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Construction executives working to increase productivity, creativity and profits will want to consider employee engagement as a proven winning strategy. Surveys demonstrate solid evidence linking engagement to performance—some suggesting employee engagement is the strongest factor in customer service, creativity and productivity. 

Lack of engagement is the primary reason for employee turnover, with many listing limited career paths, lack of challenging work, poor work-life balance and lack of recognition.

Employee Engagement Defined and Designed

Employee engagement is defined as “emotional commitment and willingness to give one’s best at work.” Calculating the costs of employees not giving their best at work would be a metric worth every construction executive’s consideration. 

While there is consensus that employee engagement is valuable, few are designing their workplace to encourage and take advantage of it. Meanwhile, a recent survey of human resource professionals says only 44 percent of workers give discretionary effort, and nearly a third report that fewer than 40 percent of their employees are “engaged.”

Trustworthy Leadership, Effective Communication and Community Culture Are the Foundation

Construction executives who understand the insights of employee engagement—and design a workplace that builds it—will reap the rewards of talent, skills, knowledge, commitment, creativity, productivity and profit. Here are six strategies to explore. 

1. Watch, look, listen, communicate
Start by observing workplace interactions. Is there a culture of trust and respect? Or is one manager talking behind another’s back? Do employees regularly offer new, creative ideas in meetings? Or do they go with the flow, deferring to tenured employees?

A workplace with high engagement differentiates itself with high-energy, plentiful, creative ideas from sources at all levels—many from the youngest and newest members of the organization. Those ideas are not dismissed based on the source. Instead, they are respectfully considered and evaluated based on smart business criteria and organizational values.

Are corporate officers and leaders perceived as accessible? Or are officers seen as out of arm’s reach? A high-engagement organization establishes trust by ensuring leadership is highly accessible and approachable. Leaders listen and provide actionable feedback—not judgmental criticism.

2. Design the ideal workplace and job roles to engage (and keep) ideal employees
People work harder, give more, are more committed and are more likely to show up when they do things they enjoy—including tasks that are highly challenging. However, it’s not realistic to expect a workplace to be filled with nothing but fun and interesting tasks.

Fortunately, what one person sees as dull and repetitive, another may see as fulfilling and rewarding. What one sees as frightening and overwhelming, another sees as exciting and challenging. The best leaders take the natural talents and desires of the team member, develop and mold those skills, and find other team member’s skills to complement them.

3. Ask for input
One of the most common employee complaints is not being invited to contribute ideas. Invite individuals to the table who are not traditionally included, such as young professionals, colleagues from other departments, clients, customers or vendors. Encourage collaboration. Listen to new ideas. The old way may not, in fact, be the best way. Consider new ways of solving problems and advancing production.

4. Give credit where credit is due
If an employee believes an idea will be unfairly criticized or that someone else will claim credit, the employee is less likely to be engaged in creating and contributing exceptional work. Instead, dole out credit where it is due. Name names. Recognize and reward individuals and teams.

5. Show genuine appreciation
An appreciated employee is an engaged employee. This doesn’t mean a ham at the holidays (although that’s a nice gesture). It means a “thank you for working late,” “I appreciate your attention to detail” and “The client had good things to say about your work.” Withholding positive feedback is the most destructive behavior in a relationship. A sincere “thank you” is the cheapest investment you can make—and one of the most effective.

6. Prioritize engagement
Prioritizing employee engagement can be the difference between a staff that is less engaged and a team that is actively and genuinely challenged and excited to give their all. Make it a priority to establish trust, communicate effectively and create a community culture. Here are a few ways.

  • Find ways to measure engagement.
  • Use internal anonymous surveys.
  • Create a corporate culture task force to encourage friendly interaction across departments.
  • Ask for volunteers for an employee engagement task force to gather ideas and craft a plan.

If all of this sounds like one more thing to put on a to-do list, consider the costs of attracting, interviewing, hiring and training new employees to replace those already in place. Add in the cost of lost creativity and productivity when employees do just enough instead of giving their best. Invest in the firm’s future by cultivating employees who are enthusiastic about their jobs, their company and their managers.

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