Developing engaging communication skills in the workplace

The word engagement is often associated with rings, proposals, and parchment paper. For couples, an engagement is a time to develop a deeper level of commitment and communication to create a strong foundation for marriage. In a similar sense, engagement in the workplace is a way to build stronger bonds with your co-workers, but without all the legal commitments—or awkward first dances.

According to polling data from Gallup, around 67 percent of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work. There’s a good chance that some of those estranged employees are (hardly) working in your office right now. Is it possible to rekindle the magic that you saw during their interview? Maybe, but it takes some work. And it will start with developing engaging communication skills in the workplace.

What is employee engagement, exactly?

At first glance, you might associate engagement with employee happiness or satisfaction. But these are different concepts. If the IT whiz in your office is always smiling, it may not mean she’s engaged in her job. Maybe she found a way to watch movies at work and not get caught. She may love her job because of this, but it doesn’t translate into a strong performance—or your ability to access the shared drive.

Instead, Forbes defines employee engagement as an employee’s emotional commitment to their organization and its business goals. In other words, an employee doesn’t just care about their paycheck and perks, but also about the overall interests of the business. According to Forbes, these employees use “discretionary effort” to do things they don’t need to do and may not get recognized for.

Sounds like an ideal employee, right? That’s true, but it also puts a heavier responsibility on you. If you don’t share the same level of commitment or you lose the trust of an engaged employee, it can be an uphill battle to earn it back. Take a look at your workplace behaviors. Are you killing employee engagement by ignoring individual successes, playing favorites, or setting unreasonable expectations?

Get better employee performance by using engaging communication skills

Once you’ve removed the engagement killers in your office, it’s time to start communicating—that’s the key to engaging your workforce.

Stephen Denning, author of The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art & Discipline of Business Narrative, finds that when it comes to getting people’s attention, people tend to focus on things that are:

  • relevant (tell them a story that they would care about)
  • unexpected (tell them something they don’t already know)
  • negative (people pay more attention to things that could harm them)

Now, this doesn’t mean managers need to be scaring their employees with hidden dangers to their job security on a daily basis. The key to engagement is to go beyond merely grabbing an employee’s attention. You want their devotion. Here’s a couple of tips to keep in mind:

Show a genuine interest in their lives.

Take the time to acknowledge people when you see them, look them in the eye, and use their name in conversation. These very basic (and easy) steps show your employees that they’re valued and that you—as a representative of the business—care about them.

It’s also important to let them talk and ask them questions about their job or important things going on in their lives like birthdays, weddings, or kids’ sports or school activities if they have children. It’s also not a bad idea to write down the names of their loved ones or important dates or events in their lives so you don’t have to keep asking them the same questions. They’ll notice.

Show them that you trust them—bring them in the loop.

The “circle of trust” isn’t just something you might share with your father-in-law, it’s also something you should share with your employees. Studies have shown that employees who feel appreciated for their efforts can increase their productivity by up to 50 percent.

But this means more than just saying thank-you, it also means using communication skills to connect your employees to the decision-making process. Allow them to provide input and gain ownership in a process or product by:

  • asking for their help and input
  • assigning them responsibilities tied to their skills and then meeting with them one-on-one to help along the way
  • working with them to present important data or reports
  • giving them credit in front of their peers and upper management

Once you bring someone in the loop, it’s also important for them to know that you’ve got their back. Go to bat for them when it counts and they’ll stick with you (and the business) in sickness and in health.

Use your engaging communication skills to find your next superstar

Like marriage, modern business communication isn’t just a two-way street, it’s a multilane freeway in all directions (especially if you have kids). However, engaging someone takes time, which you don’t always have in the hiring process. That’s why it’s helpful to have resources from the experts. Sign up for Monster Hiring Solutions today, and you’ll have access to the latest in hiring tips and job market trends, not to mention some great deals.