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During the past few years, there have been some significant changes in the way many people work. But what defines the workplace? Today, many more flexible working environments, arrangements, distributed teams, composite teams of full-time employees, strategic partners, and external consultants present challenges when creating an employee engagement strategy for successful implementation.

A Gallup report found that enterprises characterized by elevated levels of engagement have noticed a 21% increase in profitability. Furthermore, according to a Gallup article, engaged employees exhibit a substantial 81% reduction in absenteeism and a notable 14% upswing in productivity. These statistics underscore the importance of developing a robust employee engagement strategy.

This blog will share six simple things that every team member expects from their leader, and if you provide them, then even in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing, highly mobile, and distributed world, they will work to help create highly engaged teams.

1. Clear Direction: Catalyst to a Successful Employee Engagement Strategy

The first thing we need to do is to give people a clear direction. If you do not know what the goal and objects of the tasks are, then people can't be able to connect with them. When people lack clarity and direction, it’s difficult for them to become engaged, if not impossible. We should also look to clarify not only what we are doing but also why it is important and if we can explain why it is important to them, then that’s even better.

As part of the program we were running at Fujitsu, we were moving a client to a new IT platform, so we looked to highlight to the team that they would be the first in the company to gain skills within this new technology which would help give them a competitive advantage and put them in demand for future projects.‍

2. ‍Creating a Safe Environment

‍Nothing kills an effective employee engagement strategy faster than having a blame culture. I see this time and time again where people are criticized for mistakes, and demeaned in front of others for any tiny mishap. This is a morale killer, it not only stops people from taking risks, but they also look to keep out of the firing line and do the minimum that is required of them, and if it gets too toxic, then they become disengaged completely.

Good leaders create a safe environment where people don’t feel afraid of making mistakes because that fear can lead to hesitation and mistakes. If mistakes happen, then focus on finding solutions, not who’s to blame, and give any feedback in a supportive way that will help people improve rather than highlighting their shortcomings, and also do it in private. Public autopsies of individual failure only make people warier of mistakes.‍

3. Set Them Up For Success

Ever heard the phrase, “Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan child” this is one of my favorite sayings because it shows that everyone wants to be part of a winning team. We all want to feel that we have achieved something, to experience success, and to get rewards and recognition. We are hard-wired for this, one of our basic needs is to have good self-esteem and a little bit of success serves to fill that need.

So if we can show our teams how to be successful, if we give them the tools they need to be successful, then not only will they become engaged, but they will become excited to be involved.

People are not afraid of hard work-- they are afraid of failure, and when we as leaders can give them the confidence that they will be successful, then in my experience, they will work hard to achieve it.‍

4. ‍Give Them Space To Be Successful

Whilst I believe that blame is one of the worst things for killing engagement, I must admit that Micro-Management is a very close second. Even with distributed teams, I have seen people become disengaged by managers constantly chasing them up through chats, emails, and phone calls. It sometimes feels that Micro Managers see virtual teams and people 1000 miles away from them as some challenge and look for new and better ways to keep a close eye on them. Even though we might be working at home, it feels like Big Brother is still watching you.

Don’t do that!

Give your team space; give them a chance to make progress before you check in with them. Ideally, agree with them when it would be a good time for you to come back and see how they are doing.

When you give people space, it shows that you trust them; they will feel respected and those are two feelings that will help to drive engagement.

Now that doesn’t mean that we should never check in; it means that we must do it at the right times and, ideally, at mutually agreed times. Not only will that help with engagement, but it will also help to drive accountability.

‍5. Give Them Support When Needed

When it comes to making people feel like they will be successful, one of our most powerful tools is to let them know that they have our support and can reach out if needed. This is like giving a trapeze artist a safety net, probably, they won’t use it, but knowing it is there will help to increase their confidence, which will help boost engagement even further.

89% of workers at companies that support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work-American Psychological Association

We should let them know at the start that they can reach out if there are any difficulties or things they are unsure of or need a little help with. This also contributes to creating a safe environment, one where they know that if they start to have issues, not only will they not be blamed or criticized but one where they can get some help.‍‍

6. Give Them Good Feedback

With highly distributed teams, we need to ensure the communication channels are clear, open, and in regular use. We need to set up regular calls to share the progress with the teams when they can see that they are being successful this is a great motivation and shows that their efforts are succeeding. It also gives opportunities to provide support when we need to make changes if things are not going well.

Employees feel 5x more empowered if their feedback is valued in the organization.- Salesforce

We also need to praise people for their efforts and good progress. If people put in the work but receive little to no feedback, they can quickly fall into the “I don’t know why I bother” mindset, and when that happens, they are now starting down the path to disengagement.

Positive feedback costs nothing, but the return on investment is significant, give it freely.

As the world changes ever-increasingly, these simple things will help you create engaged teams. They will work with teams that report directly to you; they will work with suppliers and external staff, too, because they help to fulfill some of our basic needs. The better you become at these, the more engaged your teams will become and the better the results you will achieve.

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Gordon Tredgold

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Gordon Tredgold is a leadership and engagement expert and speaker from West Yorkshire, UK. His first passion is rugby. He speaks, writes, coaches, and teaches leadership. He makes leadership simple.