Higher engagement means increased productivity — it’s that simple. But my friend Denise Cooper of Coach HR says she often finds leaders have trouble grasping the importance of employee engagement. So she changes her tactics.
“When I talk to leaders, I don’t talk about engagement. I talk about productivity,” she says. “HR sometimes shoots itself in the foot when it talks about engagement. If I say we’re going to talk about engagement, leaders ask me, ‘why?’ But when I switch to performance and how to maximize productivity, then they get it.”
Everything you do for engagement affects productivity, Cooper says. Looking at what drives engagement — getting the right people in the right roles and giving them the tools and skills to succeed — draws a line from where an organization is today to getting better performance, she says. Here’s how she says you can make the connection.
Start at the Top
Cooper says there are several ways leaders can make the connection between engagement and productivity:
- Setting priorities. When employees know their role and how it fits in with the company’s goals, engagement increases. While all companies have a goal of making money, how they do it needs to be clear cut. When employees know what the priority is and what direction the company intends to move, their engagement goes up and they’re more productive.
- Delegating. Leaders who delegate show they trust their employees by fostering self-sufficiency. These employees in turn are likely to be more engaged, because they understand the roles they’ve been given.
- Follow up on your delegation. If employees don’t have the tools to do the tasks they’re assigned, their engagement will drop and the work won’t get done. Ensure the people you’re delegating to have the tools they need to complete the job.
The challenge of connecting productivity and engagement is that it’s possible for companies, especially large ones, to be successful without focusing on engagement. “That’s what makes this so hard. You can be bad at engagement and still make money. When your vision and character as a leader is that you’re going to treat people with dignity and respect, engagement matters.”
Improve Through Empowerment
Employees who are engaged are more likely to see or understand approaching challenges before they hit, but it’s also important to get them to recover faster and take care of it in the most efficient way. “That’s what reduces cost and that’s what increases revenue,” she says.
Customer service representatives, for example, need to be able to make sure customers leave happy no matter what has happened with their interaction or shipment. “When the person who’s standing there sees a problem, you need to know how they’re going to recover on their own — they can’t wait for an edict from the district manager,” she says. “That’s why you want engagement.”
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