A significant amount of leadership information focuses on coaching employees who are low-performing with an overall goal to improve employee performance and attitude. But with all of this energy devoted to low-performing employees, what happens to the consistently high-performing employees, those who look for opportunities to excel personally and professionally? Oftentimes, these high-performing employees are left to their own devices to figure out how to create their own opportunities for education and advancement. While many leaders would greatly welcome the chance to focus on what’s right as opposed to what’s wrong, this change in the mindset of many leaders can require time and re-education.
An engaged employee is a leader’s dream. Employee engagement can be defined as a staff member’s emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and/or the organization as a whole. When engaged, employees create a natural connection with their co-workers and truly care about the outcomes provided by the organization. You can identify an engaged employee as someone who consistently goes above and beyond their job description and works to create a better work environment for themselves and their co-workers. These staff members view their employment as more than a job; it’s a career. They can be identified as someone who stays late to complete a project, volunteers for an internal committee and those who look for solutions. Take a moment and think of your most engaged employee on your team. Wouldn’t you love to have an entire team of those engaged employees?
An effective way to engage an employee is to make time to explain the “why.” Define how the employee’s actions directly affect the organization’s goals and how the department ties to a bigger purpose, providing your team with an emotional connection to what they do. Author Lee J. Colan provides an excellent example in his book “Passionate Performance: Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees.” An individual was employed as a dishwasher at a hospital, but she never thought of her job as simply that of a dishwasher. From her first day on the job, her supervisor made it clear that their collective purpose was to help maintain a clean, safe environment so their patients could go home as soon as possible. By making this strong connection to the patients, the employee could fully commit to her job because she understood how her work directly affected the overall purpose.
Help your employees see the big picture by sharing examples of positive results in your department and tie that performance to the overall goals. Leaders are often involved in meetings and receive communication that does not always make its way back to the employees. It’s the job of a leader to cascade information so that each team stays connected to the cause. Don’t assume engaged employees will make this connection. Reinforce the action to the cause because it provides an opportunity to recognize the engaged employee and thank them for the work they do and their contribution to the organization. For many leaders, the biggest challenge of providing this type of communication is one of time. However, the use of monthly one-on-one meetings is a great way to communicate directly to each individual employee. Schedule these meetings at the same time, same day each month and commit to that time. Cascading the information will help ensure employee engagement is focused on the common cause.
Director of Training, U.S. Operations