The People Have Spoken: It's Time To Start Trusting Your Employees More

There are steps you can take to steer employees back from disengagement, but it takes a genuine commitment from the top.

How far are you willing to go to create employee engagement? Most companies will offer praise or occasional rewards, but given the much-quoted Gallup statistic that 71% of American workers don’t feel engaged, it’s safe to say that what most companies do isn’t working.

So are you willing to go further than those companies to do what recent studies show is needed, to fundamentally change your organization and the way it works, to create a workplace employees want to engage with?

Recent research has shown that feeling more powerful makes employees more productive and satisfied with their jobs.

It’s hardly surprising. When we give people control over their work and let them do it their way, they feel better about both the work and themselves. The work becomes something integral to their personalities, something that they are doing in a way they feel passionately about rather than the way they have been told to work. And working in a way that is authentic to ourselves, that fits our personalities and values, makes us feel better as human beings.

This can be a hard thing to do. Empowering employees involves trusting them and giving them autonomy in their work. It involves changing the structures and procedures they work within to give them that empowerment. But if you’re serious about engagement and it will bring you better results, isn’t it worth that change?

Here’s what you’ll need to do to start empowering your people.

Flatten Your Company’s Hierarchy

Part of that restructuring is to flatten the structure of your business, shifting from something hierarchical to something that shares the responsibility around.

Hierarchies breed disengagement, disempowering some employees to empower those above them. Flatter organizations, particularly those that are structured around their specific purpose, give the power to all employees. It is hardly surprising that they see a higher degree of engagement.

By breaking down the old boundaries between those who think about the work--the managers and leaders--and those who do the work, decisions are made closer to the front line, by people who understand their consequences. Everybody has the power to direct and to do. Everybody is forced to make decisions, and so to engage.

Embrace Talent And Channel It

Justin Locke makes an excellent point about what this change means for managers and the challenge it creates. He talks about the experience of conducting an orchestra full of extremely talented people. The manager’s instinct is to try to control what those people are doing, to tone it down so that they all fit together. But doing that means missing the point.

These are people who are passionately engaged in their work. Getting the best out of them does not mean limiting that energy, it means directing it, channeling it, making the most of it.

Employee engagement is not just driven by people’s passions; it stirs up those passions, increasing the energy in an organization. Being serious about engagement means not just accepting that energy but embracing it, letting your employees’ talents run free.

Become An Artist

We all, on some level, want to be artists like those musicians in the orchestra. We want to be able to focus on our particular gifts and our areas of expertise. So why resist the artist in you and in your employees?

Letting go of control is not just about engaging your employees, it is about engaging yourself. If you stop putting your energy into controlling those around you, setting your energy against theirs in daily battles, then you can instead channel it into what you are best at, whether it’s design, strategy, human relations, or any of the other talents of a top manager. It means becoming an artist in your field.

Real engagement means real change, for you as well as your organization.

[Image: Flickr user Jesus Solana]

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