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The Neuroscience of Employee Engagement
By Christine Comaford, Leadership and Culture Coach, SmartTribes Institute
In the next few minutes you’ll learn how to help your employees step into new levels of engagement via a potent combo of physiology and cultural programs to ensure the engagement recipe is cooking up the results you want.
Here we go!
The Brain Recipe for Employee Engagement
Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when we feel connection, bonding, love with another. When we feel we’re part of something, we’re included; we’re a valued member of the tribe. A leader can intentionally cause oxytocin to be released by fostering connection, inclusion, and equality between team members.
Seraton in is a neurotransmitter that is released when we feel good, and oxytocin sure helps to get this party started. Feeling good helps us want to create, contribute, collaborate, make a difference. A leader can intentionally cause serotonin to be released by creating meaningful celebrations when achieving milestones, and ensuring both teams and individuals are acknowledged, giving constructive feedback helps here too.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in many functions; most important is that it motivates behavior that anticipates reward. So even if we’re struggling through a rough time at work, when a leader maps out a clear path out of the pain, and inspires everyone to come together and contribute, ensuring all feel safety, belonging, mattering, dopamine will be released.
Three Steps to Employee Engagement
Now that we know what’s happening physiologically, let’s talk about how to create engagement.
Assess: First, it’s essential that you understand the state of the world. Here’s the employee engagement survey we use with our clients. We call it an SBM Index, as it reveals the level of safety, belonging, mattering in your culture:
Note the SBM Index provides the first two outcomes that make analytics useful: you’ll learn descriptive info (the SBM Index describes how your culture is currently working) and predictive info (if nothing changes, we can predict what cultural challenges will continue). From these simple 10 questions you’ll learn what department needs what emotional experience most.
You’ll also learn what your employee pool overall needs. Be sure to have a comments field for each question! You’ll gather terrific info from them.
Act: Next, it’s time to create the prescriptive action plan so you actually benefit from your SBM Index results (and avoid the trap of most surveys: where all we get is the descriptive and predictive elements—not very helpful!). We call this a Cultural GAME (Growth, Appreciation, Measurement, and Engagement) Plan. We want to ensure that we:
• Foster Connection, Inclusion, Equality
• Create Good Feelings
• Create Aspiration and Insights
Growth: How are you helping your team aspire to greater knowledge and capabilities?
• Individual Development Plans (S, B, M)
• Leadership Lunches (B)
• Annual (Organization-wide) Learning and Development Plans (S, B, M)
• Feedback Frames (S, B, M)
• Turnaround Processes (S, B, M)
Appreciation: How are you helping your team feel appreciated and valued?
• High Fives (M, B)
• Rock Star of the Month (M, B)
• Weekly Wins (S, B, M)
• Friday Toasts (M, B)
• Merit Money and/or peer-based bonus programs (B, M)
Measurement: How are you ensuring that your team performs and understands your expectations?
• Accountability Structures (S, B, M)
• Weekly Status (S, M)
• Dashboards (S, B, M)
• Performance Self-Evaluations (S, B, M)
• Engagement Surveys (such as the SBM Index) (S, B, M)
Engagement: How are you helping keep everyone’s heart and mind focused on how much they love your organization?
• Engaging mission, vision, and values statements (S, B, M)
• Impact Descriptions (S, B, M)
• Coffee with the CEO” program (B, M)
• Organization-wide contests (M, B)
• Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Structures (S, B)
• Optimal recruiting processes (to ensure value alignment) (B)
• Optimal onboarding processes (S, B, M)
• Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic goals (goals you show that people are progressing toward V, talk about A, and anchor in an activity K) (S, B, M)
Here’s what a GAME plan generally looks like, on a rolling 12 month basis.
As you implement your GAME plan you will re-run your SBM Index. Our clients usually wait 6-9 months between SBM Indexes. You want to have enough time to roll out cultural programs and give them time to work!
ROI: When our clients understand how engagement works physiologically, and then use the SBM Index and Cultural GAME Plan, our clients get compelling and measurable ROI, including:
• Increase employee engagement by 67- 100 percent
• Enjoy employee retention levels at 90 percent and more
• Increase individual productivity by 35-50 percent
• Increase profit per employee by 22 percent and more
Are you ready to boost engagement at your firm?