Over the holiday, I read a great article on 9 Surefire Ways to Destroy Employee Morale. While I agree with all of the points, an opportunity was lost to make the counterargument for how to increase morale and employee engagement.
To that end, here are my 9 foolproof ways guarantee employee engagement:
1. Reward mistakes
Employees know when they mess up or fall short of expectations. But never forget, some of the most useful inventions (like Post-It Notes) were a mistake. And it took 39 mistakes before WD-40 got the formula right. That kind of innovation requires an environment in which employees are encouraged to try and fail, and try again. Sometimes it’s as important to recognize the importance what we’ve learned from our mistakes as we move forward as it is to recognize success itself.
2. Praise in public, correct in private (but only if the employee likes public praise)
While I generally agree with the truism that employees should not be disciplined or called out for poor behavior in public (trust me, if you do, you’re only “making an example” of poor management techniques), it’s not always true that you should also always praise in public. Culturally, that’s just unheard of in some parts of the world. Personally, many people cringe at the thought of that kind of public spotlight – no matter how positive or well intentioned. Make it a point to know your employees well enough to know their preferences.
3. Be honest, always
The greatest gift you can give anyone your trustworthiness as an honest person. That doesn’t mean you have to be brutally honest. But your employees and team members should always be confident they can count on you for honest feedback – both positive and negative. When you’re liberal with your praise, your employees are more willing to hear your corrective criticism as well.
4. Set high goals, and recognize progress along the way
Setting impossible goals is not necessarily a problem in itself. After all, how do we know what we can truly achieve if we don’t stretch ourselves? To achieve the impossible goal, however, employees need encouragement and reinforcement along the way. Recognizing progress is just as important as rewarding results.
5. Make work meaningful
Some believe the best way to get employees to perform at maximum capacity is to threaten to replace them if they don’t. This only serves to demoralize and demotivate. Instead, help employees see the meaning and value in their work, even for tasks and achievements some would not see as valuable. It’s those unsung heroes who often do the work that make it possible for your stars to shine.
6. Make it clear what you expect
Giving employees clear expectations for the results you want to see is far more motivating than vague instructions and expectations that can never be met. But that’s not the same as micromanaging. Instead you should…
7. Trust your employees
You hired them for their skills and abilities. You likely invested in training to make sure they can do the job well. If you’ve given them clear instructions and expectations, get out of their way. Let them do what you hired them to do. Give them room to make mistakes as I mentioned above and you’ll likely see even greater results than you could have hoped for.
8. Recognize often
Praise is free. More importantly, specific, frequent and timely praise clearly communications to employees exactly what it is you expect and hope to see more of in the future.
9. Make room for employees to grow
Research discussed in the new book The Enemy of Engagement shows how employees start out in a new job as highly engaged often become much less so over time simply because they become comfortable in their tasks and are no longer challenged. To keep employees engaged, give them room to grow and stretch their abilities into new areas and experiences.
What are other ways you could help guarantee employee engagement?