Employee engagement has been long demonstrated to be critical for organizational
performance. Recent research about engagement provides useful insights for both leaders and executive coaches.
As an executive coach who works with CEOs and senior leaders, this question is a critical one since I am often hired by organizations to work with the senior leaders. Organizations are looking for a return on the investment in executive coaching manifest in some improvement in organizational performance indicators. Perhaps the key to establishing a return on the investment of coaching is helping leaders practice behavior to enhance employee engagement.
Engagement is a state where organizational employees are enthusiastically absorbed by their work and committed to an organization’s success. Beyond merely engaging their hands, engaged employees are committed with their hearts to their work and the organization. Engagement has become an increasing focus of organizational research given its correlation to specific organizational success factors.
Gallup recently published the State of American Workplace report and identified nine performance indicators that are correlated to employee engagement. Of these nine indicators, employee turnover is negatively correlated with employee engagement suggesting that the more employees are engaged, the less likely they are to leave the organization. Customer satisfaction, staff productivity and profitability are all positively correlated to employee engagement. The challenge for coaching senior organizational leaders is helping them understand core elements of employee engagement and how they need to think and act to elicit engagement.
So what can a leader do to deepen engagement? I propose eight powerful questions for both leaders to consider and executive coaches to practice:
In what ways have you applied knowledge of your employees’ strengths to adapting their role or delegating projects to them?
When is the last time you had a conversation with your direct reports about what constitutes success in their role or on a specific project?
How frequently do you ask your direct reports about what tools or resources they need to be more effective in their work?
To what extent do you do more than use the stock “you did a good job” and have a two-way conversation about a success your employees’ have achieved?
When is the last time you demonstrated you care for your employees’ through your words or actions?
How frequently do you proactively explore developmental opportunities with your direct reports?
To what extent are you open to hearing the ideas of your direct reports and acting upon their input?
To what extent do you communicate with your direct reports about their role and its linkage to the organizational mission?
The evidence is clear – employee engagement is highly correlated with substantive organizational outcomes. Leaders who consistently demonstrate key behaviors associated with employee engagement can accrue significant benefits that justify this investment. Coaches can play an instrumental role in increasing the value they create for their clients by helping leaders become more mindful of the practices that translate to employee engagement.
(c) 2014 Kevin Nourse, PhD