Boosting Employee Well-Being at Work
Most scholars agree that employee engagement means that employees show up fully at work — physically, cognitively and emotionally.
Engaged employees — those experiencing workplace well-being — are devoted to the daily tasks of the job and the longer-term vision of the company. They praise their organization to others, voluntarily help others, and take initiative to improve organizational policies and practices.
To have a strong sense of well-being at work, staff members need to feel safe and that they belong to a community. The leader sets the tone. Here’s how:
Communication is the key to well-being
Effective leadership of a multifaceted, integrated communication strategy that addresses the above with measurable outcomes, flexibility and consistency is the key to engagement. Here are several tips to accomplish this:
• Understand the specific factors leading to employee engagement or disengagement. Do this through surveys, polls, direct observation and employee feedback. This will empower you to address the specific communication needs of your employees. Feedback serves another important purpose:
By inviting employee input, you legitimize their feelings. The importance of feelings in the workplace is often overlooked, but it is critical to acknowledge, respect and address employees’ emotions and to act on employees’ concerns.
• Create training programs. These are repeated and layered sessions to enhance employee engagement and promote a supportive and understanding environment at all levels of an organization.
• Eliminate dysfunctional communication habits. Unhealthy communication behaviors include talking about people behind their backs, gossiping, and allowing a cliquish culture that gives some people access to information, intimacy and power that rightfully belongs to all.
• Give employees someone to turn to. This goes beyond employee assistance programs and HR benefits. This could be mentors or other informal trusted advisers — those whom employees feel safe with and who legally can keep information confidential. Often, external coaches are an effective resource.
• Be open with employees about organizational decision-making and company performance. For example, share your annual report with employees before other audiences, if possible. Be open about company performance and the short- and long-term strategy.
• Task your managers with fostering engagement. Gallup research shows that the involvement of the manager could make up to a 70 percent difference in the level of employee engagement.
An ideal work environment
What else can a leader do to help create a sense of engagement and well-being? Consider the following:
• Check your assumptions, especially those based on cultural stereotypes — beliefs like Asians are good at math or people in their twenties are social media experts or extroverts are good leaders. These beliefs prevent you from getting and keeping great talent, and people from being seen.
• Get to know people through direct relationships. Spend time with them one-on-one and in groups. Communicate with them directly (lunch, coffee, meetings).
• Reward and recognize your employees’ work publicly and privately. Show them that they are contributing value, and that they have a path to advance that is meaningful to themselves.
• Model diversity at the top. For people to want to move up in your organization, they need to see people like them at the executive levels.
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