Three ways HR managers can improve employee engagement

Contributor: Jason Silberman
Posted: 10/20/2013
Jason Silberman
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Do you have an employee who isn’t performing as well as he was when you hired him? He doesn’t seem to care as much; he’s not eager any more. If you have an employee who’s disengaged, you of course want to know why. Let’s look at some ways to react to an employee who is disengaged and underperforming.

Communication and Feedback

First, it’s important for managers to speak with disengaged team members and let them know you value their feedback on what is going well and what is not. Communication can serve as an important bridge, for several reasons. If you make time to sincerely and candidly interact one-on-one with an employee, it shows the employee that you care. He won’t know you value his contribution to the team if you never tell him so. Let him know when the work he has done has improved production or distribution. If he knows the company’s bottom line has improved because of him, he will feel his importance.

Secondly, talking directly with the employee will help to analyze the root cause of the drop in performance and motivation. Is it an out-of-the-office personal problem or frustration with a specific new guideline in the office? Whatever it might be, communication can only help. Finally, through communication you can honestly express your expectations, and if needed, suggest ways to move forward and improve. Let him know his work matters by telling him how he can make it even better.

Incentives and Recognition

Beyond communication, as a manager, it’s always important to provide your team as a whole, as well as individual members, with clear incentives to perform well, and recognition and rewards when they succeed. Just like children in the classroom, adults appreciate and are motivated by recognition and support. This can mean a promotion or a raise for continued performance improvement, but it is not limited to monetary and hierarchical incentives. It’s especially important to also recognize short-term achievements.

How can you reward small performance improvements? Sometimes the easiest way to start is simply by communicating in words that you recognized the "job well done" and encouraging her to continue to grow further. Or show her the results she has generated, and how she has contributed to larger team and company success. I've found that there is no better way to make employees feel important than to show them that the success of the team—and even the entire enterprise—depends on them just as much as it does on you. Small words can more often than not go a long way.

Or you can give small financial rewards, like a gift certificate to a movie or a favorite restaurant. You can also make things a bit more fun at work through a gamification process, rewarding "points" for achievements. Remember, a healthy level of competition is good, but try not to go too far and create friction between team members.

Continuous Learning & Support

Often what employees needs to get boost in their morale and performance is a bit of technological or human support, which will help them learn. No, I am not talking about retraining them, where you have to take them away from their desk and spend time re-teaching them information that a) you might have taught them already and b) they are liable to forget portions of it again anyway. Recognize the long-term value of learning, long after the initial training sessions end.

Do you send them to conferences, seminars and workshops to keep their skills up to date? Do you encourage online and informal learning to supplement what they might be learning in the classroom or in official e-learning courses? Do you provide individual coaching or mentoring, to provide them with needed assistance? Do you utilize a ‘just-in-time’ performance support software (WalkMe is a great example), that gives them in the moment support and guidance while working online? Are you continuing to communicate with them at every stage of the process?

When you are making an effort to improve employees’ abilities, they will too. Taking an interest in employee learning is a visible way of showing employees that you are spending time and money on them to make them better. It sends them the message that they can be even more valuable to you, and that you are willing to do your part to make them so.

These are three important ways to help give disengaged employees the lift they need, by multi-directionally strengthening communication, encouraging and rewarding success, and showing that you care about their long-term learning and performance.

Jason Silberman is Marketing Director at WalkMe, an interactive online guidance system and engagement platform, which reduces training times and costs, while raising performance levels. He is the lead author and editor of Training Station, a blog devoted to news and ideas on training, learning and employee performance. He recently published a free eBook – "Express Train: How to Accelerate Employee Time to Competence"– with tips on overcoming some of the common challenges in employee training. Follow him at @tstationblog.

Jason Silberman
Contributor: Jason Silberman