One of the most important ways to create engagement in the workplace is for leaders to help each of their team members achieve their goals.
Engagement in the workplace translates into discretionary effort; that magical 20–40% more that almost every member of our team can produce if they feel valued, and if the work they are asked to do fits into their own idea of what is important and worthwhile. Paying attention to the three types of goals outlined below is the most powerful way I know to get to this engagement
Personal Life Goals
I have written in the past about understanding each person’s personal goals and doing your best to support, encourage, and celebrate your people as they try to achieve them.
Career Goals (Long-Term)
It is important to understand the career goals of each of your team members and to help them realize them. This applies even if their aspirations would have them eventually leave your organization. One of the best ways to reduce turnover in high-turnover industries is to accept that almost everyone will leave, to recognize that fact openly, and to actively do things to help each person feel they are progressing toward their eventual goal while working for you. Restaurants that hire business students and give them basic management training and exposure to the business side of the operation, while still having them work in the dining room, is a great example of how turnover can be reduced and engagement increased by supporting movement toward long-term career goals.
Job Goals (Short-Term)
Research points to the fact that employees are much more engaged when they are working towards specific, very challenging goals. So, as leaders, if we can’t contribute to their pursuit of personal or long-term career goals, we can enrich their lives by setting targets specific to the work they do. For example, in a hair salon situation I have seen the owner set a goal of 10 potential new clients in the new stylist’s chair for free consultation, cut, and colour in the next 30 days – a significant increase over the previous month.
These types of goals – difficult to attain, but achievable – are proven to increase engagement. But note that you need to use your subjective judgment in evaluating the person’s performance toward achieving the goal. If the goal was not met but the effort was strong, you need to celebrate and encourage your employee as if they achieved the goal. Discuss whether the goal was too ambitious. If the effort was weak, but the goal was met by chance, you need to give corrective feedback on the performance and set the next goal more carefully. If the performance was strong and the goal met – it’s time to party! After the party, don’t automatically increase the goal again. Always increasing the target could eventually lead to people holding back their best effort to “leave some room”.
To summarize, to increase engagement you should be aware of and help employees with their goals at three levels:
When you coach and support your staff well in these areas, your staff will enjoy positive feelings of growth; and you will enjoy a strong feeling of leadership success.