Engagement is about Paying Attention

You’re a manager, and have been struggling to improve employee morale in your department. Because you truly care about your work and your staff, you have been researching current practices in employee engagement. Your research is leading you down a hundred different paths, many including specific systems and online portals and personality tests. You can't decide where to start, and even if any of these systems address your particular issues.

And the reality is; none of them offer a complete solution. Because the real work of employee engagement lies in the simple practice of paying attention.

Think about those personality tests. What happens after everyone takes it? You talk about it. And it is in this conversation that the value of that test lies. Because if you were to keep the info about your personality results to yourself, other people on staff would not have the chance to interact with you based on what they now know are your strengths and weaknesses.  This is likely the case of companies who didn’t see improvements in team function after the tests; they didn’t take the time to discuss the results so others could pay attention better.

Engagement is about helping people learn to pay better attention to each other.

Paying attention is the base of staff satisfaction initiatives, whether we recognize it or not. Staff gatherings give people a chance to talk to each other and pay attention to personality, values, and hobbies. Awards let people know someone was paying attention to them and their work. Merit increases are designed to make sure staff know the company ACKNOWLEDGES hard work.

So that is where WSS keeps its focus. We don’t do personality tests. We don’t have high-tier systems that are supposed to be the miracle cure for your engagement problems. You don’t need them. Because the reason they work is simple; they help you pay attention. 

But paying attention day in and day out is difficult work. Much more difficult that whipping out one more personality assessment for your staff. It requires constant reminders of what you already know, refocusing, accountability, and a confidence that keeps you from following every fad promising to make your engagement work easier.

Working with people isn’t always easy. Paying attention to people isn’t always easy. We’re here to help.

A few tips to get you started:

  1. Make it a daily practice to ask a staff member about how their day is going. Don’t allow “fine” as the response; ask open ended questions to really get at how they are doing. Ask what struggles they are having with a current project, or how a family member is doing, or what resources they need.
  2. Write one thank you note a week. Just one to start. Send it to that staff member you noticed going above and beyond. It doesn’t need to be a work-related thank you either. Did a staff member bring you a cup of coffee? Or offer assistance to someone? Or just have a really good attitude? Recognize those moments.
  3. Initiate a way for staff to offer suggestions. This could be the simple comment box, a weekly email that asks for responses with ideas for workplace improvement, or an hour a week that you designate as a drop-in time to talk about creative ideas with your staff. Let them know you recognize they have ideas and you want to pay attention to them.