Professional Development: Techniques to Engage Staff

by on Friday, April 27, 2018

In the hustle and bustle of meeting deadlines, addressing RCR allegations, and negotiating contracts, keeping employees engaged can be daunting. The benefits of doing so are numerous, however, as engaged employees are generally happy employees. When employees are happy, they tend to be productive and productive employees assist with meeting departmental goals and priorities.

One way to foster employee engagement is to understand what drives the employee. The department head must then meld their leadership style and own drivers to the needs of the employee.

As the head of a department, it is important to know yourself. How do you relate to other people? Do have a need to be in control? Are you direct and/or analytical? Combine this self-awareness with the environmental factors that drive your work and results. Are fiscal goals your focus? Is efficiency your bailiwick? Knowing and understanding your work and leadership style greatly assists with managing people. A variety of leadership assessments exist that can help you identify your style(s). These include Strengths Finder and the DISC Behavioral Inventory.

Next, know your employees and seek to understand what drives them. Some employee drivers are fear, unmet needs and insecurity. These drivers are frequently tied to a need to achieve, be appreciated and belong. Show appreciation to your employees. They want to know their work is valued and that they are successful. Consider your employee’s workstyle. Are they people oriented or task oriented? Do they work fast or slow? In most instances, employees desire to please and have success.

To create a successful environment where everyone is engaged, a leader ought to blend their leadership style with the work styles and needs of their employees. One size does not fit all when it comes to managing employees. Be approachable, persuasive and supportive. Reflect and embrace the following,

  • It is not about you,
  • Identify the needs of the employee and address them,
  • To know your employee, ask questions then dig deeper,
  • Be relentlessly positive,
  • Model expected behavior,
  • What is rewarded is repeated.

Your employee chooses how to behave. As a leader, you choose how to respond to employee behavior and whether to reward the behavior.

By knowing your leadership style and the things that drive your employee, you can identify those things that motivate your employees and build win-win relationships that will increase departmental success.

Carnegie, D. (1998). How to win friends and influence people. New York, NY: Pocket Books.
Sipe, J.W., & Frick, D.M. (2009). The seven pillars of servant leadership: Practicing the wisdom of leading by serving. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Authored by:
Kortnay Woods, PhD
Executive Director Grants and Sponsored Research
The College of New Jersey