Engaging employees in a small & medium organization

If you’re part of a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), you know that the leadership deeply cares about employee engagement. Because the future of the business depends on how engaged the employees are! Precisely why SMEs try so hard to keep the employees active, engaged, and motivated.

One of the aspects that I’ve observed leadership getting wrong is employee engagement. It is not about calling in for a meeting, seeking feedback or ideas for the future, and asking teams to pick their favorites hoping to implement in the future. That’s too vague, too broad, and feels like busywork than a mission-critical project. (What’s this? A Wishlist?)

Despite their best intentions, I believe leadership needs to be strategic about their approach to employee engagement, including the following:

  1. Presenting ideas that are being seriously considered to the employees for feedback and insights instead of handing over a blank canvas for people to work on.
  2. Using anonymous surveys and polls to capture the ideas people have, evaluate them, and consider if they fit in lines with the company’s goals. That approach saves a lot of time and holds people accountable for sharing ideas that matter to them.
  3. Encourage folks to volunteer for implementing an idea. I think this is the ultimate way to engage employees because the last thing any leadership would want is people asking, “what are we suppose to do?”
  4. Focus on concrete ideas than broad theories — telling people that we have to make “customers for life” or “collaborate better” doesn’t do much to inspire action. They might get pumped up and motivated, but then what? Nothing inspires action than a plan of action.

See, nothing about the list above is extraordinary, but it’s merely practiced. Why? It’s hard work. Leadership in most small businesses feels guilty (or are made to, thanks to those pointless surveys) for not involving their teams or not engaging with the groups.

I believe the focus should be on engaging people to implement ideas that the leadership has, either thought through or are seriously considering. The worst they can do is think of themselves as a startup and have everyone take a stab at all the wonderful ideas that can help the company grow. The result will be a buffet of great ideas with no clear direction on the next steps or who is going to drive these ideas.

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