Why do you work? Why does anyone work? Ask your friends or co-workers these questions and you are apt to get a variety of answers. Eventually, many people will get around (some sooner than others) to saying, “To pay the bills,” or some variant of this response.
Let’s begin by acknowledging that most of us do not and could not work for free. However, once the issue of fair and equitable pay is settled, the question becomes: what propels people to engage with their work at a high level? What factors contribute to employee satisfaction and what are some concrete steps you can take to support others in becoming more meaningfully engaged in their work? These are important questions for us to consider.
Here are two simple tips to help increase employee engagement at work:
1. Provide Work That Is Enjoyable
As leaders, we must use better strategies than the punishment and reward approach to encourage staff to become deeply involved in and take ownership of their work. Our aim should be to fan the flame of their own motivation. Our first step is to find out what motivates people. What do they enjoy doing? What sort of work is agreeable for them? Employees need their work to be personally meaningful, and for this to occur the actual tasks need to be gratifying in and of themselves. It’s important to note that the goal is to find a good fit between the organization’s needs and the employees’ preferences – not simply letting everybody do whatever they want to do.
2. Provide Support as Needed
Whatever expectations we have of staff, we need to ensure they have the training, resources, and tools to do what is required. Desire and aptitude are not enough for people to be happy and engaged in their work. They need support to meet the challenges of their role, and we need to be aware of the requirements and challenges that are a part of each role. This happens best when we are present in the workplace, vigilant about responding to issues as they arise, and are intentional about asking people what supports they require.
Here are some questions leaders can ask employees:
• What do you need in order to do your job well?
• Do you know who to ask if you need help?
• Are the processes and procedures clear to you?
• Are there ways to make your job easier?
When we ask these types of questions, insight will be gained. Some employees might be content and feel great about their work. Some might wish for more challenges and have useful ideas for change. Others may feel too challenged and overwhelmed. With this new information, we can work to bring better engagement for everyone.
Although it’s rarely possible to find a job where every aspect of what one does is meaningful, it is possible for every job to have some element to it that is satisfying. By focusing on what type of work each staff member likes to do, and providing them with the necessary support in their roles, we can set them and our organizations up to be successful.