We estimate that 1 out of every 2 of our regular eNews readers is not fully engaged*. If you fall into that group, this article on how to improve engagement at work is for you. Even if you think you’re part of the other 50 percent, read on. This personal engagement article is for you, too.
Engagement isn’t static
Many things can influence whether or not you are fully engaged: Organizational changes, your situation at home, behaviors of your manager and colleagues, challenges in your projects, even local or world events. You can’t stay fully personally engaged without effort. In fact, you can feel totally engaged one week only to be hanging on by a thread the next. Things can change pretty quickly.
Personal engagement is also not an all-or-nothing proposition. Not being engaged is not the same as being disengaged. You’re probably familiar with our model that has two axes (contribution and satisfaction) and five levels to describe where your workforce and you may be in terms of engagement. The goal is always to move yourself and others up to experience the highest levels of contribution and satisfaction.
Do your part
It’s unlikely you can maintain full engagement on your own. In fact, we have an entire team devoted to teaching clients how to improve engagement at work and how to create cultures that fuel engagement. It’s fair to expect that senior leaders will create an inclusive, supportive workplace and that all leaders act in a fair, trustworthy, and competent manner. It’s true that leaders need to be crystal clear about the organization’s purpose, values, and strategy – and how you fit in. It’s reasonable to count on the organization to fix policies and practices that undermine engagement and high performance.
But no one can make you more engaged. Your engagement, ultimately, is a personal equation. It reflects your relationship with work, based on your values, your talents, and your aspirations. (For more on the IME model of shared responsibility for engagement, check out this video.)
Do these four things to improve your engagement at work
1. Know what matters to you. If you aren’t clear on your personal aspirations and motivators, you can’t satisfy them on the job. You won’t find meaning despite your employer’s compelling mission or the nature of your work. For 40 years, we’ve been helping individuals clarify their personal values. Your values are your filter for your decisions and actions. Step back and reflect on what they are – and whether they’re being satisfied at work and home. If your actions, personally, are misaligned with what you believe, you’ll be miserable before you walk through the office door. If you keep your values front and center, they can be powerful fuel for great days at work.
2. Know what matters to your employer. We’re talking about work. So personal engagement is not just about your satisfaction – to be fully engaged you need to be a top performer. You can’t exceed expectations or achieve extraordinary accomplishments if you don’t know what the organization needs from you (and why). Market conditions and strategies can change overnight, so check in often with your manager. Recalibrate to focus your energy and talents on the very top priorities on your very long list of to-dos.
3. Build on your strengths. Buck Blessing, co-founder of BlessingWhite, was known for saying, “If you address your development needs only, you’ll die a very average person.” Find out what you do well by asking for feedback (self-assessment’s not enough). Then get better at it. Find opportunities to apply those talents. Your employer will benefit and you’ll be more engaged. (Yes, do fix any weaknesses that are career liabilities or impede peak performance. Average work is not an ingredient of full engagement.)
4. Commit or quit. Choose to be a star. Choose to take care of your health so you can wake up with energy during the workweek and on the weekend. Choose to connect emotionally. Choose to leverage the things you can control in your environment that will support your best work. Choose to ask for help from your manager or others to increase not only your engagement but the team’s overall.
If you shook your head with cynicism as you read that last point, do yourself a favor: Find another role. Maybe another employer. Hanging on to a “good job” (e.g., it pays well, looks impressive, appears secure in this economy) when you are not engaged is a bad strategy. You spend thousands of hours each year on the job. Make them count. Why plod through them feeling miserable or undervalued – or even just okay? Sooner or later dissatisfaction at work spills over to affect your personal life. Who wants that?
What are you waiting for? Choose to be more engaged
* We believe our readers are more likely to be engaged than the workforce at large. Our estimate is based on our 2013 engagement study, which determined that about 40% of the global workforce is fully engaged. We then took into account that many of our readers work in HR (a function known for slightly higher engagement levels) or are in leadership roles (e.g., nearly 60% of executives worldwide are fully engaged).
Mary Ann is co-author of The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce. She manages her engagement as a telecommuter to our Princeton, New Jersey headquarters. She can be reached at email@example.com.
MPG ® (aka Managing Personal Growth and MPG: The Success Connection) has helped millions of people worldwide take responsibility for their engagement and professional success. If you missed co-founder Tod White’s commentary earlier this year about the early days of MPG, you can read it in our articles on leadership development archive. The following beliefs shape the work we do. They are also good reminders on those days when we find ourselves waiting for someone else to improve things.
- You have the primary responsibility for your job satisfaction and success.
- Your current position offers the best, most immediate opportunities for personal growth, achievement, and satisfaction.
- Your personal values are the fuel for your personal growth and leadership.
- Building on strengths is the fastest route to success.
- You can’t do it alone. Constructive, continuous dialogue with your manager makes the difference.
- Feedback is an essential ingredient of remarkable accomplishments.
- Nothing happens unless you take action. Action demands a plan and the courage to carry it out.
- Your organization’s success depends on the efforts of aligned, engaged individuals like you.