Are Your Employees REALLY Engaged? 5 Ways to Tell

According to your company’s annual survey,  your employees are “engaged.” But are they?  How can you be sure that folks are plugged in and invested in their work and your organization? Here are 5 Sure Signs:

  1. They Show Up. Engaged employees don’t like to miss work.  There may be an occasional unavoidable appointment during business hours – or an unexpected family emergency…kids get sick. But when they can’t avoid being out, they let people know: out-of-office notices, delegates to contact in their absence, even a method to reach them in case of an urgent work matter. Just as quickly, when they are back in the office, they don’t miss a beat and get right back on track. 
  1. They find faults—and fix them.  This is different than complaining, which is recognizing something troublesome and stopping there. Without being asked, engaged employees identify plans or processes that aren’t working well and offer alternative ways to address them.  

One employee shared with her leader that his monthly video update was too long. Folks weren’t watching the whole thing and missing important messages. Especially challenging was the part where he read a list of names of top performers.  She suggested that he keep up the recognition effort but via email, not video. That simple fix cut the video length in half and viewers were happy to watch to the end.

  1. They look beyond their role.  Engaged employees know that they are part of a broader organization.  They have a vested interest in how the organization is doing overall and pride themselves on knowing how the various departments work together. They make it their business to listen to Earnings Calls—often as a team—and work to understand what “the street” is saying and why.
  1. They ask questions. At staff meetings, one-on-one meetings, even company wide meetings, engaged employees come ready to listen, learn, and ask questions—not softball questions but hard, thought-provoking questions. When no hands are raised at the end of a presentation, it’s usually not because there aren’t any questions. Rather, it’s a sign that either everyone is utterly confused or no one has the courage or candor to engage. 

The best thing a presenter can do in that situation? Smile and say, “Surely some brave soul has a question for me!” If there is still silence, then he or she should call on someone, by name. But that should be the exception, not the norm. Don’t ignore this symptom.

  1. They treat each other well.  Your employees don’t have to be BFFs, but when they show kindness toward one another, it’s a positive sign that they are engaged and invested in their work environment. Engaged employees demonstrate a sense of caring for one another.  You see it when they know about and mark milestones–graduations, birthdays, weddings, loss of family members, retirements. Passing around a card, celebrating with cake or collecting for a special flower arrangement—gestures big and small add up to human connections that lead to engagement.

Employee Engagement is a buzzword because it matters—perhaps more than ever in this age of technology. Yes, you should keep using surveys and other methods to ensure that your team is engaged. But go beyond the obvious and look for the 5 Signs to be sure!

Just One Thing.

One of my favorite non-fiction books is The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It’s a simple but important guide about the power of focus—in the world of business, our personal lives and yes, the business of communications. I must admit, I’m kind of obsessed with this idea. My colleague Kelly knows that this is one of my go-to questions. “I know what you’re going to say, Molly—’What’s the One Thing?’”

“There can only be one most important thing. Many things may be important, but only thing can be the most important.” – Ross Garber

Why it Matters

Recently, I was asked by a client to help communicate an important new initiative to her teams; let’s call it Project X. The problem? The background documentation she provided to me contained 8 objectives, 12 workstreams and 3 new technologies. When we met,  I explained that it would be much more impactful to her teams if she could crystallize the focus of the project. I don’t mean just one talking point or one workstream. I mean the one thing that everyone needed to understand in order to make the initiative successful. After all, although Project X was certainly important, it wasn’t the ONLY thing that her teams were working on. If she wanted THEM to focus, then SHE had to focus.

How to Make it Happen

So how did we get there? I asked her to pretend that she had just presented Project X at an all-hands meeting. Everyone was exiting the room. Quick! What’s the One Thing she wanted them to remember? It took a few tries—this is hard—but we were able to nail a succinct, focused message that set the trajectory for all other communication tactics. It helped her to tell the Project X Story quickly and crisply and it helped her teams to deliver on this important work.

The next time you have something important to say or communicate, I challenge you to ask yourself: What’s the One Thing? It will take a few tries—maybe more than a few—but I promise, it will be well worth the effort.