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Ask a leadership expert:
How to Create an Engaged Workplace

By Jenn DeWall Confidence and Leadership Coach & Keynote Speaker & Trainer.

Whether you call it “The Great Resignation,” “The Big Quit,” or even “The Great Reshuffle,” the reality is that employees are quitting jobs at higher rates than ever before. Millions of workers are quitting their jobs or actively looking for new opportunities. Leaders need to take a close look at how to boost engagement in the workplace and retain the great talent they have. 

Rethink “Normal”

The pandemic forced rapid changes in workplaces. Employers are finding that employees have new expectations about what they want in a job. Traditional work structures must be reimagined, and managers must take action to meet the moment by trying new things. Employees are looking for increased flexibility in when and where they work. Still, remote and hybrid work environments are a double-edged sword. Work/life boundaries have blurred, and many workers have found themselves burned out from back-to-back Zoom meetings and longer hours with fewer breaks. To create an engaged workplace, leaders have to step up and set a good example for their teams. This means taking appropriate breaks, using paid time off, and considering practices like mandatory no-meeting days to help employees reclaim much-needed downtime. 

An Engaged Workplace is Built on Trust

Employee engagement starts with trust. One of my favorite quotes from Simon Sinek is, “A team is not a group of people who work together. It is a group of people who trust each other.” To create an engaged workplace, leaders must focus on extending trust to their team and being trustworthy themselves. Trust is a two-way street. No one wants to feel micro-managed, so leaders should ensure workers have autonomy in their roles. To be a trustworthy leader means always being transparent about how decisions are made, frequently communicating about upcoming changes, and owning mistakes you make along the way. Leaders that admit their mistakes and role model how to recover from those mistakes will inspire the same behavior in their teams. When employees are not afraid to make mistakes, it can boost creativity and innovation. 

Get to Know Your People

Do you know your team? Really? Working remotely has caused a disconnect between team members. It is easy to let relationships fall to the wayside when we don’t see each other in person. One of the easiest ways to create an engaged workplace is to get to know each other as people. Talk to your team, find out what they do for fun, who they are in and out of the office, what drives them, or what annoys them. Take time to build meaningful connections. At the end of the day, we are all just people that want to be seen and heard. Managers that take time to be present and attentive during interactions and meetings have more loyal employees. So, close that email tab during your Zoom meetings and stay focused on the person talking! Your team knows when you are multi-tasking during calls or meetings— and it is destroying their engagement. 

Celebrate Wins and Share the Losses

We all know that part of building an engaged workplace is creating opportunities to celebrate wins, acknowledge birthdays, retirements and the like. And it is important! Gathering teams on happy occasions is a great way to recognize hard work, allow for team bonding and just have some fun! However, one thing many managers forget is to acknowledge that people also experience losses and hard times. People need some space to grieve, whether it is a business loss—like losing a big client to a competitor or a painful personal loss like the death of a loved one. Acknowledging difficult emotions is very important, especially after the difficulty and trauma of the last two years. It’s great to encourage optimism. But it’s easy to slip into toxic positivity—minimizing or invalidating someone else’s emotional experience by insisting they “look on the bright side.” When people feel like they can bring their whole selves to work, they will be more engaged and better able to do their jobs.

Jenn DeWall is a leadership and career coach, leadership keynote speaker, facilitator, trainer, and podcast host. Jenn is a Millennial leadership expert based in Denver, CO. 

Are you looking for an engaging keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, or trainer? Book Jenn for your leadership needs today!

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