After almost 30 years of research I have determined that there are five essential skills that leaders must have if they are going to succeed in increasing employee engagement. They are:
1. Building Trust
Trust is an essential ingredient in increasing engagement. The first thing leaders need to know about building trust is that it does not happen just because you are trustworthy. People do not know how trustworthy you are until you demonstrate it by using trust building behaviours and the most important of these behaviours is to trust others. We build trust by trusting others. This requires a basic belief in people, a belief that people are essentially trustworthy. After all, if you have untrustworthy employees, why did you hire them and why are they still there?
The relationship between the employee and his or her immediate manager is a critical factor in how engaged the employee will be. We have to get away from the idea that Managers cannot mentor the people who report to them. The Gallup research is very clear on this point. Employees need feedback, they need to know how they are performing regularly, not just once a year at review time, and be able to discuss their needs for growth and development with a Manager who cares about them. Effective leaders need to give and receive feedback and to coach and counsel employees in a way that increases engagement and commitment.
Whether employees feel like an insider or an outsider also impacts on their level of engagement. Effective leaders know that everyone on their team has strengths the team needs and they know how to get the best out of each person regardless of their ethnic background, gender, age or sexual orientation. They understand that people with different personal values can work together effectively when they commit to the same values about trustworthiness and standards of work performance.