Why is employee engagement so important to a company’s well-being?
That’s an easy question to answer.
It’s because employee engagement is the core component of a company’s success. No matter what you talk about – productivity, leadership, professional growth, retention, recognition, culture, well-being, etc. – everything ties back to employee engagement.
Not to mention the fact it is the most important indicator to gauge work satisfaction. And nowadays work satisfaction is at the top of the list when it comes to employees’ wants and needs. Today’s employees want their work to mean something. They want to be excited to work for an organization and feel a sense of belonging.
In the most recent Global Human Capital Trends survey, “79% of organizations say fostering a sense of belonging in the workforce is important or very important for their success over the next 12 to 18 months, but only 13% say they are very ready to address this trend.”
To help employers address and improve their employee engagement at work, here are 10 tips:
1. Communication is key
Organizations that have high levels of employee engagement have open and transparent communication – formal and informal – between management and employees.
Why is that so important?
Open and transparent communication about company goals, progress and changes makes employees feel well-informed, recognized and heard. It also nurtures trust, and when employees trust their organization they’ll go above and beyond with their efforts.
Open, two-way communication also makes employees feel cared about and safe to share their honest feedback and opinions, knowing there won’t be any repercussions. Whether this communication is in an open forum like a town hall, employee engagement surveys or day-to-day conversations, transparency from the top down ensures employees will do the same.
And employees who are invested in their organization are less likely to fly the coop.
2. Offer growth opportunities
If you want an engaged workforce, providing opportunities for growth and development is a must.
Believe it or not, work must be challenging to keep employees engaged, and a lot of employees say theirs isn’t. And managers often don’t challenge their workers enough “to learn and achieve higher results,” show results from DecisionWise employee surveys.
But on the flip side, you don’t want to overwhelm and stretch employees too thin, which will only lead to stress and burnout.
It’s a balancing act but one that’s vital to engagement.
How employees perceive their ability for growth within a company and the development opportunities available to them is a key predictor of employee engagement. And when employees contemplate their opportunities for growth and development they’re thinking of promotions, raises and career advancement.
Providing training and skill development is important, but those things aren’t perceived as actual growth and development opportunities. There must be places for employees to rise in the ranks for true employee engagement.
How can companies do that in today’s unstable environment?
Make the promotions and growth opportunities simple and small to give employees a sense of growth and development, says DecisionWise. They’ve seen companies with high engagement scores maintain them throughout downturns in the economy. The key is communication. Talk about your development and succession plans on a regular basis – departmentally and throughout the organization.
Cross-training is a great way to engage employees and give them even more opportunities for advancement. It also helps the company by having people who are available to cover for each other.
3. Recognize and reward employees
When employees feel recognized and are rewarded for their dedication and hard work, they feel appreciated and that their company cares about them. That in turn creates engaged employees.
One way to do this is through a recognition program.
A recent study found that 82% of respondents consider “recognition an important part of their happiness at work.” It just makes good business sense – satisfied, engaged employees work harder, produce better work and stick around longer.
The great thing about recognition is it costs nothing and takes very little time to let employees know they’re doing excellent work. When used appropriately, praise allows staff to know exactly what they’re doing right – so they can keep doing it – and that management has noticed and appreciates all their efforts.
Just remember to be impactful, recognition must be fulfilling, authentic, equitable, embedded in the culture and personalized, according to Unleashing the Human Element at work: Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition by Gallup and Workhuman.
Recognition is great and extremely important. But getting a little something for your efforts takes recognition to another level. When managers award rewards, employees know they’re valued because the company has invested in them.
These rewards don’t have to be expensive or flashy either. Little things and fun activities can be all it takes to give employees that sense of being a valuable part of an organization.
Who doesn’t like a Friday afternoon off, an extra vacation day or a day off to volunteer at a favorite charity?
The important thing to make your rewards program hit home is to personalize the rewards. Cookie-cutter gifts don’t cut it anymore; neither does company swag. It’s fine to give your employees swag gifts, but don’t use them for rewards. Why? Because employees don’t see them as heartfelt.
Aren’t sure what your employees want?
Ask them. They’ll be happy to give you ideas!
4. Foster a positive work environment
Another key factor to improve employee engagement in the workplace is providing a positive work environment.
Employees who have a positive work environment are happy. Happy employees are more motivated and perform better.
There may not be much time for fun and games in the workplace, but it’s important for organizations to set aside some time for fun and games.
Taking a break now and then to laugh and socialize with co-workers creates a happy supportive work environment.
For example, team-building activities can be fun and strengthen company culture. It aids in communication between team members and strengthens their bond. People who like and care about their co-workers are more engaged and more likely to stay.
But people are human and there’s going to be conflict, so part of creating a positive environment is addressing conflict and resolving it in a timely, fair and professional manner.
Let employees know their opinions are valued, but encourage them to look at things in terms of common goals among their team, department and company. When people focus on their different opinions rather than their common goals, anger creeps in.
Keep conflict positive by encouraging employees to be inclusive of other people’s thoughts and opinions. When employees see they’re free to contribute to discussions, they feel supported by their co-workers, managers and top brass.
