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Stand in their shoes - Walking the talk with employee engagement

Management and Leadership in people centered teams is tough isn't it? At times it feels like you have to be everything to everyone in a time poor, deadline driven workplace. In that sort of environment it is easy to put employee engagement at the bottom of the priority pile - underneath business and marketing plans, customer service KPI's and a whole lot of other "stuff"; either that or to leave it to a Manager closer to the coalface to initiate and implement.

Disengagement in the workplace is very costly though.. Studies by Gallup* have shown that disengaged workers have a:

  • 37% higher absenteeism

  • 49% more accidents

  • and 60% more errors and defects.

The workforce of 2017 want to be heard and to be part of the conversation. They want to work in a fulfilled environment with diverse teammates. Chandler Macleod** have shown that in order to be more productive our modern workforce need leaders who they fully trust. There is a indisputable connection between high levels of employee engagement and better business outcomes and a leader's role in understanding and creating a performance friendly culture is vital.

What does it mean to "Stand in their shoes" when we talk about employee engagement?

Leadership empathy and understanding of the workplace from an employee's perception is really what this is all about. So how do leader's do this authentically?

  • Be normal, flawed even!: Showing your personality and your true self to staff allows them to trust you more. None of us are perfect and whilst it is important to be a role model professionally, also being a feeling, caring person at work is important too. US research*** shows that employees who feel their leaders are "credible" in personality are more likely to engage in company values and collaboration.

  • Get down on the floor: No not literally of course...but regularly being amongst all levels of the organisation in a less formal capacity allows you to better understand their work-world. Take the time stop to have a chat and ask what is happening at all levels of the company. It is surprising how many leaders are actually scared to do this. Active listening is a key leadership attribute.

  • Teach others to do the same: Lead by example and ensure training is in place regularly for all staff to learn and practice the art of workplace engagement. Empathy, and more broadly EQ, is not a natural for all people but once its benefits are understood, it is more likely to be embraced.

  • Reflect on your own career stepping stones: Take time yourself to think about the journey of your own career and the hiccups and frustrations you encountered along the way. Empathetic leaders remember the complexities influencing life and work at various times as they moved up the ladder and are therefore more able to understand workplace issues from their employee's perspective too.

Being able to stand in your employee's shoes is one important step in creating the organisational culture footprint.

*Gallup 2017: State of the American workplace report

**Chandler Macleod: 2015: Shaping Organisational Culture for Improved Business Performance

***Edmondson, Amy: 1999: Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams: Administrative Science Quarterly; 44;2.

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