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Knowing Your Employees: Effective Engagement at All Levels

Knowing Your Employees: Effective Engagement at All Levels

As we seek to increase employee engagement and create a flourishing workplace, do worker needs and desires vary based on their level within an organization? Do your frontline and entry-level workers need different approaches to engagement than middle managers or senior leaders?

A healthy organizational culture with strong employee engagement incorporates the drivers of engagement that apply to every employee and gives attention to individual gifting and personality. In a flourishing workplace, these common and unique factors come together for success.

While we talk about Employee Engagement all the time at Best Christian Workplaces, it is worth revisiting the definition from the Road to Flourishing, by Al Lopus, Best Christian Workplaces co-founder and board chair.

“The measure of organizational culture is the engagement of its employees. ‘Employee engagement’ is a way of saying that team members are motivated to bring their fullest contribution, their unique giftedness and creativity, to their role in the organization for the sake of its success. And they do—they feel empowered by their leaders and inspired by their workplace to make a voluntary, personal investment.”

Where to Start with Engagement

Engagement starts with valuing the humanity of each person in your organization, and believing they desire to work in an environment that helps them bring their best. This leadership attitude sets the stage for positive interactions. Certainly, conflicts will arise, but starting with a positive posture makes us open and curious about knowing each person with whom we interact.

People want to know that they matter to us as a person, not only as a unit of productivity. And they want to be able to see how their work fits into the overall mission of the organization. The combination of these factors sets a strong foundation for employee engagement.

The Listening Leader

The Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey offers a way to anonymously listen to your staff, through carefully designed research-based questions. So paying attention to the results of your survey is a great first step in listening to your employees.

Look for opportunities in the regular flow of the workday to get to know people by asking questions and listening, particularly in those areas of the organization that might feel less important or invisible. If you’re on-site together in the workplace, use informal moments in the coffee room, or even the parking lot, to get to know the staff on a more personal basis. I've seen an open-ended comment on a survey where a worker who felt invisible said, "Senior leaders walk by my desk every day and I don't think they know that I exist or what I do."

If you’re in a hybrid or remote work situation, you can still connect with people on an individual or small group basis on Zoom. Listening leaders will often gather people from different parts of the organization to a session where people are encouraged to share about themselves. Employees from different teams and levels of the organization can give input with new ideas or help uncover barriers to getting their work done. Ask people what they love about their work, and also what gets in the way of doing their job effectively.

If you’re a senior leader in a large organization, it can seem exhausting to feel the pressure to customize your engagement interactions to each individual employee and their needs and expectations. Involve others throughout the organization in listening as well.

As I consult with Ministry Partners, I find that the supervisor-employee relationship is key to building an engaged, flourishing workplace culture. Supervisors who take the time to get to know their employees and affirm their value are essential. On the survey, respondents rate the statement: My supervisor cares about me as a person. Affirmation of this statement is core to employee engagement. While it may be hard for senior leaders to know everyone in a large organization, supervisors have the opportunity on a regular basis to provide a human connection. In addition, supervisors can help each person on their team understand how their work connects to the mission of the organization. Whether they are a division leader, an administrative assistant, or a facilities teammate, they are each essential to a well-run organization.

Meaningful Recognition

Senior leaders, middle managers, and supervisors who listen to their employees and learn their unique traits and motivations can design customized, meaningful recognition that acknowledges employees.

One team member might appreciate "up-front" recognition. Another might be mortified by it. One might appreciate being included in a meeting discussing things at their next level of development, while another would rather be given training opportunities. A sensitive leader recognizes these differences.  

Using Demographic Data

The demographic data that you receive as part of the Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey provides important insight into segments of your staff who may have higher or lower engagement. Consider the engagement of certain age groups, or job types, and be curious about why they may experience high or low engagement. As you pay attention to what’s deeper in the data, this can stimulate insights and further questions.

The anonymity of the survey responses is an important feature of our Employee Engagement Survey. Sometimes respondents are surprised that we collect demographic data. When you see the results of your survey, you will never see the combination of two or more demographic factors. If there are fewer than 5 people in a segment, results won’t be detailed by that segment. These features allow for deeper understanding based on various demographic factors while protecting your staff from unwarranted scrutiny based on their responses.

Love is the Bottom Line

As a Christian leader, in a mission-focused organization, love is your bottom-line motivator for connecting with employees. We value others as people created in the image of God, sharing common humanity and the unique imprint of the Creator. We’re reminded so often in Scripture that love comes first. And it isn’t just a nice Christian platitude, it’s the way of Jesus. As I reflect on my years in the corporate marketplace and also Christian ministry work, I wish I’d been better about showing love to people. It’s our call and invitation as followers of Jesus.

As we listen well to employees through surveys and everyday interactions, we have the opportunity to encourage their deeper engagement in their work. There will be rewards for them personally, and for the mission you jointly pursue. Commitment to a flourishing workplace with engaged employees demonstrates love and care for people at all levels of an organization.

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