HR, Management & leadership

Staff engagement: it’s all in the know-how

Do you really know how to motivate and engage your staff members?

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Cathy Shimmin, Senior Training Manager and Performance Coach

What is staff engagement? Have you ever had one of those jobs that was – just a job. You turned up, did what was required, went to the social stuff if you had to and pay day was the best part of it all?

It’s not very uplifting is it? Time just dragging on, no real passion or enthusiasm and pain in the proverbial every time you have to do something over and above the call of duty.What would you put it down to – the management? The rubbish organisation or company? A restrictive role? You just didn’t get what they/it was all about?

You have my sympathy – we have all been there. You also have my congratulations on getting out, making the escape and moving on. Everyone in this position should.

If I asked you, on a scale on 1-10, how much your staff feel like that, what would you score, honestly? This is how you know they are fully engaged and on board.

  • They are smiling and (mostly) calm and co-operative
  • They can tell you exactly what their priorities are at the moment
  • They can tell you and others why their job makes a difference to your beneficiaries
  • On the spot they can quote the organisation’s mission – maybe even the key objectives and values
  • They talk about ‘we’ and ‘us’ when showing off about how great the organisation is
  • They take initiative and come to you with suggestions and solutions – not what the problem is
  • You are not interrupted a million times a day – unless it is to ask for another staff social – which they have taken upon themselves to organise. Yay!!

How’s that score of 1-10 looking?

Here are some common pitfalls that can leave staff feeling luke-warm or downright cool about work:

1. We think we need to know everything – but don’t understand when people aren’t getting it.

You can’t know everything but you must know some things including your organisation’s vision, mission and strategic direction and what that means in terms of people’s roles. You must know and live by the values that underpin the work you do.

You need to get people to engage with these things in order to connect with their work.

2. No-one knows who is doing what and everyone thinks that it is someone else’s fault.

A silo or amoeba mentality where no one feels connected to anyone else does not engender the ‘we’ factor. Not trusting people with their own job and still expecting them to take responsibility provides no sense of ownership. And don’t even start me on the old chestnut of people feeling frustrated because they just cannot influence decisions made up the line.

So, once people are connected with their job, you need to connect them to others.

3. We think we know the real situation just because someone told us their version of it.

People are not necessarily trying to pull the wool over your eyes but we can all be guilty of ‘putting the gloss on it’ when explaining difficult situations to our manager. People will have much better quality conversations with you if there is mutual trust and they know you will respond rather than react.

So, you sometimes need to connect the jigsaw pieces that other people hold in order to see the real picture.

Engaging staff is like any good relationship – you share the best of times (new home/new contract) and the worst of times (overdraft/loss of funds); you share necessary information to avert a row (I will be home late / the Outreach Team are not available tomorrow); you have to have open conversations about the difficult stuff (I have to say it, I hate your beard/this is below our expected standard) and you have to work at it to make it succeed (Let’s have a date night this Tuesday/let’s have a meeting to share success stories.)

All this is do-able and like any good relationship we have to value something to make it work better. If you do, I have a couple of options for you. Think about those 3 pitfalls above and see what you can do to move your ‘staff engagement’ score from a 6 to an 8 or an 8 to a 10.

Or join us at HR FocusFair on 18 October and find some straightforward ways to keep staff engaged with their job, the organisation and most importantly, what you are doing for your beneficiaries. It will be a pleasure to see you there. Either option, but please don’t let me congratulate your staff in my next article, for moving on from a job – and a great organisation – where they just didn’t feel engaged.

Click to book onto our HR Focusfair now