Ten Powerful Employee Engagement Lessons

Vala Afshar

We have one final post to wrap up our series, “Winning Employees through Engagement.” We are delighted that Vala Afshar rounds out our series on this topic. As an executive for his company who has been named one of the top places to work, Vala brings insights we all can learn from and apply. What we love about Vala’s post is that it’s immediately applicable. As engagement should be. It’s not rocket science. It’s human nature. (Perhaps harder than rocket science?)

I am very proud of our company. We have had incredible success with more than three years of consecutive topline revenue growth. We have also received numerous industry awards for our innovative products and services. But what I am most proud of is that the Boston Business Journal and the Boston Globe have both recognized our company as one of the ‘best places to work’ in the Boston area in 2012. Our industry-best employee retention is one of the principle drivers of our company’s success, and from a CMO and Chief Customer Officer perspective, it is clear that customers want to do business with companies that have passionate, committed, and engaged employees.

In business, winning is a team sport. Building a team that is engaged and committed starts with a mindset that celebrates collaboration. Here are ten building blocks towards developing a culture of engagement:

1. Articulate the “why”

“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” — @SimonSinek. Employees are engaged when they understand the purpose behind direction and destination. Share with employees where you’re going and why.

2. Work without purpose is just a job

Every employee must be given the opportunity to understand and embrace your organization and company mission. Every employee must feel as though they are helping the team achieve the collective goal. Managers must frequently and purposefully communicate direction and destination. Communication creates a culture of engagement.

3. “What do you think?”

What are the eight words that managers can use to engage employees? Tom Peters brilliantly said the eight words are: “What do you think?” And “How can I help?” Managers, please ask these questions daily.

4. Listen loudly

There is a difference between hearing and listening. Listening is a sign of respect. Give your undivided attention to your employees. There is no engagement without respect.

5. Cultivate collaboration in a safe environment

Demonstrate to your employees that you celebrate the questions more than the answers. In a safe environment, employees are more willing to teach and be taught and to take calculated risks.

6. Leadership is about positioning

In time of celebration, lead from the back. In time of crisis, lead from the front. Humble leaders position themselves towards success. The more credit you give, the greater the opportunity for employee engagement.

7. Remove your door

Nothing of significance was ever achieved in a manager’s office. The game is played on the outside, so implement a ‘no door’ policy and get in the game.

8. Indifference is unacceptable

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.” – Colin Powell. You can’t be engaged unless you are accessible. Encourage feedback and be conscious of silence. Indifference is awfully quiet.

9. Respect failure, but don’t fear it

It is harder to engage when you are afraid to fail. Fail forward, fail fast and learn along the way. Most importantly, as a manager, if you make a mistake, admit it publically. Engagement cannot thrive in an atmosphere that demands perfection.

10. Break bread

Invite employees from other departments, and your own, to lunch or breakfast. Learn about what people do to make your company great. Be interested and make connections. Interest alone isn’t enough. Learn to connect authentically.

In summary, no involvement means no commitment; no exception. So remember to engage employees because together is better. Together is how we win.

Connect with Vala

Vala Afshar is Chief Marketing Office and Chief Customer Officer for Enterasys Networks, a Siemens Enterprise Communications Company. Afshar is responsible for worldwide services operations and technical support functions including contact center operations, field engineering, support engineering and infrastructure technologies. Afshar and his team have successfully implemented an award winning cloud computing and social collaboration customer relationship management framework that enables Enterasys to achieve best-in-class customer satisfaction and employee retention. Enterasys’ strong technical service and support capability is recognized globally by customers, partners and industry analysts as a true company differentiator.

Graphic by Shawn Murphy