I was asked to answer this question on Quora earlier this week – ‘what are some activities to increase employee engagement among blue-collar workers?’. It is an interesting question that brings needed focus to employee engagement outside the office environment. It also highlights the continued and mistaken quest for employee engagement activities as if these are going to make employees forget the reasons why they feel disengaged in the first place.
Two Factors to Consider
There are two things to consider when trying to increase employee engagement among blue-collar workers or other similar levels of employees.
First, engagement isn’t always an organisational issue. Employees are most likely to be engaged or disengaged by what is closest to them – i.e. their line manager, colleagues and the work they do (plus how they are expected to go about this).
Second, too many organisations think their employee engagement problems will be solved by running some kind of event such as a CSR activity or a BBQ for employees. This is simply untrue. Go ahead, organise a pizza lunch on Friday for all your employees or get them involved in a public space tidy up, then check how they feel on Monday when back in the disengaging workplace.
Employee engagement is not about running an activity. It is about how your company makes its employees feel on a daily basis. This will not change because of activities.
It will change when employees feel they belong in that workplace and have a valued and potent voice. It will change when employees have a sense of control over their own work and can contribute to making improvements etc. in how they do their job.
To increase employee engagement among blue-collar workers:
- Leadership and management development – not just at senior level. It is line managers that have most impact on employee engagement so set the tone at top level and develop all managers to apply this in everything they do. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. See my blog on this:Leadership Development: the key to empowering your employees
- Give your employees a voice – this is especially powerful if employees can contribute and speak at any time rather than in a set forum through team/departmental reps. Open it up to all employees and encourage them to tell you what is needed for engagement to take place. You will be pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of the answers. In this LinkedIn post, I refer to a case study in a SME where employees voiced their ‘ask’ in order to be engaged: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/e…
- Make it psychologically safe to contribute. Employees must believe that their contribution is valued and will not be ridiculed or punished in any way. This blog post contains some information on psychological safety at work:The Power of Collective Intelligence in the Workplace – Etimes2
When you achieve these three things and grow engagement from the individual employee level upwards, then your activities will have more impact because they will be a reward not a distraction.