How does a leader impact employee engagement?
It starts with addressing the problem head on, rather than finding shortcuts that inevitably answer a different question:
How does a leader make it look like employees are engaged?
A: Top-Down Assessments, Leader Controlled Surveys, Quarterly Reports on 'Employee Happiness', Blog Posts on Employee Engagement from Leadership.
These answers result in a never ending build up of fluff. Fluff that leaves out the people that matter: the employees. Employee engagement is measured through research, discussions, and assessments that are owned by leaders who have predetermined results they want to see.
To avoid this, leaders have to involve employees at a deeper level, rather than giving them a sheet to fill out.
The answer is empowerment. By empowering employees, they will have a purpose within an organization and will engage in company driven goals.
Leadership is about knowing how each team member influences the probability of success then leveraging strengths to compensate for weaknesses. - Olin Hyde
The 3 keys to employee engagement are trust, voice, and influence.
A leader must establish trust for an employee to be engaged within an organization. Trust is created through conversations that embrace two-way dialogue. Trust removes the need for supervision or daily updates. Allow employees to fail by giving them the autonomy to complete tasks or generate strategies. The result determines if trust can be created between the leader and the employee.
With trust, a leader can empower employees by giving them a voice. An employees voice shouldn't be siloed within one department. It needs to reach across an organization. An employees voice should ignore hierarchy and have a presence. Top collaborative organizations are giving employees a voice through content sharing:
Best-In-Class companies place emphasis on continuous employee learning, with 60% providing their employees with a central content hub for self-learning (compared to 49% of all others), and 35% providing mobile access to content (vs. 29% of all others.) – Aberdeen Group
Allow employees to share content on an even playing field where the entire organization can see and engage with each other.
A voice is worthless without influence. An employee must feel like they're contributing if they are to feel empowered. As a result, leaders must engage with the voice of their employees. Allow employees to influence decision making. If employees are involved they will be increasingly motivated to engage.
Employees need to be contributors, rather than an audience to higher up decision makers. Empower them to engage in the conversation.
The Advantage of Employee Engagement
In the end, a leader must empower their employees in order for them to be engaged. Through trust, an employee can be given a voice that influences decision making. In turn, the company will be granted a workforce that is continually engaged and motivated inside the organization.
When employees are engaged, the ability to leverage employee advocacy, internal sharing, and cross department enablement is fully optimized. In response, the success rates of collaborative initiatives increase drastically.