The One Thing That Really Helps Drive Engagement

Employee Disengagement is probably one of the biggest challenges that businesses are facing. When you look at the research it shows that disengagement is at a staggering 66% or higher, depending on which surveys you use, and which countries it refers to.

This means that, in the majority of companies, 2 out of every 3 people are disengaged.

Imagine if you had a sports team and 2/3rds of your team weren’t really bothered and didn’t really put the effort it, what impact would that have on your chances of winning.

Pretty much zero!

But how do you create engaged teams, where everyone is committed and working towards your goal.

In my experience, and this comes from turning around failing projects and underperforming departments, where not only engagement was low, but also morale, the quickest way to improve engagement is through involvement.

Involve people by asking them their opinions, ask them what they think is going wrong, what we could do to improve things, or what would they do if they were in charge.

When you ask these kinds of questions people always have an opinion and when they answer they are becoming engaged.

Yes, it might not be much but its a start.

When we involve people it has so many benefits, we show them respect, we build their trust, and we might just learn something.

One of my favourite sayings is “the people on the front line know more about what is going on than the generals back at HQ”.

So by asking people what they think, you might just get some insights that will lead to immediate improvements.

This has a double benefit, first, you get the benefit of the improvement, but you also get the benefit of people seeing their suggestions being implemented which will boost their engagement even further, and put them into the highly engaged category.

Highly engaged people are engagement multipliers because they help engage other people.

On a recent project that I took over one of the first things I did was to involve the Test Manager in every single meeting. I knew that testing was going to be critical and that usually it’s left to the end, by which point it’s often too late.

So I invited him into all of the early meetings, ones he wasn’t usually asked to attend, and in each one, I asked him for his opinion.

The impact was he became one of the most engaged people on the project. He felt important and that thought that I felt testing was important.

Just by this one simple act of involvement, he not only became engaged, but he became highly engaged and worked to engage others, especially in ensuring we delivered a high-quality solution.

I used a similar approach with some of my other direct reports, I asked them for their input, their thoughts on how we should do things. I didn’t accept everything, but where possible I went with their ideas which helped boost their ownership and engagement.

I was the fifth project manager to lead that project and we successfully delivered and the single biggest contribution to that success was involving people.

Involving people shouldn’t be that difficult, although our egos can get in the way of things.

The easiest way to avoid this is to remember that as the leader our job is not to create the best solution or answer but to ensure that the best one is adopted and utilized.

One of my favourite stories on involvement is about a fourth division football team, Stevenage, who were playing Newcastle United, a Premier League team .

In the team talk, the manager asked his team what they thought they need to do to win the game today.

The players responded saying: “we’re going to need to close down the Newcastle players very quickly, give them no space or time on the ball; we’re going to need to defend like our lives depend on it, throwing our bodies in front of every shot; we are going to have to take any opportunity we get; and if we score we are going to have to tackle and tackle for the full 90 minutes.”

The manager said “that’s the great plan, now go do it”

Stevenage went out and won 3 – 1.

The simplest approach to finding the best solution is to ask the experts on your teams.

The more involved people become, the more engaged they become. It is as simple as that!