We sat down with John Fikany and Kevin Martin to talk about how leaders can drive employee engagement and grow their businesses, even with a largely remote workforce. We’ve summarized what they had to say below, but you can click here to watch the full discussion.
John Fikany is the Founder and CEO of The Fikany Group, with 27 years of experience in the technology industry. This includes 13 years as Vice President of Microsoft’s largest sales organization globally and 8 years as Vice President at Oracle Corporation. Fikany is an inspirational keynote speaker, Fortune 5 Executive, and technology thought leader that thrives in the most complex environments.
Kevin Martin is the Chief Research Officer at the Institute for Corporate Productivity. Martin and his team research and explore talent risk management, corporate culture, human capital strategy, and much more. Martin is a global human capital thought leader and keynote speaker, recognized as a “Top 100 HR Influencer to Follow on Twitter” by Witty Parrot and a “Top 100 HR Influencer” by HR Examiner.
The theme of our conversation centered around this question:
How can leaders equip their teams to improve employee engagement?
#1 – Focus on employee development
In a research study, Martin’s team found that a leading indicator of employee engagement is the ability of an organization and its leaders to provide development opportunities for employees. A few examples of development opportunities include:
- Rotational assignments: Allow an employee to explore different avenues of a company for a specified period of time. This gives the employee the mobility to explore different duties and tasks in new positions, which keeps them engaged and helps prevent burnout.
- Exposure: Provide employees the ability to meet with and interact with higher-ups or other ranking members of the firm. While physical and geographic mobility may be limited under today’s circumstances, employees can still interact with other workers virtually.
- Customized developmental plans: Personalized development plans that fit the needs of the business and the individual are critical for employee engagement.
#2 – Use empathy and trust to empower workers
Employees need a supportive communication environment and trust from their leaders in order to flourish. Research shows that organizational trust and psychological empowerment predict positive job behaviors. Empathy in the workplace is also positively related to job performance (Center for Creative Leadership).
Leaders can show empathy by showing sincere interest in the needs of employees and their career development. Empathy is not a fixed trait and can be learned. This means organizations can help leaders develop empathy skills with training, coaching, and developmental opportunities.
To increase trust, leaders also need to provide employees the ability to connect with others, from wherever they are, as disengagement can occur when employees are not provided the tools and technology for them to be able to do their jobs efficiently. However, it’s important to use technology to inspire, not inspect employees. Companies that have disengaged employees are the ones with tools that are meant to measure versus motivate, and count versus coach. This is the difference between management and leadership. In our current environment, leaders need to be supporting, coaching, and leading, not managing.
This softer side of leading is hugely critical. That said, leaders need to humanize themselves. In order for employees to open up and share their problems, leaders need to set the stage. Leaders should understand that with the current work-life blend, people have a lot going on. By being aware of the signs of overload and checking-up on their employees, leaders will be able to better address and tend to their employees’ needs. This modernized development of leading provides the right workplace culture for employees to feel safe to raise their hands and let their leaders know what is going on.
Development of not only your employees but of your leadership is essential for the roadmap to employee engagement. Environment and technology make a big difference, but leaders must know how to use these things as a resource and not an ultimatum. Coupling these things with the softer side of leadership and knowing what to ask and how to ask are key to having a culture that promotes an employee’s overall wellbeing and growth within the organization.
To drive growth in an organization, employee engagement should be a top priority. When businesses focus on caring for their people before they worry about their profit, success will follow.