Employee engagement in the U.S. is pretty dismal. A measly 34 percent of U.S. workers report being fully engaged in their work, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. What's more, 13 percent of employees report being "actively disengaged."

This means over half of employees aren't fully committed to doing their best work. They might show up and do the bare minimum, but aren't motivated to go above and beyond.

No one wants employees who feel "meh" about coming to work. So what can you do to solve it?

No one wants to be treated like a child at work.

Patty McCord, who was the former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, has a key piece of advice for companies interested in boosting employee engagement.

First things first: Stop giving your employees an endless list of do's and don'ts to follow as if they're little kids.

Bureaucracy creates too many layers, an abundance of processes, and long lists of guidelines -- all designed to keep employees in place. "We've ended up with systems that treat people like they're children," McCord explains in a video she recorded for TED's The Way We Work series.

She reminds us that fully-formed adults walk in the door every single day.

Assume the best, and amazing things will happen.

McCord believes that many companies assume the wrong thing about their employees. That's why all these processes and systems were created. To prevent them from making the wrong decisions or doing the wrong thing, we put guardrails in place to prevent people from messing up.

How about flipping the script and assuming the best in your employees? "Start with the assumption that everybody comes to work to do an amazing job," McCord says. "You'd be surprised what you get."

Bureaucratic processes erode trust and engagement.

Employees are happiest and most productive when they work in organizations where they are trusted and respected.

Great Place to Work CEO Michael C. Bush reinforces this message by encouraging companies to treat their employees well -- and he's not talking about awesome perks and big bonuses.

Bush describes a real example of an employee who needed a new laptop. But 15 people had to approve that laptop. A $1,500 laptop shouldn't require 15 levels of approval. It actually costs more to approve the computer than the computer itself.

Remember, your employees aren't children. You shouldn't need to know what your employees are doing every second of their workday. Checking in on them constantly or micromanaging is doing you no favors. When bureaucratic processes balloon out of control, it becomes impossible to get even the simplest tasks done or approved.

So start with trust. Treat your employees like adults. Trust them to do the right thing, and you'll see better results. ​

Published on: Feb 15, 2019
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