Cues and Clues: Interpreting Employee Engagement through Body Language

We’ve developed a new set of techniques for measuring employee engagement in the office

  1. Collect the drool off of sleeping employees’ desks. Measure it in a beaker. If the total volume is under 5mL, your employee is probably minimally engaged. If it measures over 5mL, your employee is probably actively disengaged, and/or should be tested for narcolepsy.
  2. Check your employees’ Facebook profile. Engagement can be calculated by dividing the number of cat videos posted per hour, by the rate of comment responses, then multiplying this by the number of status updates, per minute.
  3. Employee engagement as a whole in the company can be calculated by randomly sampling the number of employees hovering at the water cooler at a single time, correlated with each employee’s sips per minute (SPM). If this value proves that employees are using time at the water cooler for activities other than drinking water (examples include, but are not limited to: chatting, staring aimlessly out the window, sleeping, playing ultimate frisbee) it is safe to assume that your engagement levels are low.

...Don’t worry, I’m just kidding...

In all seriousness, picking up on the cues and clues provided by your employees’ body language and nonverbal behaviours can be a great indicator of engagement in the workplace.

Take a look around your office, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does a team member come into work on time or are they habitually late?
  • Does a team member greet others with positive (smile) or negative (frown) energy?
  • Does a team member work with purpose or with minimal effort?
  • Does a team member freely offer ideas or do they just do what is asked

These are a few simple signs, actions, and reactions that can be interpreted in the nonverbal behaviours of your employees. Any one item in isolation is common and expected, but when one or more become the norm you may have an engagement problem.

Engaged employees are always approachable, often animated, and usually friendly. They make suggestions, offer ideas, and want to be asked for their opinion. They feel valued and care about their job and the company.

Observing behaviours as poised by the above cues and clues of body language can be one of the simplest, cheapest ways to interpret employee engagement in the workplace.  Of course, these may not be true to every individual, but they do provide a starting point for understanding whom and when you need to connect with your employees.

Sometimes the best pick-me-up for a team member that may have become disengaged, is to simply recognize them and let them know what they have done in their role that you appreciate. A simple ‘thank you’ or ‘way to go!’ can bring them back to the engaged side and reinforce that their contributions matter. Of course, you should also recognize and appreciate your engaged team members. Those are teachable moments to show others what you and the company value.

The cues may not be overt or obvious, like drooling employees or an influx of cat videos, but keep your eyes and ears peeled for subtle indicators of disengagement. It is the simplest way to tune into your employees’ needs and to begin to address what they are not getting. Sometimes something a simple thank-you can be all they need to refocus, and to become re-inspired.

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