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How to know if workers are engaged (don’t ask them)

Sarah K. White | Oct. 4, 2016
Employee engagement is vital for any successful business, but when one in four employees lies on engagement surveys -- and that's just the percentage who own up to it -- how can you uncover checked-out workers?

Instead of a faceless survey -- get personal with your workers. If you want engaged workers, your managers and business leaders need to actually put some effort into actually engaging them, and a faceless, online survey certainly doesn't feel personal.

"Once an employee trusts [management], they can have that open dialogue and communication. If managers get to know staff personally, they will know if they're going through something and not just assume they're unhappy in their role," says Gimbel.

But listening and understanding aren't enough to curb disengagement. You need to actually follow up, he says. Gaining their trust and fostering an open environment for feedback is certainly a vital step, but once an employee tells you they're overwhelmed or experiencing stress, you should be ready to help them build a plan. Gimbel says that if you don't act on the employee's honesty, they'll be less likely to come to you again in the future, and more likely to quit.

Engaged leadership

Engagement starts at the top and works its way down the totem pole -- through executives, management, all the way down to entry-level employees. The higher you are on the ladder, the more responsibility you have to set a strong precedent for what you want engagement to look like at your company. But, that doesn't seem to be the case everywhere, with 57 percent of respondents reporting they feel their leaders are "detached from the workforce." And it's hard to imagine anything more detached than a generic survey sent out in a company-wide mass email.

"When employees feel their supervisors or leaders are disengaged from them, they're more likely to feel undervalued and underappreciated. And we know that when employees feel a lack of appreciation and recognition, they very quickly become disengaged -- and are often one foot out the door," says Trautman.

At the management level, Gimbel says that leaders need to work to get to know their employees on a professionally personal level. If employees feel comfortable with management, they are more likely to express any problems they might be having before submitting their two-weeks notice.

Approach engagement through gamification

One suggestion Trautman offers is to gamify your engagement efforts -- whether through fun team building exercises, company outings or even by bringing in a third-party service to run and host a company-wide event focused on engagement. Rapt Media specializes in video gamification of engagement, citing one successful project at Deloitte, where they created a gamified recruitment video.

"Deloitte created a choose-you- own-adventure, immersive, gamified experience that revealed their company culture and work environment by inviting recruits in to experience "a day in the life at Deloitte" to see if they would "fit in." This interactive video was a re-imagining of the traditional corporate recruiting video and got stellar viewership and feedback," she says.


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