5. Give employees autonomy
Autonomy is the right or condition of self-government. In the workplace, that means allowing people to work in a way that best suits them.
So, how does autonomy improve employee engagement?
It allows people to make choices and manage their work as they see fit. In other words, no micromanagement.
Seventy-nine percent of highly autonomous employees report high levels of engagement, according to Effectory.
Autonomy also gives employees a sense of trust – higher-ups trust them to get the job done. They can make decisions and solve problems on their own, and their higher-ups are there to provide support when needed.
That sense of trust gives employees the courage to step up and become emotionally invested in their work. When they’re emotionally invested in their work, they’re committed to providing quality work that gives them a sense of purpose. They believe what they do matters, and they’re a vital part of the organization.
Employees who work autonomously are also more likely to think freely and flex their creative muscles.
6. Offer flexible work arrangements
Guess what else increases employee engagement?
You guessed it – flexibility!
You’ve probably seen all over social media and the internet statics that like this one from Gallup: “54% of office workers say they’d leave their job for one that offers flexible work time.” And the pandemic has proven this to be true. That’s because as the pandemic forced most workforces out of the office and into homes, employees discovered they liked it … a lot. And now they don’t want to give it up.
Gallup also found in the same report that when employees spent some time working remotely and some time in the office with co-workers, engagement went up. In fact, “the optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to 80% of their time working off-site – or three to four days in a five-day workweek.” Back in 2012, it was 20%.
Flexibility, whether it’s where an employee works or when, helps people manage their work-life balance better. When people feel like they can take the time to care for their families and themselves physically and mentally, they’re happier and more productive. They’re also grateful and want to prove it.
7. Encourage teamwork
Employees who work on a team are more than twice as likely to be fully engaged, found ADP Research Institute.
That’s why employers should foster a team-oriented culture. When employees work in teams, they learn to trust and accept one another for the unique talents and skills they bring to the table. Since they are working toward the same end goal, it bonds them together. And employees who enjoy working together stay longer.
One fantastic way to create a team-oriented culture is through team-building activities and projects. In tip #4, we gave you a link to 12 team-building activities your employees will love. Participating in fun activities allows employees to see the other side of their co-workers giving them more insight into what makes them tick. The more they learn about each other, the closer they get, the more comfortable they are working together and the more successful the team – and the company – is.
Recognizing and rewarding teams for their successes just makes them want to do even better.
8. Provide regular feedback
Feedback shouldn’t happen just once a year. Companies that have a strong feedback culture tend to be more engaged, aligned and successful. Why?
Employees work as a cohesive unit which means they adapt to change faster, know what’s going on throughout the organization and are basically in tune with each other.
The feedback that happens on an ongoing basis between employees and managers promotes trust and development. Employees know what’s expected of them and have an increased understanding of how their goals fit in with the company’s overall goals, increasing engagement.
It also works in reverse. Employees should feel free to provide feedback to their managers and teammates.
Regular feedback brings teams closer by helping team members continuously learn, grow and improve. When employees are engaged they want to do everything they can to get better at their job.
9. Listen to your employees
No one wants to be ignored. That’s why listening is so important.
Listening to employees and acting on what they say, makes them feel valued and that their voice matters. And when employees feel cared about and valued, they’re more engaged. Employees who feel ignored become disengaged.
It’s important for managers to seek out regular feedback from employees. You never know when that next great lightbulb moment will happen.
When managers listen to their employees’ concerns and act upon them in a timely and professional manner, employees feel heard and part of the team.
Plus, engaging in conversations allows all parties involved to learn more about each other, building trust and engagement.
Listening also fosters a collaborative work environment of sharing.
10. Lead by example
Today’s employees want to see their managers and higher-ups “walk the talk.” No longer does “Do as I say, not as I do” cut it in the workplace!
Managers should inspire employees to copy their behavior. When employees see their managers and higher-ups leading by example with positive behaviors, it influences them to act in the same manner.
Showing employees that their executives, supervisors and managers align their practices, routines and behaviors with the company’s core values inspires them to do it too.
“When a leader’s actions and words align, the team doesn’t waste energy trying to decode their intent or agenda,” points out BetterUp. “Through example, leaders also teach their teams to develop more effective and efficient processes.”
That doesn’t mean management has to be perfect. In fact, it’s the opposite. Showing employees management makes mistakes, owns those mistakes and learns from them earns them respect and nurtures trust by being transparent. However, showing inconsistency and contradictions in how they act can damage relationships.
“Leading by example can help employees acquire a sense of belonging, self-efficacy and self-identity in the organization and work,” according to Frontiers in Psychology. “Consequently, [it] improves employees’ organizational psychological ownership and job psychological ownership.”
The bottom line
Engagement isn’t something companies do just to make employees feel happy. It’s a business strategy for success.
To be successful, organizations need engaged employees because they’re enthusiastic and invested in their work. And feeling positive about their work leads to better physical and mental health.
Decades of Gallup research shows that highly engaged workplaces claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects and 21% high profitability.
The bottom line is engaged employees produce better work because they’re happier and they feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.