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3 questions on the road to employee engagement

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

February 16, 2021 Partnership for Talent

When you are an employee, whether you realize it or not, every day is a choice. By arriving at the office or logging onto your computer you are choosing to stay with your organization. As employers, one of our biggest concerns should be to ensure that every day our employees make this choice they are actively engaged in the work they do and contributing to where our organizations are headed. At its core, employee engagement is about answering three basic questions for employees, making them feel part of the bigger picture of the organization they have chosen to join and stay with. There are some components of broad organizational design that are key tools to improving our chances of success.


Where do I fit?- Employees want to understand clearly where they, their job, and the work they do fit into the overall scheme of the organization. Job design is a critical element. Make sure you understand and can clearly articulate why the job exists in your organization, the key components of the job, and the skills and experience needed to perform it well. Having a functional job matrix that contains each of the jobs in your organization and how they relate to one another will help employees to understand where their job fits within the broader context of the organization. An organizational structure that outlines for managers their span of responsibility, also helps to show employees where they should go for support. Make sure that you have a well thought through, robust, and ever evolving onboarding Onboarding is not day 1 orientation. Day 1 orientation ensures that employees know where to park, where to put their lunch and who all the names and faces in their department are. Onboarding is an extended process designed to shorten the learning curve for employees, position them best to be successful, and maximize inclusion in the success of the organization.


How can I contribute?- Employees join and stay with organizations because they want to contribute to fulfilling its goals and objectives and be an active part of its success. To do this, it is important for employees to understand how they can contribute, and how that contribution will be measured and recognized. Interactive goal setting is an important component of helping employees understand how they can contribute and where they should be focusing their valuable time and attention. I once had a colleague, a marathon runner, who described the process of running a race as passing one telephone pole at a time. For employees, understanding where the organization is going long-term is an important piece of information, and working together with them to set incremental individual goals for how they will contribute moves their engagement with the organization forward. Coaching and feedback on employee performance is one of the greatest gifts that a manager can give to their team and one of the most important ways to increase employee engagement. Not only do employees want to know how they can contribute, they also want to understand how well they are contributing and if they are meeting the expectations of their leader and the organization as a whole. To enhance employee engagement, we as leaders must be engaged with them on a routine and frequent basis.


Where can I go?- Just as organizations grow, change and advance, so do employees. It is part of the human condition to be positively dissatisfied with the status quo. Having genuine conversations with employees about their professional goals and how they see themselves advancing and growing with the organization are important to maintaining their engagement over longer periods of time. Perhaps even more important is to engage in formal development planning with employees. This requires us to talk about not only where an employee wants to go, but how likely they are to get there and within what timeframe. This gives us a chance to provide opportunities for the employee to learn and grow outside of their day-to-day work and to test their future potential against key leadership competencies that have proven over time to be a barometer of success within the organization. Development planning is different than another key tool used to answer the “where can I go” question, career planning. Career planning is a more formal process of actively moving employees to a variety of ever more challenging jobs within the organization with the goal of advancing their career. The same tool we used to help employees understand where they fit can also be used to help them understand where they can go, the functional job matrix. By looking at the job matrix, an employee and the manager can have an in-depth conversation about the job they are currently in, where that is in relation to other jobs within the organization, and what it would take for the employee to move from one role to another.


Overall, honoring the choice that our employees make every day to stay with and contribute to our organizations by more actively engaging them in the growth and development of the broader organization starts by answering 3 basic questions: Where do I fit? How can I contribute? Where can I go? Having some key organizational design tools in our toolboxes can help ensure we have the clearest and best possible answers.


If, after reading this article, you conclude that you found it helpful, please feel free to share it with your network. Perhaps we can all learn from one another. Thanks!

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