekelo, who is managing director of human resources and operations for Actualize Consulting.
Here are four ways she says leaders can do that:
- Insist on a healthy work/life balance. Work and home used to have clearer boundaries, but these days work is always a mouse click or text message away. That can make it tough for both employees and corporate leaders to balance their lives, but Wekelo insists it’s important that they do. "When your life is well balanced, you will be more satisfied, more motivated, happier and healthier." To achieve that balance, she says, you need to learn to say "no;" to set boundaries, such as declining to take work calls after 9 p.m.; and to handle issues as they come up so that you aren’t thinking about them after you go home. Leaders should practice this themselves and then help their companies facilitate it for employees.
- Practice effective communication. Communication isn’t just about what you say, it’s how well you listen, Wekelo says. "You want to be an active listener," she says. "That means you not only hear the words the other person is saying, but you try to understand the complete message that’s being sent." To achieve that, you should practice empathy, focus your attention, show you are listening through both verbal and non-verbal responses, suspend judgment, ask questions and verify that you correctly understand the other person’s message.
- Focus on your people. If employees are happy, customers will have a better experience, Wekelo says. Three key factors to achieving that, she says, are hiring the right people, providing a robust and generous benefits package, and prioritizing wellness efforts that encourage employees to exercise and eat right.
- Regularly conduct employee surveys. It’s important to ask employees about what’s working and what’s not working. "But remember that surveys that only gather information are not useful," Wekelo says. "To make them effective, your organization must also provide detailed results back to your team and create an implementation plan that includes some of your employees’ ideas."
"Although every person is different, we universally do well with leaders who focus on appreciation, respect and trust, and who empower teams to add value to the company," Wekelo says. "Exceptional leaders know how to motivate employees, retain quality talent and cultivate job satisfaction."