“Mind the GAPs” to Engage Yourself and Others

by Ayla Lewis

Engagement is an emotional commitment to work that results in increased effort, performance, and quality of work life.

Engaged employees are enthusiastic about their jobs and organizations; they go the extra mile. Peer-reviewed data suggests that organizations with high engagement enjoy much greater financial success than organizations with low engagement. That higher financial success is fueled by significantly higher performance and customer satisfaction, and much lower turnover.

So how do you get, or become, an engaged employee?

Researchers have provided us with a large amount of data, telling us what most consistently makes a difference in engagement. For most people most of the time, you need to be working with your manager to take care of all of the following six themes. To help us organize these six themes of employee engagement, Happy Brain Science uses the acronym “Mind the GAPs”. We use GAP twice; first for Goals, Alignment, and Progress, and second for Growth, Appreciation, and People.

Engage Employees by Minding the GAPs

  • Goals: Over 200 studies show that challenging employees to meet goals motivates higher performance. Goals help give employees clear expectations because they know what they are working towards. Set clear expectations by using SMART or–even better– SMARTEST Goals
  • Alignment: Alignment builds trust and trust is key to engagement. Talk with people on your team to ensure they understand and value how their work fits into the big picture. Communicate to align on quality, align work to use people’s strengths, and align on why you do what you do. 
  • Progress: In a study conducted by Teresa Amabile and her team, it was found that making progress towards clear and meaningful goals is one of the most important factors in employee engagement. To encourage engagement through making progress at your organization be sure to give people enough resources, remove roadblocks, visualize progress, and celebrate and savor progress.
  • Growth: Consistently in the data, career opportunities are a top engagement driver. To boost engagement, help others learn and grow their own way. One of the best ways to find out how people want to learn and grow is to ask them to write down their best possible future at work. 
  • Appreciation: In one research study, 78% of workers shared that being recognized motivates them in their jobs. Feel and express specific gratitude in a variety of ways to help increase yours – and others’ – engagement at work. At Happy Brain Science we use a specific recipe for gratitude: state the specific behavior, the primary feeling it caused you to have, and the impact it made on the business.
  • People: Remember that we are all human beings with lives and interests.Treat people like human beings and remember “HMM”: Humans Matter Most.  Asking people about their lives, respecting their whole lives and caring about them as people builds trust and earns engagement.

How you are ‘Minding the GAPs’ of employee engagement at work? How can you apply one or two of the strategies from this post to better engage yourself–and others–to do more great work, happily?

At Happy Brain Science, we teach organizations and individuals how to “Mind the GAPs” in Engaging Employees to do Great Work, Happily! You can watch a free video of this presentation from the IGDA Leadership Summit here.