Workers who are simply “happy” may not stay for the long haul. Engaged employees are a more nuanced goal. Engaged employees are enthusiastic and dedicated, productive and high-performing. Crucially, they know they can attain challenge and fulfillment within your organization. A team of engaged employees is more likely to remain long-term and deliver higher-quality work, leading to better results for your customers, and therefore profitability and growth.
While cultivating employee engagement is critically important, there is no silver-bullet solution. Without a doubt, though, employee engagement begins with communication and trust. These qualities are the foundation of any relationship — a marriage, a friendship, and even leaders and employees. And this is key: To be genuine and meaningful, that trust and communication must run in both directions.
Research backs up the importance of trust. In its global CEO survey, PwC (formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers) reported that 55% of CEOs think a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. On the other side of the coin, according to Gallup research, employees who trust their employers experience 74% less stress and 40% less burnout.
Here are three ways leaders can proactively build trust and communication.
Craft a vision; then communicate it.
You can set the vision all day long, but if you don’t help your team to understand and realize that vision, you won’t achieve it. Be transparent about the big things, such as growth goals and strategies to increase revenue. Own your business challenges and pain points and invite employees to join you in finding solutions.
Also, recognize that the messages you share with external audiences are also being heard internally. Employees want more business engagement on societal issues. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer found that when considering a job, 60% of employees want their CEO to speak out on controversial issues they care about, up five percentage points. (The survey noted that employees care about policy issues such as the economy, technology, wage inequality and climate change, but not explicitly politics. In other words, they don’t want CEOs to opine about the next leader of the country.)
Give everyone an opportunity to contribute to the culture.
Identify opportunities for employees to play active roles for team and culture building. At Moore, we have leaders that lend their subject matter expertise, including a wellness director and a professional development director. Additionally, consider having employees share perspective about your company values to promote understanding and adoption of those messages.
Success will not come from one person carrying the torch, pushing alone on execution and vision. Ensure that every employee has the opportunity to bring ideas, under a constant invitation into collaboration.
Create openness for constructive feedback.
This one can be challenging for some leaders, because it can be difficult to hear you need to do a better job. But don’t be afraid — or rather, feel the fear and do it anyway, because that’s exactly what courageous leadership entails. CEOs have these three fears: not having complete information, not being right and not being liked. The best solution is to tenaciously create a culture of transparency so that bad news gets elevated quickly and completely.
Fostering employee engagement and coaxing greater performance and outcomes out of team members should feel like a positive, not a negative. Setting that into motion needs to be a process with tremendous buy-in. Having greater expectations should feel like building up your culture, but the process must be orchestrated. Like baking a cake, there are prescribed ingredients and a proper order.
And when you succeed in creating a culture of trust and communication, just look around and listen. Your employees will tell you — and show you — if you’re getting it right.