Look at the team roster for your project. How many team members are fully engaged with their work? How many are just going through the motions? And how many are actively disengaged?
These can be hard questions to face, but important ones to ask. If your team mirrors the U.S. workforce, three out of 10 employees are fully engaged; five are “present” but engaged, and two are actively disengaged, according to the Gallup organization’s State of the American Workplace: 2010-2012 report. Gallup has been conducting this research since 2000, issuing periodic reports, and the percentages in each category barely vary over time.
What does engagement mean?
Engagement is more than keeping employees happy or satisfied, although both are worthy goals. Satisfied or happy employees are not necessarily engaged. Engaged employees have well-defined roles in the organization, make strong contributions, are actively connected to their larger team and organization, and are continuously progressing.
Why does engagement matter?
Gallup’s research found well-established connections between employee engagement and nine performance metrics:
- Customer ratings
- Turnover (for high- and low-turnover organizations)
- Safety incidents
- Shrinkage (theft)
- Patient safety incidences
- Quality (defects)
Also, engagement has a greater impact on employees’ well-being than perks such as vacation time and flexible hours.
So what does engagement have to do with a project manager?
The research found that managers have the single most powerful influence on workers’ engagement levels and teamwork skills, so if you’re in a management position, you’re on the front lines. Although Gallup slants its message to C-Level executives, the findings can help managers of any team size.
How to improve your team members’ engagement
As a manager, you can impact your team’s engagement in simple but profound ways. Here are 7 tips to help you get started.
1. Define realistic engagement goals in everyday terms. Make lofty objectives meaningful to employees’ day-to-day experiences. Weave engagement into daily interactions and activities by discussing how you want employees to involve themselves with team tasks and goals at weekly meetings, planning sessions, and in one-on-ones with employees.
2. Find ways to connect with team members individually. A number of variables play vital roles in shaping a team member’s workplace experience – from generation to gender to career. Managers should know the talents and needs of each employee. Here are some facts and figures to keep in mind:
- Workers at the beginning and approaching the end of their careers tend to be more engaged than those in the middle of their careers.
- Millennials are the most likely to say that they’ll leave their jobs in the next 12 months if the job market improves.
- Women have slightly higher overall engagement than men.
3. Show you care about your team members’ work and lives. This is especially important for Baby Boomers in the workforce.
4. Focus on and develop employees’ strengths. Building employees’ strengths is far more effective than trying to improve weaknesses, and it boosts engagement. Gallup says that emphasizing strong points can nearly eliminate active disengagement, and could double the average of U.S. workers who are engaged. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job.
5. Help employees verbalize and internalize what the company’s mission and purpose mean to them. For a lot of people, having a strong sense of what their organization stands for boosts their engagement, especially when their values are aligned. In short, being able to connect work to a sense of purpose is a key way to raise engagement.
6. Extend and intensify the engagement level of new team members. Employees are as engaged as they will ever be during the first six months of their tenure at an organization. To increase this level early on, consider pairing a new hire up with a workplace friend or mentor who can show them the ropes and provide plenty of recognition for their early efforts. This plan can also develop a strong sense of teamwork in your group as well.
7. Enhance employees’ well-being. Don’t expect employees to compartmentalize their work lives and their personal lives. It’s the whole person who comes to work – and each employee’s well-being influences individual and organizational performances.
We all want to love our jobs and care about the work we do on a daily basis. So much so that employees who are engaged in their jobs are generally in better health than employees who aren’t. If you’re a team manager, there are always ways to improve your team members’ experience and performance at work – and feel engaged in the process yourself.
If you found this article helpful, there’s more. Learn how to take your project management skills to the next level. Download the eBook, 5 Practical Habits for Today’s Project Manager.