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The sustainable way to increase work engagement

Written 15 November, 2018, 3 minutes to read

What’s the secret to boosting engagement at work? Surprise! There isn’t one – but there are a whole host of things you can do in combination which help elevate engagement and get your team invested. From communicating and listening, to the often overlooked importance of employee wellbeing, here are four of the most effective ways to increase work engagement for the long-term.

Always be transparent

“Transparency” can seem to be just another hollow buzzword, like “deliverables” and “best practice”... but that doesn’t mean it isn’t vitally important. In fact, studies show that transparency has a 94% correlation with employee happiness, which is essential for work engagement. The more your team feels trusted and valued, the more they’ll invest in the company and their work.

So how do you achieve “transparency” in practice? Start by involving team members in your strategies. If an employee feels included in company decisions, it won’t be a case of “us versus them” – it will just be “us.” Put time aside to evaluate the attitudes, culture and processes of your company, and be honest with yourself: how would you feel if you just started working there? Then make sure big company conversations are kept open and public, so everyone is on the same page.

Get everyone talking

Employee engagement isn’t an elephant in the room; it should be talked about, often. Engagement isn’t a fixed response; it ebbs and flows and needs ongoing management. So encourage people to talk to you if they aren’t feeling involved, knowing they won’t be judged. Your team members need to feel that they can come to you with doubts and concerns – or simply share their thoughts with you.

So how do you do this? Encourage open, honest communication throughout the workplace. Everything should be up for safe, non-pressured discussion since effective teamwork requires everyone’s ongoing buy-in. Don’t fall into a culture of emailing and instant messaging; remember that if you want to boost engagement, you need to be engaged yourself. So have regular one-on-one meetings where you ask how you can help, instead of presenting a ready-made solution. Good teams always look to enable each other, and by making time to listen to one another, you’re showing you actually value their point of view.

Invest in work relationships

While you don’t have to be best friends, work relationships are ridiculously important for work motivation. They serve an important stimulating and supportive social function, as well as enabling good collaboration which helps everyone produce quality, dopamine-inducing work. It’s no secret that happy team members are more engaged, but on a more human level, you should always prioritize the wellbeing of your employees.

There are the obvious, light-hearted ways of doing this, like team outings and workshops. They can help break down barriers between staff and allow different team members to interact. But you should also consider whether your work environment encourages collaboration. You don’t have to fill up the office with beanbags and games consoles, but having breakout areas, space for quiet work, provisions and lots of natural light makes a big difference.

Beyond fun, work relationships need to be built on actual substance. As a manager you can do that through compassionate leadership: being aware of who’s working overtime, who’s maxed out, who’s stuck and who needs something to do – and then proactively supporting people. This doesn’t take a super human effort; just use a team time tracking app to keep an eye on your essential team information.

Give people autonomy

Freedom and self-management massively affect our engagement at work. When you’re trusted and respected as the master of your work, you feel empowered and fully responsible for what you produce. There’s a reason why remote workers report a higher level of job satisfaction and engagement at work; they are in full control of their working day.

So how can you encourage work autonomy without turning your whole team remote? First up, you can hand over greater responsibilities that give people more ownership over their work – from structuring their work process, to measuring and reporting on their own work, to creating strategies for new ideas. You can also offer employees greater flexibility, understanding the benefits of allowing people to work from home, work outside the office and create their own schedules. Finally, give people the budget and encouragement to invest in their own professional self-development – having the support and freedom to set your own challenges is essential for sustaining long-term work engagement.

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