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The Leaders’ Role in Employee Engagement

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder and CEO

If you take a look at the Navy SEALs, it is hard to not get bowled over by the level of engagement. They dominate the battlefield and successfully defeat dangerous and decentralized enemies continuously and consistently. One of the fundamental reasons they do so is because employee engagement with the SEALS is at 100%. That level of engagement is aspirational.

We know why employee engagement has taken center stage in the corporate world. Engaged employees are more productive. They are more committed to the organization. They are in the workplace for the long haul. All of these elements are essential for any organization to thrive in today?s hyper-competitive business environment.

Despite this understanding, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged. This means the remaining 85% of the workforce is not emotionally invested in committing their time, effort, energy, and talent towards adding value to their teams and the organizational goals.

It is the disengaged employees who can offer untapped opportunities for organizations to improve their performance and profitability. Therefore, employee engagement is now a strategic priority for any organization. And as with everything else, a great deal of its responsibility falls on the leaders of the organization. Leaders need to inspire their employees to not only execute their jobs but to find purpose in their roles.

Leadership to connect and build − not just inspire awe

To build employee engagement within the company, leadership styles have to evolve from being transactional to transformational.

Transactional leaders employ the conventional reward and punishment methodology to gain compliance. They are action−oriented and results−focused.

Transformational leadership is when the leaders encourage others to help one another to higher levels of motivation by building their confidence, providing intellectual stimulation, and providing individualized consideration.

Transformational leadership helps in changing the way the employees view themselves − it helps the employees see that they are not isolated individuals but an important and essential part of a team. When employees see themselves as important members of a collective, it motivates them to contribute more.

Prioritize the organizational health

When we talk of leadership and organizational health, we often tend to equate the latter with the financial health of the organization. While this is a critical matrix, financial health makes up only a part of the organizational health − because organizational health is more than just profit and loss.

According to research by McKinsey, there are four key leadership “recipes” that contribute to organizational health. One of the recipes focuses on talent development, providing opportunities for growth, being open and trusting, and inspiring and motivating employees. All of these activities have a positive impact on employee engagement.

Leadership has to take an active interest in the development of the people within the organization. Just as they are aware of the successes of the employees, they need to be equally aware of the impediments to success, the challenges the employees face, and the support that the employees need. However, this information has to be based on hard data.

Aligning business goals with personal goals

Organizational leadership has to now demonstrate that they are facilitators of not just organizational success but employee success as well. Today, organizations have to constantly re-evaluate and restructure their goals to meet the strategic shifts of the dynamic marketplace. It becomes essential for leaders to ensure that they not only invest energies to determine the organizational goals but ensure that employee goals are aligned with these business goals.

This involves

− Making sure that the need for change is communicated clearly

− Giving access to the tools to the employees and contribute to their goals

− Having the right processes in place so that employees have a place to raise concerns and address grievances

− Providing access to the right mentors who can help them succeed in the face of challenges

− Providing opportunities for growth to all employees and not just the high−value ones

Build the foundation for trust

We call those good leaders who proactively provide support, offer feedback, and recognize the hard work put in by employees. However, it is the great leaders who are more self−aware. These leaders objectively assess if they are setting a good example for their teams to follow.

Leaders must model the behavior they want to see in their teams. Great leadership shows that there is nothing beneath them, that they are not above the grunt work, and that they are always willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work. If the leaders are committed, focused, and engaged at work, they will be much closer to having an engaged team.

Employees today are not looking at vending machines and dartboards in their workplaces. They are looking for a shared sense of purpose and committed leaders. They demand open communication, well-articulated goals, shared values, and well−defined reward systems. And leadership has a big role to play in giving a voice to

these aspects. Leaders have to know that while being knowledgeable is important for their roles − it is more important that the employees see that the leaders care about and understand them.

Employee engagement is not a destination but a journey. And a significant part of the responsibility of this journey rests on the leaders. It is the leaders who determine how to navigate this journey and define its pace to have employees who are happy, productive, and engaged.

Are you ready to transform your employee engagement & skills−development experience? NumlyEngage™ allows you to leverage the power of analytics and AI to counter employee turnover and talent retention issues.

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