When you think of wellbeing in the workplace you might think about things like a social club, team building days and your Employee Assistance Program. What might not come to mind is the day to day stuff that can have a big impact on our wellbeing.
Wellbeing and engagement go hand in hand. Positive psychologist Martin Seligman put together a wellbeing framework that identified some key ingredients to wellbeing. One of the key ingredients is engagement. When we are engaged in something, we feel a sense of purpose and connection. We are emotionally invested. When we are engaged in our work, we have a sense of the contribution we are making. It makes us want to show up and try harder.
I coach a lot of managers and leaders who are often dealing with team members who are actively disengaged. It’s easy to spot these team members – they’re underperforming, they’re unhappy and they’re often bringing others down with them. There’s often a big focus from the manager or leader on managing the poor performance.
What we need to talk more about is how to engage people and keep them engaged. One simple way to do this is to let people know how they are doing in their work on the regular. Some workplaces have great performance development systems that include an annual or bi-annual appraisal. I haven’t come across many people who look forward to those conversations. Because they happen so infrequently (if they even happen at all) they are formal and feel insincere and forced.
Humans need connection and a sense of belonging. It makes us feel safe. When managers and leaders have regular conversations with team members about their progress against goals (and I mean at least weekly) these are likely to be much more genuine and meaningful. They also give real-time feedback so people can know how best to focus their energy and effort.
It’s important that these conversations are two-way, genuine, and specific. It’s not about managers giving empty praise or a ‘well done’ on the fly. A conversation that supports engagement goes something like this:
‘Alice, I wanted to say thanks for helping out Emily yesterday. I saw how you showed her some shortcuts to use in our client database and that’s going to make it easier for her to contact people. Can you fill me in on how your current project is going? From your point of view what’s working well?’
(Alice says something like;) ‘So, the project is mostly on track but I’m having some issues with one of our suppliers. They won’t get back to me and I’m worried we won’t have the materials. On time to deliver the next stage’.
(You say;) ‘How do you think you might tackle it? And is there any support you need to keep the project on track?’
In this conversation Alice has a chance to keep her manager up to date and ask for support. She’s also getting real time feedback about how her work is contributing to company goals. Regular conversations like this are absolute gold when it comes to engagement.
So what does your employee engagement strategy look like?