I was speaking with a client recently and he was expressing the difficulty that his firm’s leadership was having connecting with their Millennial employees. I mentioned that the challenge of how to connect with employees has always existed, but that possibly our beloved Millennials are forcing us to take it more seriously and to deal with it in new ways.
At some level, every employee wants to feel a part of the organization they work for – to belong. Unfortunately for leadership, there is no "one size fits all" answer to how to accomplish this.
David Grossman of the Grossman Group says that "Great leaders don’t just manage employees; they make sure employees are motivated, engaged and inspired when coming to work. Overlooking these principles can result in disengagement, loss of valuable employees, increased anxiety and poor decision making, among others.
By not engaging with your employees, you could be missing out on key benefits that can contribute to you and your employees’ success."
David suggests 10 things you can do to create better relationships with your employees and increase engagement:
Value and inspire employees
Employees need to feel inspired and valued at work. Consider scheduling several one-on-one talks with managers and their teams and managers and individual employees. In these more intimate conversations, managers can address employees’ concerns directly, and reassure them that they are valued and have a future with the company.
Ask open ended questions to create dialogue
Every time you are in front of an employee, whether one-on-one or in a group, you have an opportunity to increase that engagement through dialogue. Unlike questions that give people limited options for response, open-ended questions encourage them to express their opinions and ideas. When you listen to what they have to say, showing interest and respect for their input, it shows you care and the impact can be significant.
Recognize and motivate employees for doing their job
The best leaders know that the only way to get things done and move a business forward is through people. That means leaders need to go beyond lifting employees who need extra motivation and recognize those who exhibit behaviors you want to continue to see. Saying thank you for a job well done and rewarding employees who exhibit your desired behaviors seems simple, but it’s often overlooked.
Ask for input, feedback and suggestions
To truly move employees to action, we have to know what they care about and get into their mindset. Stop talking so much. Ask for input and feedback. People are more likely to support what they help create. Stop the monologues and talking at your employees; let’s have real, two-way conversations.
Be a role model
You’re aware that employees listen to what you say, and pay close attention to what you do. The reality is that when it comes to keeping employees engaged, body language speaks first, and often louder than words. Reflect on what others are seeing and develop the awareness not only to act the role of the leader you want to be, but to role model the actions and characteristics that you would like to see in others.
Make the performance review a chance to inspire
If the annual performance review is a check-off-the-box activity, you’re missing a key opportunity to engage and motivate your employees. Ask important questions to gain valuable information and help your employees feel valued and appreciated.
Share stories to connect on a personal level
Employees don’t want to follow leaders who they don’t really know and understand. You can’t get anywhere with your team if they don’t see you as a real person who’s not perfect but who has a real vision for the company. One of the key ways to help people get to know you is by sharing stories and connecting with employees on a personal level.
When you ask employees, they want to be able to connect with their leader-today more than ever before. Employees want to know what you have to say; they also want to know what you stand for. Authenticity starts with self-awareness. You need to know yourself and be comfortable sharing who you are with your employees.
Having tough conversations and communicating difficult topics is part of a leader’s job. The principle I share with leaders who avoid conflict is simply this: go toward the conflict. It’s only through what might feel like "rupture" that "repair" can happen. That’s the upside of conflict handled well-improved relationships and trust.
It’s important to realize that most problems in business today lie in the absence of real communication, and to understand the need to facilitate dialogue and "manage" conversation with employees and teams. As a result, you’re able to create shared meaning and move people to action.
By applying these strategies to your leadership approach, you will see a significant difference in the way your employees connect and interact with you.
What can you start doing to improve engagement with your employees and to help them feel more connected to the organization?