In most businesses, an “Employee Engagement Survey” goes out once per year to determine how engaged employees are with their jobs. The survey seeks to determine whether a person finds their job rewarding, feels like they have a real stake and interest in the company and cares about the overall success of the company.
And while these surveys are certainly a step in the right direction, they fail to create a holistic culture of engagement within a company. After all, if the subject of engagement is only broached once per year, it’s not going to be particularly high on the radar of company leadership or employees.
This is a significant mistake.
More and more research is showing that high levels of employee engagement produce exponential business results. A worldwide study by Gallup determined that engaged employees are far more productive, profitable, and dedicated to customers than those who aren’t engaged. The study also found that low engagement leads to more absenteeism, quality assurance problems, and safety issues.
Additionally, Gallup determined that companies with more engaged employees are far more profitable. They took all the companies from their studies with a positive engagement score and broke them down into three groups, then compared the company’s earnings to industry competitors:
Those in the lowest engagement group outperformed their competitors by 19% on average. However, results among those in the higher engagement groups were far more impressive; median earnings among those in the “top decile/exceptional growth” group were more than four times those of their industry competitors.
In other words, even those companies with the lowest amount of positive engagement still outperformed the industry.
And yet, so many employees are not engaged in their jobs. They go to work, struggle through the day, come home and live on the weekends. Clearly, something is out of order.
So how can companies create more employee engagement? How can they make it a strategic issue that is present every day of the year? How can they help their employees be more profitable, productive and happy?
Here are 7 suggestions for supercharging employee engagement.
#1. STAY CLEAR ON CORE VALUES
Without a sense of clear and compelling core values, employees will have no purpose in their jobs. They will feel somewhat aimless, unclear as to what exactly they’re trying to accomplish. Gone are the days when all employees cared about was having a job to go to. Now they want to know that what they’re doing actually matters.
This is why companies with a specific and motivating mission have thrived. Toms, for example, donates one pair of shoes for every pair sold. Zappos teaches about and rewards their employees for astounding customer service.
The starting place for employee engagement is giving employees a compelling vision of the core values and the behavior that should flow out of those core values. If these are muddy, engagement will stay low.
Lisa Earle McLeod wrote the following about millennials in the workplace:
The millennials are telling us what we already know in our hearts to be true. People want to make money, they also want to make a difference. Successful leaders put purpose before profit, and they wind up with teams who drive revenue through the roof.
In other words, give people a purpose and profit will follow.
#2. KEEP UP THE COMMUNICATION
A company can’t expect its employees to be deeply invested if they never hear from company leadership. As noted previously, employees want to know that their efforts are making a difference. They want to see how their work is impacting the company. They also want to constantly be updated in terms of where the company is headed and what initiatives are underway.
Company-wide communication also gives leadership a great opportunity to recognize outstanding performance, which in turn fuels more engagement.
Consistent feedback from company leadership allows employees to have a sense of what matters to the company and how they can be more invested. An absence of communication leads to employee stagnation.
#3. PROVIDE MANAGERIAL COACHING
One of the biggest differentiators in terms of employee engagement is management. In fact, it is so significant that Gallup notes:
Gallup has studied performance at hundreds of companies and measured the engagement of 27 million employees and more than 2.5 million work units over the past two decades. No matter the industry, size or location, companies are struggling to unlock the mystery of why performance varies from one workgroup to the next. Performance fluctuates widely and unnecessarily in most companies, in no small part from the lack of consistency in how people are managed.
In other words, poor or absent management inevitably leads to unengaged, uninterested employees.
To combat this, managers need to be closely involved with their employees without micromanaging. They need to learn the art of constructive feedback, as well as know how to consistently praise good performance. Saying that you’re a hands-off manager can sound somewhat noble, but in reality, it can be problematic. Employees want a manager that is helpfully engaged.
#4. HELP EMPLOYEES GROW
Employees who never progress their skills or knowledge will inevitably feel bored and left behind. On other hand, companies that encourage employees to improve skills and learning will see engagement improve significantly.
There are numerous ways to help employees grow, including:
- Encouraging additional schoolings, such as a graduate degree or certification.
- Giving employees time to work on passion projects.
- Providing a stipend for employees to invest in books or courses.
- Supplying on-site learning for new technology.
This touches on the previous point. Today, employees want more than just a job. They want an occupation that fills them with passion and purpose, something that engages them on both an intellectual and emotional level.
Giving opportunities to grow allows them to experience this fulfillment.
#5. CREATE AN ENJOYABLE TEAM ENVIRONMENT
Employees spend more time with their coworkers than almost anyone else, usually spending 40+ hours every week in close proximity to them. The quality of the team environment dramatically impacts engagement levels. Teams who are deeply connected will feel much higher levels of commitment and engagement than teams who focus solely on work.
How can companies foster a supportive team environment? There are numerous ways, including:
- Team activities outside of work hours (sporting events, concerts, dinners, escape rooms, etc.).
- Friday celebrations, where food is brought in and weekly wins are celebrated.
- Team retreats to focus on strategy and experience fun.
- And much more…
The purpose is simply to build an atmosphere of hard work, trust, fun, and teamwork. Being part of a great team leads to increased engagement.
Shada Wehbe puts it this way:
A teamwork environment promotes an atmosphere that fosters friendship and loyalty. These close-knit type ambiances motivate employees in parallel and alignment to work harder, cooperate and be supportive of one another. Individuals possess diverse talents, weaknesses, communication skills, strengths, and habits. Therefore, when a teamwork environment is not encouraged this can pose many challenges towards achieving the overall goals and objectives. This creates an environment where employees become self-absorbed in promoting their own achievements and competing against their fellow colleagues. Ultimately, this can lead to an unhealthy and inefficient working environment.
#6. SHOW APPRECIATION FOR HARD WORK
Fewer things deflate employees faster than not receiving recognition for a job well-done. Humans are wired to respond to praise, and a lack of praise can lead to dissatisfaction and discouragement. This is common sense, yet so many managers neglect the simple act of showing appreciation for a job well done.
This recognition doesn’t need to be overly complex or involve some sort of elaborate ceremony. Gallup notes:
Gallup’s data reveal that the most effective recognition is honest, authentic and individualized to how each employee wants to be recognized. Acknowledging employees’ best work can be a low-cost endeavor—it can be as small as a personal note or a thank-you card. But the key is to know what makes it meaningful and memorable for the employee, and who is doing the recognizing.
Employees who feel appreciated will be far more engaged than those who feel ignored. A simple, “Good job!” goes a long way.
#7. LET EMPLOYEES BE HEARD
Employees want to know that their thoughts and ideas matter—that they’re not simply a number or a cog in a machine. One way to give them a sense of identity is to give them a voice. Companies with a system that allows for meaningful employee feedback will have significantly more engagement than those who ignore employees.
After all, employees are usually the ones on the front lines, interacting with customers on a daily basis. They know the struggles and successes and areas where improvement is needed. Creating a feedback system where suggestions are heard and implemented can make a significant difference in employee engagement.
The extreme opposite of an engaged workplace is an assembly line. Employees perform a single action repeatedly, with little sense of the value of accomplishment. They are simply one piece of a much bigger machine. And while most companies are not that extreme, those who ignore employee engagement risk creating an assembly-line-like environment.
Engagement matters. It matters to the employees, to the managers, and to the bottom line. Failing to work toward it only hurts a company in the long run.
Increase engagement, increase your bottom line.