The conversation around employee engagement is becoming more serious.
Given the direct impact of employee engagement on business outcomes, it is a growing concern amongst organizations that globally, only 13% of employees are engaged. To change this number, most organizations have a dedicated employee engagement strategy in place, replete with perks and tools to motivate employees to put in a discretionary effort at work. The focus on providing employees the tools to become more engaged has been high. Organizations are working on creating environments that are conducive to engagement.
A study concluded that digital technology, leadership, and company values are the top drivers for employee engagement. The results of this study also showed that “an accessible and approachable leader inspires greater confidence, and has a larger impact on performance recognition.”
What does it mean to be accessible?
The enterprise of today is witness to constant change.
- Technologies are disrupting the workplace.
- We have a new generation, the millennials, and GenZ, who are making up the majority of the workforce now.
- These generations have different motivations and expectations from their workplace.
- Remote working and remote teams are a new reality.
Change is the new normal and leaders have to manage this change and help the workforce adapt to this new world and create an environment that enables people to put in their best at work.
To build engagement, leaders have no option but to be more accessible than ever before. This is so because being accessible is the key to inspire confidence and trust in the relationship between the organization and the employee.
The power of accessibility
Accessible bosses are the leaders who stay away from the ‘ivory towers’ to create power-distance situations to create the aura of authority. Accessible bosses are the ones who seek out their team members, engage in meaningful conversations, and gain first-hand information on productivity impediments.
Such leaders truly consider the employees to be the most valuable assets of the organization. They try to be empathetic towards the needs of the employees. They make an effort to understand what motivates the employees and how to get them inspired and energized to contribute to the common goals of the organization.
Sam Walton, for example, was an accessible leader. He would actively travel to all the Walmart stores, interact with these employees, and record the conversations he had with them. He believed that all these conversations had valuable nuggets of knowledge that he could use to further Walmart’s growth story. He also saw these interactions as an investment needed to build a positive working relationship with his employees. The result? Increased productivity and greater engagement.
However, accessibility does not always mean that the leader is out seeking employees. It can also be passive in nature where the leader allows the employees to seek him/her out.
The open-door policy that we so commonly hear about is a manifestation of this kind of accessibility. In the age when remote workers and geographically dispersed teams are mainstream, having an accessible leader is essential to maintain the engagement levels of this workforce. Only when bosses are accessible when these team members can approach them for help and guidance freely and without judgment can organizations expect high engagement levels.
Accessibility matters – what accessible bosses do to build engagement
- Accessible bosses acknowledge efforts. By doing so, they validate an individual’s effort. This helps in building value
- They take time and make an effort to listen and respond to their employees. They are never dismissive of the employees – no matter how small or big the problem. If an employee comes to them with a problem, their objective is to help the employee come up with the solution to the problem.
- They never make their team members feel reticent or unwelcome to approach them. Accessibility has nothing to do with whether an individual is an introvert or an extrovert – but it has everything to do with how an individual responds to their team members, how welcome they make their team members feel, and how approachable they are and the kind of support they can provide.
- These bosses have the ability to make deep connections by being friendly without discarding professionalism. They are not indifferent or standoffish, and neither are they pushovers.
- They can be objective of the feedback provided to them and do not take negative feedback personally.
If we look closely at the qualities of an accessible boss, it becomes clear why they have highly engaged teams. When bosses display these qualities, their employees are not afraid to come to them to seek help. The employees then know that seeking help or assistance is not a sign of weakness. Employees are also then more motivated to come up with new ideas and share them openly and without fear.
Quite automatically, this freedom breeds creativity, and creativity boosts innovation and consequently keeps the engagement fears at bay.
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