How to Engage Your Team in a Meaningful Way
Forming culture takes effort. It’s the culmination of your beliefs, values, and principles determined by your collective history, management style, and deliverables. But it’s more than the work your team produces. It’s how your team produces that work.
Written by:Jackie Barker
There’s a science behind building engaged teams – a growing collection of knowledge and opinions that can be tested in the office. Your specific strategy will depend on a few variables (e.g., team members and business goals), but ultimately it comes down to incentives.
It would be unwise to underestimate the motivation of a good salary; however, people are looking for more than just money–they’re looking for meaning. Don’t dismiss the power of intangibles!
Studies indicate there’s only a marginal association between pay and job satisfaction. Psychologist Lewis Garrad says, “Money may lure people into jobs, but purpose, meaning, and the prospect of interesting and valuable work determines both their tenure and how hard they will work while they are on the job.”
This means that people are more likely to engage when they experience their role as meaningful, and in many ways, that meaning stems from a solid company culture. Do people want to work with/for you? Do they see your culture as an incentive?
Create a Company Culture That Engages Your Team
Forming organizational culture takes time and effort. It’s the culmination of your company’s beliefs, values, and principles – determined not only by the experience of each team member but by your collective history, management style, and deliverables. But it’s more than the work your team produces. It’s how your team produces that work.
Culture influences every aspect of your business. When done right, it can certainly act as an enticement for employees to engage. Let’s discuss some of the key elements to consider when building your culture:
Harvard researcher and Founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Paul J. Zak has been researching the neurological connection between trust and organizational performance for years. He found that people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout. A Citigroup and LinkedIn survey found that nearly half of employees would actually forfeit a 20% raise for greater control over their work environment.
Just taking a moment to ask about someone’s weekend and occasionally share stories of your own can go a long way toward building trust as well. Recognize that, just like you, your team has a life outside of work. If they’re ever dealing with something personal – becoming a parent, losing a loved one, going through a divorce – your empathy will make a lasting impression.
This is equally important for people who work remotely. If you interact with your team in a virtual “office,” be sure to open each conversation with a warm hello and other niceties.
When you form a base of trust, people start to feel comfortable giving and receiving candid feedback. This is one of the most positive and efficient ways for people to understand their personal growth and the impact they have on others.
When someone says, “I’d like to give you feedback,” your mind starts to race, your blood pressures rises, and you think of all the things that could go wrong. That’s why as a leader, it’s your role to create a growth environment where people feel comfortable giving and receiving constructive feedback. Don’t just give it. Ask for it!
Note that a culture of feedback does not require you to offer unwavering support and comfort. You can still question each other’s ideas. What it does mean is that you’re highly attuned to people’s emotional state and their current ability to listen.
We often think that good feedback is honest, but that’s only part of the story. It should also be meaningful, transparent, timely, and goal-oriented. There needs to be something they can do about it.
- Continuous Development:
A culture of continuous development boosts productivity, engagement, satisfaction, and morale. As an added bonus, it decreases turnover. Associate professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, Ross Tartell, Ph.D. says, “Learning is an irreplaceable component in defining an organization’s culture to support the innovation, market adaptation, and employee engagement necessary for success.”
Moderate stress caused by setting difficult but attainable development goals releases oxytocin and adrenocorticotropin, chemicals that help us focus, into our brains. Every challenge should follow the SMART model: Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive.
Consider online courses and industry conferences for your team -- or even things like lunch and learns where they can share knowledge with each other. The last thing you want to build is a culture where team members hoard and withhold information. If given the space to grow and climb (promotions, new titles, more responsibility), your team will be encouraged to shift, adapt, and ultimately engage.
We all want feedback and recognition. In many ways, our lives are modeled around it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your appreciation for employees goes without saying. Compliments should come freely when deserved.
Recognition doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of verbal acknowledgment either. If your team seems burnt out, suggest something as simple as a walk, or change up their day in some other small way.
It’s also important to recognize that we don’t all crave recognition in the same form. Some people like public praise, while others prefer something more subtle like a personal note. There are some who respond best to tangible recognition, like gift cards or perhaps a cup of coffee. Pay attention to your team members as the individuals they are.
A recent whitepaper from O.C. Tanner, Fortune 100 Best Company to Work For and Great Place to Work® Conference Sponsor, investigated the cause of increased employee engagement. “Overall, 37% of respondents stated that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work more often. While other themes like autonomy and inspiration did surface, recognition was the most dominant, illustrating the importance of affirmation, feedback and reward for motivating employees to do their best work.”
Talk to Meddlers About Engagement
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, research shows that employee disengagement costs the United States more than $550 billion a year in lost productivity. This is a serious problem but also an opportunity to master what is the science and art of engagement.
Meddlers can help your team align to the kind of culture that encourages engagement. If you want to learn more about our services and processes, fill out a contact form and we’ll be in touch. We look forward to hearing from you!