Pam Weston

Can you hear me now?

Verizon introduced this catchy slogan in 2002. Consumers and the general public were definitely listening during the nine-year campaign. Engagement was high as the phrase showed up nearly everywhere in addition to the commercials that the company produced to promote its wireless network strength.

In the workplace, engagement among employees doesn’t seem to catch on so easily. There is a disconnect between what employees are saying and how managers are responding. 

Most organizations invest time and resources to conduct employee surveys annually or biannually. It’s a well-orchestrated process transpiring over a course of several months led by human resources, internal communications, or external consultants. A great deal of care is taken to ensure confidentially for employees. Incentives are offered throughout the process in hopes of gaining the best response rates. Some companies go a step further and follow up with pulse surveys on specific feedback received from employees.

We can all agree that this is a huge commitment from all involved. Even with all of these efforts, however, employee engagement remains low.

In fact, the current Gallup “State of the American Workplace” report indicates that only 33 percent of U.S. employees are engaged. It goes on to report, “If employees don’t have great managers, if they don’t know what’s expected of them or if they are not in roles that match their talents, then the longest possible list of perks is not going to be a cure-all.”

So, what is the call to action for leaders?

This is where listening comes into play. Now that you’ve heard from employees, you should accept the survey results without blaming. Take the next step and develop a plan to improve areas within your control. The most important step is to act on it. Employees may become numb to the survey process and no longer provide honest feedback after years of not feeling heard by their manager.

They won’t continue to ask: Can you hear me now?

Managers may face challenges when attempting to ensure their teams enjoy their jobs while achieving goals. Employees respond to different incentives when it comes to being engaged in the workplace. There is not a magic number or surefire tactic for engagement. The key is for managers to listen, be intentional, and focus on people.

Some areas to consider include job alignment, communication, self-improvement, flexible work arrangements, and having fun. Yes, engagement includes having fun while working.  

Job alignment. Check in with your team to ensure the roles are a good fit throughout their tenure. Keep in mind, shifting career interests may shift over time and corporate restructurings that change job responsibilities could impact engagement. 

Communication. Communicate openly, while encouraging your staff to do the same. Create an atmosphere where employees are able to ask questions, provide fresh ideas, and contribute to the strategy.

Self-improvement. Identify how and why employees want to be developed. Customize development for each employee to ensure they meet specific needs. Forcing an employee to complete certifications and other programs is worthless if they are not aligned to individual development goals.

Flexible work arrangement: Trust employees to get the job done beyond their assigned workspace. Consider a flexible work arrangement as an option for employees who are good candidate and have an interest, if it fits within company policies. Some employees prefer to work in an office environment and thrive within that type of structure. Based on the type of job your employee has, it may be something to consider.  

Have fun. Find out what your employees like to do and figure out how to incorporate it into the way your team interacts. The possibilities are endless. Use your imagination.

Pam Weston is a senior communications strategist and the author of “Executive Briefing: P.E.O.P.L.E. Goals.”

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