Mentoring and Engagement – Is there a connection?
There are different perspectives on what employee engagement is in the workplace. It is a topic that drives most leaders in an organization crazy as they struggle to get a handle on what the whole engagement thing is all about. Here is one definition that we found:
“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”
We pulled together some of the common questions that are being asked with regards to engagement and we asked Doug Lawrence, founder of TalentC® to come up with the answers. Doug is an International Certified Mentor Practitioner (ICMP) and an International Certified Mentor Facilitator (ICMF). He has over 30 years of mentoring and leadership experience.
Let’s explore some of those now and see where mentoring can play a role in bridging the gap that exists in most organizations from an engagement perspective.
Q: What does it mean to be engaged at work?
A: A lot of the definitions of the word engagement speak to the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. I have always proclaimed that if we have organizations where the employees are engaged, empowered and accountable that we have reached what I would call the desired state. How do we get there? It is a commitment on the part of everyone to work together to make the organization a desired place to be.
With high levels of engagement comes a high level of commitment to the organization and obviously that will impact the bottom line for the organization. When I look back to some of the more successful organizations I know they took the time to explain the organization’s goals and where each employee had a part to play in attaining those goals. Leveraging mentoring as part of the culture will help in creating that positive work environment.
Q: Why is employee engagement so important?
A: First off we need to look at this from the employee perspective. Employees that are engaged in the overall success of the organization are going to be a lot happier in the workplace. This will result in a more productive employee which obviously will benefit the organization overall. This spills over into how your customers/clients see the employees they interact with and how they perceive the organization as a whole. I have saw customers walk down the street to the competition because employees were not happy where they were dealing before. The unhappiness and frustration carried over into the relations that were in place with the employees and the customers.
The second part of course is the impact that engagement has on the organization. With higher levels of engagement you will have higher levels of productivity which impacts the bottom line for the organization. Employees are less likely to be searching for work elsewhere when they are working in an engaged environment. You will have healthier employees as well which lessens the amount of sick time.
Q: How do you get employees engaged?
A: Creating an environment of engagement is the first step and that starts at the leadership level of the organization. Are the leaders taking the time to share the goals and objectives of the organization with each employee and help them to understand how they can and are contributing to the success? Very few do that and they are missing a golden opportunity. I have seen that happen and it changed a lot of opinions about an organization. What did need to happen was some consistency and reinforcement of the process.
If you want employees to be engaged creating an environment of continuous learning and development is the way to go. Ensure that mentoring and a mentoring culture is part of this environment and you will see your workforce transform from one of disengagement to one of engagement and empowerment. What is interesting is that accountability automatically follows once you have the first two in place.
Q: What are some of the engagement drivers you’ve come across within companies?
A: I think that empowerment is one of the big drivers. It demonstrates trust in our employees and challenges them to use critical thinking skills to resolve issues. I have seen all too often organizations that don’t trust their employees and they become disengaged and complacent. They wait to be told what to do, how to do it and when it needs to be done by. Not exactly the organization that I want to be part of.
Here are some of the top drivers for engagement in an organization: 1) Management/Leadership, 2) Meaningful work, and 3) Relationships with co-workers. With some organizations that I have been observing I can see why “Management/Leadership” is one if not the top driver. With a lack of trust, break down in effective communication and a passion for catching employees doing wrong instead of doing right it is little wonder that this would be the number one driver. Meaningful work is a top driver as well. We want to see career progression and we want to be provided the tools to help us be successful. Placing someone in a role without the tools to be successful is in fact setting them up for failure. Relationships are important at all levels in an organization. I know how important relationships are to me today in my personal and professional life. Add to that the ability to communicate effective and you have some of the top drivers for engagement.
Q: Can you give us some examples of strategies or tactics meant to improve these drivers, and their outcomes?
A: Take the time to invest in your employees. When an employee comes to your door with a problem work through the problem with them by asking question to increase their critical thinking skills. Don’t feed them the answer and send them on their way. Take time to help them understand where the organization is going and how they are contributing to the success of the organization by linking what they do back to organizational goals and objectives. Provide them with opportunities to grow on a personal and professional basis. Implement a mentoring program/culture in your organization that creates a work environment of learning and developing on a continuous basis.
Also read: Mentoring in the Digital Age
Remember that there is no such thing as failure – they are opportunities. Embrace those opportunities as learning opportunities for everyone involved including you as the leader. When we do all of these well we create a positive work culture with engaged, empowered and accountable employees. The employees do well and with that comes increased productivity and customer satisfaction.
Q: Any advice for a company who is just getting started with employee engagement?
A: Every organization and the people that are part of that organization are unique. Don’t look for the cookie cutter solution – one size does not fit all. I am a strong proponent of mentoring and would encourage any organization that is embarking on the quest of addressing engagement to look at mentoring as a key element to solving your engagement opportunity. Listen to your employees and respect what they have to tell you. They are in the trenches and have a better perspective on what needs to be changed and what might not work.
If done well the creation of a work environment that promotes engagement, empowerment and accountability that is reinforced by a mentoring process will be a journey worth taking and one that employees will value, your leadership team will value, and your customers will value. “Can you afford not to?”
Doug Lawrence is the founder of TalentC®, a Human Resources solution provider focused on effective mentoring. Doug is an International Certified Mentor Practitioner (ICMP) and an International Certified Mentor Facilitator (ICMF). He has over 30 years of mentoring and leadership experience.
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