Employee engagement can be defined as "the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work." Unfortunately, studies show that almost 70% of the workforce is disengaged. Fortunately, there are things you can do to change that in your organization.
Give Employees the Inside Scoop
One simple and cost-free way to boost employee engagement is to let employees know what's going on behind the scenes. When staff members get to see 'behind the curtain,' it helps them feel like they are an integral part of the organization, rather than just cogs in a machine. This lets employees know that leadership trusts them and gives employees a look at the 'why' behind workflows.
- One creative way to share with your staff would be to have a 'top-secret' themed newsletter that is sent to employees quarterly. In a fun and creative way, leaders in the company can write about what they're currently working on and how it impacts the employees and organization.
- You can expand this strategy by including employees in critical decisions. An employee who works directly with management on creating a department goals package will feel motivated and important and will be much more likely to give his or her all in meeting those goals.
Praise Good Work
In many corporate environments, workers feel they only get feedback when they do something wrong. If they get recognition at all, it's a cheesy certificate or another meaningless trinket, and it hardly outweighs all the criticism they feel they receive. Experts say it's important to deliver positive feedback six times for every negative comment made.
Finding truly creative and meaningful ways to praise good work can make an employee's day and give them incentive to keep doing their best. Ideas to consider include:
- Praise publicly and correct privately. People often enjoy being recognized for good work in front of their peers, but everyone hates when the boss openly shames them. Of course, if certain employees cringe when they are the center of attention, you will want to praise them privately rather than in front of the group.
- When you offer kudos, take the time to make your praise highly specific. Tell the employee what he or she did and exactly how it made a positive impact. This shows that you really mean what you say rather than making general 'warm and fuzzy' statements.
- Separate praise from corrective statements. If you're truly trying to give praise for good work, don't follow it up with correction. Save the improvement advice for another time and focus entirely on the excellent job.
- Be surprising. Some of the best praise is unexpected. Skip the 'employee of the week' approach. Instead, concentrate on catching people in the act of doing the right thing and offering immediate praise.
Connect Work with Purpose
Having a sense of purpose in daily work is essential to engagement. Purpose at work goes far beyond mission statements and goals packages. It comes from showing the employee how the work they do makes an impact on the world around them.
Purpose can come in a variety of forms. Ideas to create a sense of purpose in your business include:
- Share customer stories with employees so they can see the positive impact the company has on society.
- Find out what causes are meaningful to your team and arrange for the company to donate to those organizations.
- Offer volunteer programs to help employees give back to the community while building a sense of team solidarity.
- Use internal crowdsourcing to collect ideas and listen to employee concerns, then provide updates on the progress that the company is making.
Supply Tools People Need
To give their best effort, people need access to the proper tools. Sometimes this is as simple as extra staples, and it may be as complex as seeking approval for a hardware upgrade. As a leader, help your employees access the tools they need.
- If someone requests access to a document to make an extra contribution, don't make them wait a week until you eventually get around to giving them the password.
- Make sure the office supply storage area is easy to access. Even if it's locked for security reasons, it should be simple to find someone with the key. If it's not, this roadblock can cause frustration and disengagement.
- Make it easy for someone to request new tools. Whether a staff member has heard about a new app or there's a new software program that would make things more efficient, ensure that there is a process they can use to bring the idea to management. Then, create a review process so they can receive an answer in a timely manner.
Employees who try to make an extra effort and find themselves frustrated at every turn will quickly give up and become disengaged. As a leader, it's up to you to promote interaction and help new ideas find a home.
- One aspect of encouraging creativity is to help facilitate communication between employees. Many articles are written about the importance of ending silos in business, but these invisible walls still exist. Encourage departments to communicate and share ideas.
- You can also take steps to expedite communication between employees and management. If great ideas are continually ignored or impossible to share, it won't be long before your team members stop offering up great ideas.
- If an employee needs a response from you, let him or her know when to expect it. Even if you cannot give an answer immediately, let them know you received the information and give them a time by which you will reply.
Encourage Employee Development
If you don't know the career aspirations of everyone on your team, you have some work to do right away. Each manager should have individual meetings with his or her team members to find out what their goals are within the company. Once you find out, do everything you can to help an employee take steps forward.
Some supervisors give lip service to these ideas but never actually suggest their team members for additional roles or promotions. You don't want to be that kind of manager! If you are, your team members will either leave the company, change departments, or give up and quietly do the bare minimum. Instead, be an advocate for your employees. Employees know which managers support them and which do not. When you encourage your team to reach their dreams, they will be excited to put forth extra effort for you.
- Help team members recognize areas in which they excel
- Encourage employees to participate in relevant learning and development opportunities
- Recommend employees for internal job openings, promotions, and extra projects as appropriate
- Talk well of your staff to other managers
Employees are most likely to give their best effort when they feel a sense of ownership about their work. When employees feel a sense of pride and ownership about the job they do in your organization, they will be much more engaged and likely to give their best effort and creativity. Avoiding micro-management can help, but there are other steps you can take as well.
- Reward employees who come up with innovative ways to improve work processes
- Allow employees to set their own quarterly or annual goals rather than telling them what they need to accomplish
- Rein in workplace bullying, favoritism, and other motivation-killers
Provide Work Flexibility
When you provide flexibility in the workplace, you show that you respect and trust your employees like the adults they are. With more freedom, your staff will be able to devote more creative energy to work tasks.
Some ideas you may want to consider include:
- Offering a flexible schedule or job-sharing for workers who want to contribute but cannot work standard 9-5 hours
- Explore work-from-home options for high performers
- Allow team members to make up hours at another time if they need to attend a family event or appointment
- Pay employees based on job completion rather than work hours
- Provide tools that make it easy for remote and non-traditional workers to collaborate freely and work effectively
Engagement Boosts the Bottom Line
When employees are engaged, you'll improve both employee retention and your company's overall success. Gallup studies show that companies with high engagement have four times the success rate of companies with low engagement. They have 21% higher profitability, and 20% increased productivity as well. If that's something you want for your organization, implement employee engagement strategies today!