79: How To Know Your Team & Strengthen Employee Engagement

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We know that higher levels of employee engagement translate into healthier cultures, better retention, and increased profitability, so how can leaders, including HR Leaders, build stronger teams and build higher engagement? René Johnston shares five strategies for strengthening employee engagement. She highlights one of these strategies - knowing your team members, sharing four benefits that flow from this strategy.  René discusses the role of assessment tools in facilitating conversations to get to know your team.  
René Johnston is the owner and founder of Employee Engagement Solutions. Her organization specializes in improving culture, retention, and profitability by building more engaged teams. She is an author and speaker whose work can be found in various print and online publications. René also serves as a regular columnist for The Spokane Journal of Business, Catalyst magazine, and as an adjunct faculty member for the Lewis-Clark State College Business Division. René was selected as a TEDx speaker and holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. 
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Kyle's interview with René.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • René’s career progression and passion that led to her work in employee engagement. René was on a different career path when she began working with an organization who asked her to train on various topics. She discovered she liked the work and realized that it was aligned with her skill set and natural abilities. She went back to grad school and began to build her business over the course of 17 years. She worked with businesses in various industry sectors and more recently narrowed her focus to employee engagement. It is one of the concepts that lays the solid foundation for a highly functioning internal team.
  • How does a first-time leader grow employee engagement? What are some of the strategies? It starts with a leader appreciating the value of employee engagement. A leader should have the passion and desire to embrace lifelong learning. The five key strategies are as follows: 
  1. Clarify roles and expectations.
    • Start during the hiring and onboarding process; ensure there is a current job description
    • Communicate and remind new hires how their role contributes to the overall success of the organization
    • Ensure you are hiring someone who has bought into the organization’s mission and values
  2. Know your team members. (René takes a closer look at this below.) 
  3. Provide team members with the tools, skills, and resources they need to be successful, including:
    • The latest technology
    • More access to the leader
    • More performance feedback
    • Ongoing, good and solid growth and development opportunities and training
    • Ensuring the people who design and deliver training understand adult learning principles 
  4. Empower employees.
    • Support and encourage employees to be involved
    • Give them the freedom to use their skills and resources
    • Embrace the benefits of having empowered employees
  5. Coach and engage with systems (which supports the four strategies above)
    • Put structure in place – ‘systemize’ and fully integrate into the processes 
    • The leader might value it, but if it is not firmly structured into the business, it will not happen
  • Rene Johnston on HR Studio PodcastKnowing Your Team – one key strategy a first-time leader should focus on. After hiring and onboarding and assembling your team, a leader needs to get to know his/her team members to build a high performing and fully engaged team. The leader needs to understand each team members’ communication and behavioral style, generational and cultural differences, life experiences, strengths, and challenges. 
  • Four Benefits of Knowing Your Team Members. Understanding the benefits of a high performing and fulling engaged team helps to ensure its outcome and that it remains a priority. Making the investment in the front-loaded process to achieve these results allows a leader to be more hands-off and offer more autonomy to team members. 
    1. By better knowing team members, a leader can tailor his/her coaching style to that team member and offer an individualized approach. Over time, it will happen organically. As a leader gets to know a team member, he/she will have a better understanding of how to approach him/her in a way that they will be better received. This is doable, but it is an investment of time. 
    2. Getting to know team members creates the opportunity to provide feedback and reinforce messages.
    3. When the leader is getting to know their team members, they are better able to determine if a team member is a good fit. Are they happy? It can keep resentment and toxicity from building within an organization. 
    4. It provides the opportunity to coach and more successfully offer career development guidance. You can then look at tools to help unearth information about team members.
  • How Do You Get to Know Your Team? Basic assessment tools like Myers–Briggs, StrengthsFinder, DiSC, and Kolbe can be valuable. Decide what you want to learn, and then decide which to use. You don’t have to use a formal tool. It can be a nine-question communication styles quiz that will help to identify personalities and behaviors. It may not be scientific, but it opens the conversation and gets people thinking. This will help them recognize their own strengths and challenges as well as those of the people they work with.
    1. Assessments can increase self-awareness.
    2. Assessments help team members to get to know each other.
    3. Some people have never been exposed to assessments or self-awareness and discovery. This can help people recognize traits in themselves and others. It is not about labeling people as a type. It is about preferred style and how people are most receptive to new information. 
    4. You can go the highly structured, academic route, or keep it basic. The bottom line – there is no substitute for the investment of time and attention. Assessments are great, but there is no substitute for the investment of a leader’s time.
  • Advice to rising HR professionals. What can you look back on that you did or contributed to in a way that improved the team that you work with? It does not have to be a complex series of events or activities. How did you show up that day? When you approach everything you do with that in mind, it will fall in place more organically because it comes from a place of authenticity.

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode

To Follow René Johnston

René Johnston HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
René Johnston HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 8:00am
HR Consulting
Kyle O'Connor
René Johnston
HR Studio Podcast