Workplace engagement is the measure of connection and commitment employees have with and to their place of work. The stronger the feelings of connection and commitment, the higher the engagement. If we want to retain good people and recruit additional talent, staff engagement is critical.
A key to building engagement is providing a psychologically safe space. To do that it’s important to consider individual and team needs when it comes to their psychological safety. According to neuroscience research there are five primary social (psychological) needs that can be broadly categorised as importance, certainty, choice, fairness, and connection. Meeting needs triggers feelings of reward, whereas not meeting them invokes a threat response.
When it comes to connection humans instinctively create ‘in-groups’ (where we see ourselves as a member) and ‘out-groups’ (a group we don’t identify with). We generally have a favourable view of those in our group and often a sceptical or negative view of those who are not. We create in-groups not only for social interaction and friendship but because together we can be stronger and smarter; support and help each other in times of need, co-operate to achieve goals and share resources, both intellectual and physical.
In a business context, when teams feel they work within an in-group they’re less likely to operate in silos. Instead, they rally around shared goals, their ideas and actions have greater synergy, and they make greater progress towards those objectives. And according to NeuroLeadership Institute Research ‘collective intelligence’ (including emotion intelligence) is critical for team function, it’s not enough to have a star player, the best teams are smarter, more creative, and generally higher-functioning because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
If your teams are dispersed or working in hybrid environments, it’s even more important to encourage a sense of connection and the ability to collaborate with team members. In this case consider the impact of distance bias – where people prefer people or things closer in space and time (for example in the room) than further away (such as on the screen). You can read more about inclusive meetings here.
To increase the sense of connection or relatedness across your business you want to expand the in-group and shrink the out-group. Language can be one trigger for whether people feel included or excluded, when you use collective pronouns such as ‘we’ and ‘us’ this can promote a sense of belonging to the same group. Whereas language such as ‘you’, ‘me’, ‘them’ sends a signal that there is a boundary between groups.
Some other suggestions to support group inclusion:
- Promote positive relationships within the team by helping people cooperate and collaborate.
- Resolve conflicts quickly and fairly.
- Encourage team members to get to know each other as people – the more they see each other as individuals the stronger the team becomes.
- Create an environment where it is safe to share honest feedback.
- Check in with people on their concerns and needs.
- Have shared goals.
- Be clear on your company’s vision, goals and aspirations and match your hiring process to this.
- Provide transparency around decision making (where appropriate),
- celebrate wins together.
What else could you do to promote in-group rewards?
Would you like to discuss how we can help you improve your teams’ engagement? Contact Sharon for an a chat.
Photo: Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash