August 29, 2014
Employee engagement is the secret behind most successful businesses – a company filled with happy, engaged and productive employees will have a much higher rate of accomplishment than one filled with employees only attending for their next pay-check.
Some of the methods involved in increasing employee engagement — such as regular feedback and flexible work arrangements — can take time to implement, but there’s one that you can start with right away.
The Importance of Words
Everything you say to your employees has the potential to alienate them or engage them further. Each individual sentence may not matter that much, but over time they add up creating a certain atmosphere you either want to encourage or avoid. There are a few particular phrases and ideas you should assess your usage of.
Do you demand your employees do something, or do you ask? If you merely tell them to do something, it can create an air of resentment. It’s dehumanizing, and it suggests you expect it of them, rather than appreciating their work. Try to ask, and say please, and you will find a much more positive response.
Obviously, you don’t need to say thank you for every little thing – that can end up insincere, and that’s worse than not doing it at all. However, try to consciously thank employees who have done something particularly useful or suggested something you otherwise would not have thought of. Knowing that input is valued creates engagement, and engagement creates more input. It’s a useful cycle, and one you can kick-start with this simple phrase.
How often do you ask your employees for help? Is it a phrase you avoid? Many managers don’t want to appear weak in front of their employees, so will never admit something they don’t know, but this alienates workers rather than increasing a bond between staff. If you need help with something – perhaps you’re not very good at computers, and an employee is – don’t be afraid to say ‘Could you help me with…?’ As long as you don’t do it all the time, it can increase their respect for you – and once again, proves you value them and their work.
This is the same as help. Many managers won’t apologize if they did something wrong, so as not to look bad. However, not admitting your failures will only make you look worse. If you called out an employee for something you later learn they didn’t do – apologize. If you forget something, and it causes difficulty for them – apologize. You want to use this sparingly (you don’t want to mess up too often!) but when used well, it can encourage your employees and increase the chance they’ll offer assistance when needed.
If an employee comes to you with difficulties, try to understand and sympathize with his or her point of view. As long as you are genuine when saying this, telling the employee you understand is a powerful way of highlighting that you see them as a person, not just another number. Beyond this, try to work with them to find solutions, rather than just writing it off as a problem.
If there’s one thing you should take away from this, it’s to use the names of your staff members. Learn them, and make an active effort to refer to them by it. Don’t be one of those sales people who use it in every sentence, but a simple ‘do you have a moment, [name]’ is instantly better when it comes to employee engagement than ‘do you have a moment’ by itself. This is one of the hardest to do, especially if you have a lot of staff working alongside or beneath you, but it’s one with the biggest benefits.
There are a lot more ways to increase employee engagement through your word choices and vocabulary, and it’s not enough just to change them once. Actively maintaining an atmosphere where you choose to speak to your employees as equals, rather than subordinates, will keep employee engagement high for years to come.
William Taylor is the writer of this article. He is a regular contributor to many sites and mainly focuses on business-related topics like small businesses, entrepreneurship, negotiation, leadership, employee retention, etc. He loves to read books and play with his pet in his spare time.