What is the secret to inspiring employees to give their best at work? While there are many “drivers” of employee engagement put forth by experts and measured by employee surveys, it often boils down to this:
People are most likely to invest in their jobs when they feel they’re making a meaningful difference, are valued, accepted, and respected, and have the emotional and mental energy to perform.*
In other words, it’s not about loving what they do, it’s about loving how they feel while they’re doing it. So how can leaders create a workplace that inspires these feelings? Here are five simple things you can do to make work more meaningful, show people they are valued, and provide an environment where people feel supported. When employees feel the love, they’re more inclined to love their job.
How to help your employees feel the love:
1. Tell the company story in your words.
Telling the company story reminds everyone why they’re here. What did the company founders hope to accomplish? How is the company positively impacting customers, and the world? Share why you chose to join the company, and what inspires you about its mission and vision. All of this can help employees see the bigger picture and what they’re helping to make possible.
2. Promote a team culture of appreciation.
Find ways to encourage regular recognition of every member of the team. It doesn’t have to be big or laborious. Simple, but regular, acts of recognition and gratitude go a long way in creating a workplace where people feel valued. Finish each team meeting with a round of appreciations from team members, send a quick email to your boss recognizing a job well done by a team member, or encourage team members to post “thank you” sticky notes on desks or laptops.
3. Help people to be “seen”.
When people feel valued and respected for what they bring to the team, they will often strive to reach their potential. At Blue Beyond Consulting we ask a different team member to share their personal career journey at each monthly team meeting. It’s a chance to learn about their talents, interests, and life experiences, and helps build trust and closer relationships, which fosters more seamless collaboration.
4. Invest in your coaching skills.
The shift away from performance evaluations and ratings to ongoing coaching and conversation taps into employees’ intrinsic desire to learn and grow. Invest in developing your coaching skills as a leader – listening, observing, asking great questions, giving feedback, and providing support – to demonstrate your commitment to your people’s development and to help your team feel secure and supported in achieving their goals.
5. Allow for flexibility.
Today’s workforce is often juggling both work and home responsibilities. Understanding and respecting the “whole” employee, and doing whatever possible to support success in every area of their life builds trust, loyalty, and commitment. To the extent that it’s possible, do your best to offer team members flexibility in how, where, and when they complete their work, and you will most likely see increased dedication from your people to perform and do a great job.
Leaders can foster deeper employee engagement by connecting people to purpose, helping people feel seen, heard, and valued, and by simply being more flexible and understanding. Show your team some love and see what it does for their performance!
*Based on the research of William Kahn, professor of organizational behavior at Boston University, circa. 1990.
For more tips on improving employee engagement, see Employee Appreciation: Small Acts Can Change Workplace Culture.
Mariah is an Account Lead at Blue Beyond. She works closely with leaders and teams to facilitate organizational alignment, engage employees, navigate change, and achieve business results. She holds a BA in Communications from USC with a minor in Leadership Studies.