4 Proven Ways to Create Mutually Meaningful Work Engagements

In a day and age where the average employee stays at a job for less than 5 years, and when your younger employees may be thinking about their next career move 6-12 months after starting a new position, it’s important to realize that your employees just won’t stay at your business forever. Some employers may give up and feel discouraged, but don’t worry, there’s good news.

Even if your employees are only staying at your organization for 2-5 years, they can provide an immense amount of value to the company if you know how to inspire them to do their greatest work. Often, this happens when employees feel valued and when they feel like they are providing as much value to the organization as they can. At Contracted Leadership™, we call this developing a mutually meaningful work engagement: the employee’s development and the organization’s growth is never at the cost of the other.

So, just how can you foster these mutually meaningful work engagements in your own organization? Here are 4 proven ways.

1. Be authentic and transparent during the interview process, and use it as a time to connect with prospective candidates.

All work engagements start with an interview, so it’s important to begin communicating openly with your candidates then. Ask them what they enjoy doing professionally, personally, and what their aspirations are 3-5 years down the line. Tell them that you understand that most people change jobs every 3-5 years and that you’re looking for the right candidate for the position for right now, not forever. Sharing this with candidates will help them feel more comfortable sharing what their goals and visions for the future actually are. We also suggest that your hiring team tries some of our creative interviewing techniques.

The interview is also a great opportunity for you to communicate the mission, vision, and values of the organization to make sure that it would be a good culture fit for your new hire. Even if your employee may not be staying with the organization until their 20th work anniversary, your team members will be more engaged if their values align with those of the company.

Essentially, use the interview as a time to bond with your prospective employees. If they are selected and accept the position, then you will start the working relationship both excited and dedicated to making things work. And if the candidate is not selected, then they’ll walk away from the interview process with something of value, whether that’s knowing themselves better or understanding those around them better.

2. Help your employees reach their personal and professional goals.

Once you’ve brought on a new employee, the best way to ensure it’s a mutually meaningful relationship and that your employees stay engaged with the organization is to help them reach their personal and professional goals by helping draw parallels between those goals and the aspirations that the organization has. Ideally, in the interview, you already communicated with your now-employee about what their short- and long-term goals were, and what their passions are. When you’re creating your employees’ onboarding plans, it’s great if you can design them to include training your employees in areas that inspire them and help them gain skills that they feel are valuable that would also benefit the organization. If you can provide your team members the opportunity to gain such skills, they will feel empowered and like you took the time to really listen to them.

Likewise, it’s important that you can offer your employees as much support as you can in reaching their personal goals in the workplace; often, people’s personal and professional goals can overlap or can be complementary. Even if these goals are not complementary, some of a person’s personal goals could still benefit the business.

For example, if your employee is transparent with you that she wants to be the editor of a newspaper someday, and she’s currently working at your firm writing reports, you can offer her the opportunity to write press releases on behalf of the company and to cultivate relationships with the media. She’ll continue to cultivate her writing skills, which will make her reports better, and she’ll feel fulfilled because she’s working toward her long-term goals. This employee will also be able to provide your organization with more cultivated, intentional, positive PR, which also helps the business. Conversely, if you never give this person the opportunity to work toward her goals, she may become frustrated and resentful and leave the organization much sooner than she would otherwise.

3. Ensure your employees are spending time in their wheelhouse.

In general, businesses value making money, and people value spending time doing things they love doing. By making sure your employees are working in their wheelhouses, or their areas of passion/expertise, you’ll be making both goals a reality. Employees are more efficient when they are doing things at which they excel, and they’re more engaged when they’re doing things they love. In turn, the business saves money because their employees are more productive and engaged.

We know that many businesses require employees to wear multiple hats, but it’s important that your team members are spending at least 40% of their time in their wheelhouse. If your employees spend at least a quarter of their time in the area where they most excel, they will continue honing their skills in that area and bring more value to the business. If your employees are spending less than 40% of their time in their wheelhouse, odds are that you have procedures, processes, and systems that you can streamline and modify to be more efficient within your business.

4. Maintain an open dialogue.

In our first tip, we suggest having an authentic and transparent interview with any potential candidates so that you understand what their short- and long-term goals are and that they understand your company’s culture and values. However, it’s important that the transparent communication that you have with your candidates and employees extend far beyond the interview; it needs to be one of your daily practices.

One way to maintain an open dialogue is to schedule regular times to check in with your employees. We suggest meeting with your direct reports one-on-one on a weekly basis, but it’s also nice to initiate more informal conversations, too. Having a weekly or biweekly team-bonding activity could help your team become closer and help them feel more comfortable sharing what’s going on in their lives and how you can better support them at work.

At the outset, having a monthly team happy hour or a weekly meditation session may seem unrelated to building a more engaged, more productive team, but it will help your team members see that you value them as people, not as production units. And, as a person’s productivity and attitude at work are affected by both their professional and personal lives, it’s helpful to know if there’s anything going on in your team members’ personal lives that could be challenging them to stay focused at work.

If your business follows these tips, we’re confident that you’ll inspire your employees to do their best, most creative work. Contact us today to learn about some of the other ways that we can help your organization succeed and thrive.

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