Engagement is a very trendy word, and while it is so powerful, because of its (over)use, people are making it harder to understand and think about than is necessary. In fact, it is writers, speakers and consultants (yep, people like me) who are adding to the confusion by injecting complexity where it isn’t needed.
So let’s get past all of that right now. Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Let’s talk about what people really want in their lives. Because when they have these at work, they will automatically and effortlessly be engaged in their work.
Warning – this list includes seven powerful ideas, but it doesn’t include the item most people think would be at the top of the list. (Go ahead, make your mental list now and see if the omitted one is on your list.)
Meaning. People want to be a part of something useful, valuable, and bigger than themselves. Help people see how what they do makes a difference for others, for the community, the world or whatever. Make sure people can see the mission of the organization and how they can fit in to it. Even more importantly, help them see why this mission is important.
Expectations. People want to know what is expected of them and what behaviors are valued. When people know what is really expected, they work with less stress and higher confidence and productivity. Do your team members know what you expect of them? Do they really know? Have you taken time (lately) to discuss and clarify the expectations and needs of the work?
Targets. People are naturally competitive (if only with themselves), so help them compete by giving them (or helping them create) goals. Whether the work is highly creative or more mundane and repetitive, goals drive satisfaction and fun. Do your people have clear targets to shoot for?
Relationships. Human beings want to feel connected to other people, and work is a logical place to have that need met – after all we spend more waking hours at work than in any other activity. Does the working environment allow for and promote the development of strong working relationships? Do people feel a personal connection to you?
Input. The people who do the work have a valuable perspective. They have ideas, and they’d like to share them. You don’t need to implement every idea, or accept every solution suggested; but if you openly ask for and value those ideas, some will make a difference. And the process of asking will engage people in powerful ways. Are you making it easy (and expected) for people to share their ideas?
Belief. People want to be around people who believe in them. We will do our best work when we know that those around us want the best for us and believe we can achieve the best. Do you believe in the capacity and potential of your people? If so, do they know? If not, why not?
Freedom. We are talking about human beings here, not robots – and people don’t want to be robots. Even in the most regulated and procedure-driven job, there is room for freedom and personal choices. Are you giving people the chance to express themselves and make adjustments, while still reaching the quality and quantity targets a job requires?
The good news for every leader or manager reading these words is that you can create an environment and lead in a way to provide more of these. These are in your control, regardless of your industry or company culture.
Notice this list doesn’t include pay. Do people need money and look for it from their job? Of course – that doesn’t mean more pay will automatically create greater job performance. So let’s be clear: pay is important and it only goes so far. Commitment, motivation, work ethic, and yes, engagement, are not based on pay.
This list won’t really surprise you, because it includes many of the things you want too, doesn’t it? Keep that in mind and remember that your people are people, and we all want more of these things in our lives and work. When you provide them, engagement ensues.