All of us very well know that we need to engage our employees….. or else another company will!

Needless to say, no one can afford to lose key players as they represent a competitive advantage. Yet, the shocking part is that research indicates that only between 17-29 per cent of employees are actively engaged in their job at any one time!

Then again, while every manager desires strong engagement, most of them are at a loss as to what exactly they can do to increase employee engagement. Well, the good news is that there is a lot they can do.

A few pointers on how a manager can work to develop and nurture employee engagement levels:

Open communication: Talk with your employees; it's as simple as that. Make it a point to share the basics of company financial information, challenges and any other good/bad news that affects them. Regularly discuss the importance of their work and how it aligns with company goals, career progression, skills development, emerging work trends and so on. Also, do not shy away from asking employees what they think is wrong or why they have low engagement.

Using such continuous face-to-face dialogue – be it frequent meetings, one-to-one conversations or informal chats in the hallway – instead of just emails and memos will go a long way in fostering an atmosphere of open exchange and support.

Value input: Communication is always a two-way street. While you should definitely share information, it is equally important to be a good listener when employees are doing the talking.

Listen to their ideas, opinions and concerns and then make it a point to take appropriate action. While you obviously cannot accept every suggestion, nothing is more disappointing than being asked for an idea/opinion and then doing nothing. Following through will show that you care for your employees, respect them and that their views do count.

Performance: As a manager, you should clearly communicate performance standards – vision, goals, expectations, priorities and measures of success. After all, no one likes to avoid work if there is clarity on what to do and how it will be evaluated. Top leader and executive coach, Charles Van Heerden further elucidates, ‘The key here is to focus on outputs or outcomes, not tasks or activities, as employees will become more engaged if they understand what is required, but have the opportunity to decide the best way to achieve the desired outcome.'

Regularly discussing and exploring the work coupled with informal and constructive feedback (which is immediate, fair, accurate, voluntary, detailed and mostly positive), something even as simple as communicating that the employee is on track or doing a good job, will definitely encourage employees to deliver high performance.

Appreciate, appreciate: Change your motto to – Catch employees doing right (not wrong)! Habitually praising good work or simply saying ‘Thank You' for the efforts shows that you recognise strengths, value achievements and that any effort is not taken for granted.

Celebrating individual/team successes, complimenting efforts and offering appropriate rewards will persuade employees to work hard, show initiative and also go the extra mile.

Develop employees: Inculcate a strong coaching environment with targeted employee development activities like challenging and meaningful work, variety in work through job/responsibilities rotation or stretch goals, cross-training, building inherent strengths, career growth discussions, mentoring and advancement opportunities. Help employees to do their work better by coaching in the moment so that they can learn and grow even in the course of their day-to-day work.

Apart from this, managers should build an employee-focused culture, provide proper resources to get their jobs done, remove any barriers to the work, empower employees with appropriate authority and involve them in the decision-making process.

To sum up, managers can improve employee engagement only with continuous efforts to lead from the front. After all, to keep their teams engaged, managers have to remain super-engaged! Making your employees feel cared for, valued and heard will not only improve your own leadership effectiveness but also make your organisation a preferred employer of choice.

In their groundbreaking book, ‘First Break All the Rules', Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organisation argue, ‘The number one reason why people thrive in an organisation is their immediate supervisor and it's also the number one reason they quit!' So, which reason do you want to be?

Payal Chanania