12 Ways to Be an Engaged Employee

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By Hannah Morgan

Employee engagement is a trendy term being thrown around right now by companies. But what exactly is it?

Employee engagement is "about connecting with the company," writes Sharlyn Lauby, president of ITM Group Inc., in her blog HR Bartender. "When employees are connected, they understand what it takes for the company to be successful, want to see the organization succeed and are willing to do what it takes to help the business get there."Experts and studies claim there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and organizational outcomes (profitability and performance). This explains why companies of all sizes are paying more attention to the softer side of business – how employees feel on the job. Gallup's most recent State of the Global Workplace report found that only 30 percent of U.S. employees were engaged at work.

What makes a connected employee? According to Dale Carnegie Training, the top three drivers of employee engagement are the employee's relationship with his or her immediate supervisor, belief in senior leadership and pride in working for the company.

From an employee's perspective, why is engagement important if you don't have direct control over it? Part of the answer is that you want to feel good about the work you do. The other part is about avoiding pain. If you don't like your job, you would have to search for a new one. And you don't want to look for a new job – that's painful.

In a 2014 Forbes article about rethinking employee engagement, Josh Bersin, a talent management expert and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, writes that his personal litmus test for feeling engaged "was always my ability to contribute, innovate, and enjoy the people that made me happy."

But it isn't just happiness that matters. There's a difference between happy and engaged employees. Maren Hogan, CEO of Red Branch Media, writes in a 2014 Forbes article: "Your most engaged employees might irritate you a little bit. They may propose wild ideas, get frustrated when projects are derailed and volunteer for everything. They may rarely seem super happy, because they are busy pushing the envelope." These are the types of people you want, she says.

Based Gallup's engagement assessment, here are 12 true-false statements to help you measure and increase your engagement at work:

I know what is expected of me at work. Regularly ask for a discussion with your manager to ensure you both are on the same page.

I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. If you need tools to do your job, find out what it will take to get those tools. Know the cost involved, and build a case to present to your manager.

At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. If this isn't the case, plan to have a discussion with your manager. See what mutually agreeable solution you can put into place so you can do more of your best work and make your manager look good.

In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work. This assumes that people know about your good work. If no one notices, it may be because you haven't communicated your achievement. As uncomfortable as this can be, remember, unsaid often goes unnoticed.

My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. We all want people to care about us. This requires you to open up and share information. People can't read your mind, so part of the responsibility is in your court.

There is someone at work who encourages my development. Someone is more likely to help you and foster your development if he or she sees potential and your desire to improve. Are you coming across as someone who is open to receiving help?

At work, my opinions seem to count. When you share your opinions, are you expressing them positively? Limit the amount of blame, fault-finding and negative emotions, and focus on the facts and logic when communicating your opinions.

The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important. When you interviewed with the company, did you thoroughly assess the mission and how processes and employees supported it? And beware: A buyout or new management can change the company's purpose.

My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. You rarely have the opportunity to select your co-workers, but you can request to meet some of them during the interview process. Ask questions to assess how committed your new colleagues will be.

I have a best friend at work. Friendships are based on many things, such as common interests, mutual respect and trust. A good rule of thumb is to be a good friend in order to attract a best friend. Remember, friendships take time to build.

In the past six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress. If someone hasn't talked to you about your progress, you should initiate this important conversation with someone familiar with your work.

In the past year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. You can help make this a reality by identifying specific professional development opportunities – both formal training and self-learning. When you own your professional development, you'll find more opportunities to help you reach your goals.

As employees, shouldn't we have the authority to help facilitate conversations that will spark the positive outcome we desire. What's holding you back?

Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She is the author of "The Infographic Résumé" and co-author of "Social Networking for Business Success."
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