An article by Krisztina Holly and Jim Clifton in Business Week recently postulated that the answer to our economic woes is to inspire and empower employees to innovate. They  challenged leaders  to stop focusing on layoffs and unemployment and start paying attention to the people who are still there – to boost employee engagement.

There’s no one way to nurture people’s investment and engagement in your organization. There are a set of best practices that keep people growing, thriving and bringing their best ideas forward.

Invest in people. Encourage employees to be curious, take ownership for their work, gain new skills and fulfill their purposes in life. You don’t have to spend lots of money to do this. You do have to open the lines of communication, share responsibility and actively nurture your people.

Build relationships. Foster respectful relationships among employees at all levels. First, get real about the quantity and quality of your relationships, and take steps to connect with people. If you don’t have positive relationships with others, those you lead probably won’t either. Create an environment that values the big things, like honesty and integrity, and the small things, like manners and kindness.

Communicate well and often. Practice being a sponge – focusing more on listening and really understanding what others have to say. Communicate in ways that help others understand: Use plain language, share all that they need to know and check to be sure that you both “see the picture” in the same way.

Be open to feedback and willing to change. We all love feedback when it’s positive. Work on soliciting feedback regularly and encouraging people to tell the whole truth. Manage your emotional reaction to feedback, but don’t stuff those feelings under the rug. Most importantly, be humble enough to know that everyone has stuff that needs to improve. Take action to build on your strengths and manage your weaknesses.

These four bullet points are stuffed with best practices. Here are 3 simple steps to zero in on one area and make meaningful change:

1. Pick a focus. Make it practical and tangible, such as I will ask 3 open-ended questions each day or I will ask for feedback 2 times per week.

2. Post it where you will see it (e.g., post hard copy near your desk,  use electronic reminder, etc.).

3. Track how often you do it.

After a few weeks,  evaluate your progress and its impact on your performance. Repeat the process, so that you’re continuous improvement.

Innovation is the fuel that will keep your organization running. Create the right conditions for employees to maximize their brilliance and originality, and you’ll have enough energy to power you through any crisis.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!