Most full-time workers spend about 40 hours each week on the job, accounting for roughly 35 percent of their waking moments. That’s a huge emotional, physical and mental commitment. Accordingly, greater numbers of employees are seeking jobs at places where they can feel at home and forge real relationships. As a leader, you should keep this at the forefront of your mind.
Why? Last fall, Gallup reported that just 34 percent of U.S. workers were engaged. While that figure is one of the highest reported engagement levels in Gallup’s history of tracking this metric, it’s not exactly a whopping percentage of the workforce — especially when you consider how employee engagement impacts your bottom line.
In a study of almost 1.9 million employees, Gallup researchers found that engaged employees outperformed their unengaged counterparts in key performance areas such as customer ratings, productivity and profitability. In fact, according to the firm’s State of the American Workplace Report, disengaged employees could be costing the U.S. between $483 billion and $605 billion in lost productivity every year.
Improving rapport among your employees is a valuable strategy for enhancing engagement, and good communication plays a major role in that effort. It might seem odd to think that adults need help talking with their colleagues, but strong communication skills may not always come naturally. Office environment can play a part, especially if you have multiple locations. If your employees struggle to form interpersonal connections with one another, adopt these methods to foster positive dialogue.
1. Offer team members multiple ways to connect.
Communication is key to problem-solving. Have you been relying mainly on meetings and email exchanges? Consider adopting a mix of public and private platforms so team members can contact each other in preferred ways, depending upon the situation. Of course, you’ll need to have a strong project-management system that allows for the exchange of information about specific projects and tasks, but opens up even more avenues for co-workers to connect. If you do, you’ll be in good company. Twenty eight percent of respondents to a Robert Half survey said instant-messaging platforms are their primary channel for communicating with colleagues. Apps such as Slack and Asana encourage informal interaction and can help employees bond across departments. If your team communications require greater security, setting up an intranet will provide a safer portal. You may even want to give employees a private blog or chat boards so they can expand their work networks and feel more connected to one another.
2. Insist upon honest, constructive feedback.
In her book, Radical Candor, author Kim Scott discusses how, through her experiences at Apple and Google, she developed a policy of challenging directly while caring personally. Scott says those two aspects are key to providing feedback that’s both honest and constructive. You can help your team do likewise, but only if you’re willing to pave a two-way street that encourages innovative ideas and respectful questioning.
Many employees don’t feel comfortable critiquing their colleagues’s performance, much less that of their managers. And to be honest, plenty of supervisors would rather not hear about their flaws. When you begin to ask for specific feedback and take responses into consideration, though, you’ll inevitably change the tone of your workplace. Start today by asking a direct report how you can be a more helpful leader or how you can better support a specific project. As members of your team practice radical candor, they’ll improve their ability to solve problems as a group and reinforce trust among each other, both of which will contribute to greater engagement.
3. Communicate company vision and goals regularly.
Is everyone on your team rowing in the same direction? Not necessarily, especially if people rarely hear from you about your companywide mission and goals. Simpplr’s State of the Intranet report found that two-thirds of leaders only communicate with their teams about company strategy or vision quarterly, or even less than that. The report posits that this relative lack of communication contributes to troubling worker-engagement rates, and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s hard for employees to stay engaged when they feel they’re being kept in the dark.
Monthly or quarterly all-team meetings are a great opportunity to give employees a big-picture view of how the company is doing and the goals it’s working toward. Weekly team meetings can be used to tie specific projects back to the company’s objectives and brainstorm ways to remove obstacles. Your various communications platforms (e.g. a weekly email) can also be used to showcase the company’s vision in action. After a team successfully completes a collaborative project, for example, praise the members publicly and connect their actions to your corporate mission. As you help team members see why their commitment to working together matters, they’ll be more apt to form tighter bonds centered on the organization’s purpose.
Even if you feel as though every employee is giving 110 percent, you can always get stronger as a collective team. Focus your attention on improving communication between — and with — your employees, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of having more mutually supportive, engaged team players on your roster.