Originally published by Payscale.
Lack of trust in an organization can be a big reason why employees mentally check out. How to do deal with that? Here are five tips on how business leaders can foster an environment of honesty and trust that results in a more productive workforce.
Take the pulse of your employees
To figure out where you need to improve, you’ll want to get a handle on the current state of employee sentiment. Start with employee engagement surveys – you can send them out on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. There are many easy-to-use tools in the market to help you administer the survey, collect real-time feedback, and visualize the data, such as OfficeVibe.
The key is to keep the questions focused on the areas you want to gauge the most. You’ll then need to take real actions based on what you learn and keep track of progress over time.
Practice open and honest two-way communication
People need to feel like they know their objectives and understand the WHY in order to do their best work. When people are confused about the goals (or when roles aren’t well defined), they lose momentum. When people don’t feel it’s safe to voice their opinions within their organization, they keep quiet but mentally check out.
As a leader, strive to be as transparent and open as you can and solicit feedback from all corners of the organization when you make key decisions. Trust that employees will be committed to your organization as long as they understand your mission, values, goals, and challenges and can raise their concerns without fear of repercussion.
There are lots of ways you can facilitate this. Having weekly one-on-one check-ins with employees, soliciting ideas from employees before making decisions, and having regular monthly town hall meetings where C-level execs answer questions openly are a few ways to get started.
Invest in personal growth
Make sure your employees know that you’re investing in their personal growth. Below are some ways by which people evaluate their own growth:
- Autonomy: People want to feel like they have the space to do their work. When employees are encouraged to explore, learn, and come up with their own solutions, they gain new confidence and become willing to put in the extra effort to get the job done.
- Accountability: People are motivated by scores and they like to know where they stand. You can design a scoring system that motivates desired behaviors. Setting clear and realistic goals for your employees and incentivizing them to achieve those goals can amplify engagement. On the flip side, if employees feel that your goals are irrelevant, unrealistic, or arbitrary, they become demotivated.
- Momentum / mastery: People want to feel like they are continuously making progress and gaining new skills. There are milestones throughout the employee life-cycle where employees can gain or lose momentum. For example, onboarding is a critical time for building momentum. To ensure a seamless first day experience, you might treat your new hires to a free lunch with their new team.
Remember that personal growth is, well, personal. Some people will care a lot about some elements (i.e., autonomy), and less about others (i.e., renewal). For others, it’ll be the reverse. There’s a unique formula to each person. As a leader, it’s your job to get to know each individual and what makes them tick.
Think about how you can keep employees engaged through changing work situations, whether it’s how they transition from a long-term project or mapping out an employee’s career path in the organization as roles and needs change. Giving employees timely, specific responses to their feedback in both words and actions will help them feel that they’re making steady progress.
Build a culture of appreciation
For your employees to feel valued at work, they need to hear “thank you” for a job well done. Many times, managers and leaders confuse recognition with rewards or incentives. They say “I don’t have the budget to reward everybody for doing their jobs.” Recognition is not about rewards; it’s about acknowledgement of great performance. Recognition can and should happen in many directions, from peer to peer, from manager to peer and from peer to manager.
To build a real culture of appreciation, you’ll have to:
- Recognize hard work frequently
- Be specific when praising someone
- Encourage participation from all corners
- Give and seek continuous feedback
- Use technology to spread the word
- Communicate as much as possible
Act and make decisions with your core values in mind
To build trust, employees need to feel that the stated values of the company inform how decisions are made and how people behave. When values and behaviors don’t match, cynicism and resentment creep in, and that’s hard to recover from. The key here is to clearly define these values and ensure that all employees are aware of them. You’ll then want to make sure that you yourself are following them. After all, if you can talk the talk, you better be able to walk the walk.
Want more creative ideas on how to improve employee engagement? Download Payscale’s eBook, Getting Real About Employee Engagement.