Engagement, engagement, engagement.
You’ve heard that word before, haven’t you? There’s no doubt that employee engagement strategies have become a big focus for employers today.
Much of that is in response to the scary statistics that state just how disengaged the modern workforce is. The good news is that number is improving (Gallup reports that 34% of professionals are now engaged at work, tying the highest figure ever since Gallup has been reporting on this).
However, just because those digits are climbing doesn’t mean employers can kick back and stop investing in their employees’ experiences.
Nope, engagement still needs to be at the top of the priority list. But, what exactly is employee engagement, why does it matter, and how can you continue to give it a boost? We’re breaking down everything you need to know.
What is employee engagement?
It’s easy to confuse employee engagement with employee happiness or satisfaction, but that isn’t entirely accurate. An employee might be happy at work, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’re engaged in what they’re doing.
“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals,”
Says Kevin Kruse in an article for Forbes.
“This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t just work for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.”
Why does employee engagement matter?
With that definition alone, it’s easy to start to understand why employee engagement is significant—who wouldn’t want a staff that’s committed to doing their best work day in and day out?
There’s no shortage of benefits tied to an increase in employee engagement, including (but certainly not limited to):
- Improved retention: Employees who are “engaged and thriving” are 59% less likely to look for a new job with a different organization in the next 12 months.
- Increased productivity: One Gallup study discovered that companies with an engaged workforce were 21% more productive.
- Greater profitability: That same research from Gallup found that companies with an engaged workforce are 22% more profitable.
6 employee engagement strategies to boost commitment and enthusiasm
All of this begs the question: How exactly do you make employee engagement happen?
Again, engagement isn’t synonymous with happiness, which means true engagement is going to require more than a stocked snack bar or a ping-pong table in the break room. You’re going to have to dig deeper.
Where should you start? Below are six strategies you can begin implementing to show your employees that you’re truly committed to their success—so that they return the favor.
1. Start at the very beginning
It’s easy to think of employee engagement as something that needs to happen after an employee is established—they’re settled into their positions, and now it’s time to start connecting those dots and keeping that romance alive.
That’s a mistake (albeit, a common one). Employee engagement isn’t something that should happen after onboarding is over. It needs to be a priority from the day an employee signs on the dotted line of an offer letter.
Make sure that you look back at your employee onboarding process to refine that sequence of events and up the engagement factor. This could include:
- Balancing administrative tasks with social and culture-oriented events
- Coordinating meetings with other departments so the new employee has visibility into the whole company
- Providing detailed on-the-job training so the employee understands how their role fits in
- Offering information on learning and development opportunities, as well as paths to advancement
Doing simple things like these upfront makes sure that you’re engaging that employee right from their first day so that they don’t feel like they were sold a bill of goods during the interview process and are now stuck in a job that isn’t delivering what was promised.
Prioritizing engagement right from the start can make a big difference in how committed employees feel once they’re up to speed in their roles. A reported 53% of HR professionals say employee engagement rises when onboarding is improved.
2. Get curious about your employees
Do you feel like there’s a positive, two-way line of communication between you and your employees? Yes? Well, it’s tough to hear, but they might disagree.
According to a report from Payscale, there’s a bit of a chasm between what employers believe about themselves and what employees actually experience. 63% of employers stated that there was frequent, two-way communication between employees and managers. But, only 55% of employees said the same was true.
Communication is key—and that doesn’t just mean talking at your team members. You need to be asking questions.
Whether you’re asking about their ultimate career goals or are curious about something as simple as their go-to coffee order, making this effort to get to know employees can make a world of difference in making them feel like a valued member of the team, and not just another cog in the wheel.
Don’t hesitate to ask about their lives outside the confines of your office either. In one poll, 23% of respondents cited not asking about lives outside of work as a communication issue that impairs effective leadership.
3. Offer recognition for great work
Your employees do awesome work. But, ask yourself this: Do you reliably tell them that?
