Creating the Foundation of Employee Engagement

Just Google the words ‘employee engagement’ and you will find thousands of articles from self-proclaimed experts pontificating on their secrets to success. Heck, I’ve even written some of them. There are lots of great ideas out there that are worth trying. As I’ve consistently told my readers before, employee engagement isn’t rocket science .

I truly believe that the number one tool to engaging the hearts and minds of your employees is to simply connect one-on-one with them to establish a foundation of trust and respect. Without that base, it’s hard to build a relationship that works long term.

Think about it this way: if you are building a new building from scratch the first thing that happens is that you pour the foundation. Once the concrete sets, if you find cracks in that foundation then you need to start over because you need that secure, solid base upon which everything else builds.

It’s no different in the workplace. If one starts off with a solid foundation between the company, the employee and the manager then engagement can easily occur. But, what happens when that is built on a landfill instead of bedrock? Can you create a lasting, solid relationship?

No one person alone owns employee engagement. Whether a senior leader, a front-line manager or an individual contributor, each person is responsible. While the tasks for each may be different, the level of accountability is the same. No matter the title, level or job function there’s one core essential needed of everyone involved in order to achieve high engagement. Let’s strip this down to the foundation of the house.

The key is to simply connect with one another. That’s it, there’s no need for expensive surveys or fancy programs. I’m not saying there isn’t room for these at some point, but unless you get the foundation right, the rest will simply fall flat. The best way to engage your employees is to look them in the eye, talk with them (not at them) and listen, both to what was said and also left unsaid. In today’s digital society, we have unfortunately lost the fine art of just connecting, of showing respect and treating someone like a human being.

I once had a boss who started out our relationship early on by showing interest in who I was and what was important to me. He asked questions not only about me, but also wanted to know about the people that mattered to me. During those days it was easy to be engaged at work because we were usually on the same page. At some point, a number of years later, as the workload tripled and he got comfortable with the fact that he could trust me to get the work done no matter what, our work relationship changed. Gone were the face-to-face conversations, staff meetings and strategy sessions. In their place was a steady stream of emails.

Okay, so what’s the problem you might ask? Email is a quick, expedient way to communicate, isn’t it? Yes, but when the only way you can ‘take the temperature’ of how your boss is feeling is by noticing his constant use of the cap lock key and counting the exclamation points on the end of his sentences, it’s clear the connection is broken. The lesson here is thatemails, voicemails, text messages and twitter are not the most effective way to connect. No matter how attached we are to our tech devices, there is no substitute for personal conversations.