As part of our ongoing series on engagement this latest post reveals some of the ingredients that are needed to build employee engagement, higher discretionary effort.

Employee engagement is the process of creating an environment at work where employees provide higher levels of discretionary effort – the effort they give at work because they want to, not because they have to.

A simple example of discretionary effort can be seen in meetings – some employees actively engage in the debate, see the opportunities ahead of the problems, put their hands up accept tasks without being asked to do it and are prepared to take on additional duties to get something done that improves the business.

Tip 1 – Talk frequently – build a better understanding of the person and establish a sense of trust

Let the team know what’s happening in the business, the good news and the not so good news. Keep them updated on their own performance through reviews of KPI’s and targets. For the individual, bin the annual appraisal and replace it with quarterly catch ups and informal objective setting activities. Keep these light, keep them informal and keep them focused on the persons job – here the principle is a little and often. The goal is to .

Tip 2 – Recognise – say thanks and set people up as role models

It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives at work, and take the positives for granted. When you see something good, either a task being completed or where extra effort is being put in – recognise it, and make it common knowledge. It could be a gift voucher, bunch of flowers or a cash reward the list is endless – keep the recognition, small, meaningful and most importantly timely – do it quickly after the event so it has impact and builds employee engagement.

Tip 3 – Challenge – tackle underperformance quickly – don’t let it fester

If you see things you don’t like, behaviour that not appropriate deal with it informally, deal with it quickly and don’t be afraid saying hard messages. Persistent under performance of 1 individual can act as a demotivator to those who want to put in extra effort, create divisions in teams between the doers and don’ts and undermine your position as leader as others perceive you as being weak.

Tip 4 – Involve – give people a chance to have an opinion

If the team are engaged, have a passion for what they do, like coming to work – involve them in whats going on. Involvement isn’t about big things, its about agreeing a project that staff can deliver, taking them to meetings they would not normally be involved in or asking for an opinion before making a decision. Employee engagement is built through the feeling of being trusted and having your skills respected. The more an employer demonstrates trust in the team, the more likely the employee is to want to put in extra effort.

Tip 5 – Role Model – do what you want others to do

If you want people to be engaged and enthusiastic and go the extra mile – do it yourself – when people are speaking listen to what they have to say, ask for an opinion before stating your own, talk to the staff about the business, do reviews when you say you will, share performance figures so people know how their efforts affect performance and tackle under performance – don’t ignore it.

Last words – reality

This all sounds great but it is theory – ultimately remember this, you can’t fix everyone. If an employee chooses not to engage this is their choice and whilst we can try and understand them we cannot forcibly change their feelings about work. The best approach is to keep trying and through persistence influence as many people as possible to encourage the disengaged to buy in.