If you’re not actually patting them on the back for a job well done, it’s going to be an uphill battle to keep them committed to their work and the results. After all, who would want to continue cranking through their to-do list without any sort of recognition?
Feeling valued, appreciated, and adequately recognized is important to employees. In fact, one study by an employee motivation firm discovered that 83% of respondents said recognition was more motivating than any rewards or gifts—proving that something as simple as a “good job” can be more meaningful than financial incentives. Even further, 79% of people who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as their key reason for hitting the road.
In order to boost engagement, you need to find meaningful and personalized ways to recognize your employees for their good work on a frequent basis.
Rest assured that this doesn’t need to be overly complex—even something as simple as a genuine compliment from their supervisor can keep employees feeling energized and valued. Data shows that the most memorable recognition comes from an employee’s direct manager, so make sure that you’re empowering your leaders with the training and resources they need to offer adequate recognition to their own teams.
4. Tie employees to a greater purpose
Employees want their work to have meaning. However, too many employers fail to realize what that really means. They assume that means professionals are only on the hunt for jobs where they can do some obvious social good.
Ultimately, employees just want to understand how their work connects to the bigger picture. They want to know what their work is contributing, and why it matters to the organization as a whole.
Statistics back this point up. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 74% of professionals want a job where they feel like their work matters. And, meaningful work is cited as the single largest contributor to a positive employee experience.
However, employees don’t always have this level of visibility into the impact their work is having —particularly in larger companies where teams become siloed.
It takes a conscious effort from management to consistently remind employees what they’re contributing to. Zoom out to draw parallels between how what they’re working on—even if it’s something that might feel meaningless—directly correlates to the success of the company as a whole.
After all, maybe updating that spreadsheet feels mind-numbingly dull. But, employees are bound to tackle that task with a lot more vigor if you remind them there’s no way you could host a successful product launch event without that accurate list of contacts.
5. Provide clear paths for advancement
Employee engagement is a challenge—but especially if team members feel like they’re stuck in a rut. It’s hard to stay motivated when you feel like you’re destined to be cranking through the same to-do list day after day.
That’s why it’s important that you clearly highlight paths to advancement. What’s required to move up the ladder and develop within the organization shouldn’t be a secret to employees. It should be painfully obvious, so that they can take ownership over their own career futures.
Showing employees how they can grow within your company is a big benefit for both recruitment and retention.
In regards to attracting new talent, learning and development is the most important benefit that candidates look for—even above health insurance. And, when it comes to encouraging that talent to stick around, a reported 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.
So, make it clear how you plan to help employees thrive in their careers. Whether it’s through a formal leadership course, various educational seminars, or clearly mapped out promotional paths, help them understand what their next steps are—and what they need to do to get there.
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6. Ask employees for feedback
Do you know who has the best insight into how you can boost employee engagement? Your existing employees.
If you haven’t been asking for their input on how you can improve your work environment, you’re missing out on a well of knowledge. Send out a company-wide survey or engage in focus groups or one-on-one conversations to find out what you could be doing better as an organization.
Of course, this will give you some valuable nuggets you can use to make positive changes, but it also proves to your employees that you value their opinions. That’s important—especially when you consider that a whopping one-third of the workforce (34%) believes that their employers don’t listen to their ideas for improving the business.
Engagement matters to employers and employees
Employee engagement needs to be a priority, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight. It’ll involve some time and plenty of trial and error to show your employees you’re dedicated to them and inspire them to mirror that same level of commitment.
However, implementing the above tactics can help you start to take steps in the right direction. To recap, the employee engagement strategies we covered here include:
- Emphasizing engagement in your onboarding process
- Asking questions to get to know your employees better
- Offering recognition for jobs well done
- Providing employees a sense of purpose
- Detailing clear paths for advancement
- Asking employees for feedback on how you could boost engagement
Put those tips into action, and you’ll be well on your way to experiencing the numerous benefits of employee engagement—including a boost in productivity, profits, and purpose.
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