While I typically speak about employee/volunteer engagement with people currently active in the workforce, the prospect of being with an audience of retirees was too good to pass up.
My recent session for Penn State Lehigh Valley’s SAGE Lecture Series was designed with a dual purpose: 1) share the current state of workplace engagement and 2) tap into the rich reservoir of the audience’s job experiences to be shared with students. Twenty-six students also participated as part of their Intercultural Community-Building class – a first-year experience course that introduces students “to the concepts of identity and multiculturalism, and encourage them to engage in interactive discussions with others,” according to Kristy Weidner Hove, instructor and Institutional Planning Coordinator at Lehigh Valley Penn State.
After discussing the importance of engagement and what leads people to engage or disengage on the job, the audience broke into small groups of retirees and students to share their experiences in the workplace. Each breakout group then identified and shared their top three tips on engaging employees, volunteers, and co-workers.
Here are the resulting tips, compiled and organized by Kristy Hove, that reflect a variety of leadership, management, and collaborative practices based on actual experience.
TOP TIPS ON WHAT WORKS TO ENGAGE PEOPLE
AS EMPLOYEES, VOLUNTEERS, AND COWORKERS
Penn State Lehigh Valley SAGE Workshop
- Don’t just hear what others have to say but listen to them and retain what they say.
- At all levels, the person must be able to listen as a sign of respect.
- Respond to others in a way that indicates you understand them.
- Communicate among each other and comment whenever the person did well.
- Find a way that works to communicate with the group; i.e., face-to-face or online.
ACKNOWLEDGE AND REWARD
- Acknowledge people at all levels, both intrinsically and concrete incentives.
- Give credit to the person who comes up with the idea; mention his or her name in front of the group or boss.
- Create an environment for recognizing and rewarding achievement.
KNOW NAMES AND ROLES
- Learn people’s names.
- For new employees or volunteers, ask the people they’ll be working with to introduce themselves and what they do.
- Ask volunteers what they’d like to do. Explain you’ll try to accommodate if you can. Leaders need to be prepared for alternative, unexpected requests.
- Team work makes the dream work.
- Group activities and communication help with teamwork.
CREATE A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT
- Create an environment where employees enjoy what they are doing.
- Attitude – people will mirror what they see.
- Recognize the value of socialization. Some groups value the “journey” and inclusion as much as achievement.
- Provide opportunities for social introductions.
- Social gatherings can help with comfortability/familiarity .
- Encourage openness among employees.
- Find a friend at work.
- Show sincere respect and interest in people.
- Management should maintain distance and yet be open to employees and their ideas.
- Recognize abilities and limitations of the employees.
- Act responsibly.
- Treat everyone equally (Golden Rule).
Special thanks to Diane McAloon, Community & Alumni Outreach, and Kristy Hove for helping with this special workshop, and to all retirees and students for their active participation.