Successful business owners and managers will tell you that to keep your company at the top of its game, employees must be more than merely satisfied with their work environment. They need to be actively engaged in the success of the company as well.
Dissatisfied employees are more apt to produce less than adequate results, take more sick days and not take pride in their work. For employees to be fully vested in the success of the company, they must be made to feel like their contributions are important—that their work matters.
Of course, that raises some critical questions. What is employee engagement? How do you increase it? And is it really that important?
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT DEFINED
Having a successful business is an employer’s obvious goal. Companies that emphasize employee engagement are far more likely to be successful. An engaged staff lowers turnover, boosts customer satisfaction and increases your company’s chance of success. However, workplace engagement cannot be forced. It must be ingrained in each employee and throughout the business.
Employee engagement is NOT the same as employee happiness. An employee can be happy with his or her work, but that doesn’t guarantee they are working at optimal productivity for the organization.
Companies often conduct “employee satisfaction” surveys, but they don’t really reflect employee engagement. A “satisfied” employee will show up for a daily 9-to-5 shift and not complain. But that “satisfied” employee will most likely not make extra effort on his or her own. Keeping employees satisfied is simply not enough.
Employee engagement is an emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This commitment means engaged employees care about their work and the overall success of the company. They don’t just show up to earn a check or a promotion; they work to meet the company’s goals.
For example, an engaged computer programmer will work overtime as needed and without being asked. The engaged retail clerk picks up trash from the store floor, even when the boss isn’t looking. The engaged TSA agent will search a suspicious bag, even if it’s already the end of his or her shift.
There are three key elements to effective employee engagement—and money isn’t one of them. The three core elements are about maintaining a sense of belonging. According to Professor William Kahn (1990), for an employee to feel engaged, they must:
- Feel their work is meaningful and makes a difference.
- Feel valued, trusted and respected.
- Feel secure and self-confident.
The more an employee feels part of a community, the more likely they are to be engaged.
It seems like a simple thing, but it’s easy to overlook these aspects. Changes in the job market since this research was completed increase the need for effective employee engagement strategies.
BENEFITS OF SUCCESSFUL EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
Engaged employees bring better business outcomes. According to Towers Perrin research, “…companies with engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins.” And according to Kenexa research, “engaged companies have five times higher shareholder returns over five years.”
Engaged employees create the following:
- Higher service, quality and productivity.
- Higher customer satisfaction.
- Increased sales (repeat business and referrals).
- Higher levels of profit.
- Higher shareholder returns (i.e., stock price).
As former Campbell’s Soup CEO, Doug Conant, once said, “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” Employee engagement is the critical key to unlocking a high performing workforce.
Businesses need to create the conditions for engaged employees, which will create valuable and positive experiences for customers, which will ultimately create soaring profits. Top business leaders recognize that an engaged workforce will drive innovation, improve productivity, grow the organization, improve customer service and create loyalty, both inside and outside the business.
Employee engagement draws on employees’ knowledge and ideas to innovate how we work. Employee engagement draws a deeper commitment from employees to lessen turnover, reduce sick days, lower accident rates and reduce conflicts and grievances. Employee engagement relies on company actions consistent with the organization’s values.
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT IDEAS
While there are dozens of ideas that can be implemented to create and maintain employee engagement, here are some employee engagement ideas:
- Align your company with a purpose.
- Give your people “insider” information.
- Celebrate personal wins.
- Find out what your team members are passionate about.
- Provide consistent coaching and training.
- Promote perks that boost mental health and physical well-being.
- Have more fun at work.
- Ditch the cubicles.
- Hold office hours.
- Start a learning club.
Along with these ideas, there are other steps employers can take to improve employee engagement.
ONBOARDING AND TRAINING
If employees don’t know their responsibilities, they can’t be engaged. What comes instead is confusion, frustration and a constant feeling of needing to catch up. Employees who master their duties are more likely to be proud of what they do. Onboarding and training new hires are two of the vital steps you can take to create employee engagement.
SET COMPANY GOALS
Your company business plan should include a list of specific and measurable goals. Employees who are directly involved with reaching those goals are more engaged.
Managers who set annual, semi-annual, quarterly and monthly goals give employees something to work toward.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR EMPLOYEES
Employees can become disengaged when they aren’t acknowledged. Engaged employees are afforded a sense of camaraderie and comfort within the business. It’s critical for employees to know their coworkers and develop positive relationships with them.
Just as important is developing relationships built on respect and friendship between employee and employer. Making the effort to say hello, please and thank you can keep your employees engaged.
FOCUS ON DEVELOPMENT
Often times, workers leave a job because they want the chance to grow in their career. One Gallup poll found, “87% of millennials (and 69% of non-millennials) view development as important in their jobs.”
Employees want to continue developing their skill sets and continue challenging themselves. No one wants to do droning tasks that require nominal effort. Engaged employees seek to constantly use their minds and develop their skills.
You can offer employee development in various ways:
- Add new duties to the employee’s position to prevent boredom.
- Offer a job rotation program so employees do different tasks periodically.
- Offer educational assistance.
These perks let employees see that you value their career growth, education and developing new skills for the business.
When people are told exactly what to do and how to do it, they lose their motivation. Employees without freedom cannot be engaged.
Micromanaging is damaging to a business. Low morale and decreased productivity are symptoms of disengaged employees.
In lieu of micromanaging, let employees make decisions about how to complete their work. This creates engagement.
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES
How can you evaluate your current level of employee and engagement and continue to grow it? Here are some additional best practices:
- Use surveys and questionnaires to gauge employees’ feelings and opinions. The more your team is asked their opinions, the more they will feel empowered, trusted and respected—and the more engaged they’ll be.
- Pay attention and show you are listening, then act on issues. Don’t avoid addressing problems in the workplace. Rather, show that you are working on the problem and potential solutions.
Share good ideas and practices amongst teams and focus on developing peer respect. Allowing employees to share their ideas with other employees, and not just upper management, gives them the chance to shine.
- Encourage the employee voice and facilitate communication channels. Allow employees to raise issues and provide feedback about the performance of their department, their project or the company as a whole.
- Recognize learning styles and preferences. Not everyone learns the same way. Know who likes to work in groups, who is more effective working alone and which employees are natural leaders. Use this knowledge to increase productivity.
- Use group learning strategies rather than just imparting knowledge. Turn your workplace training into an interactive event where all employees are involved. Encourage employees to step out of their comfort zones and step up as new leaders.
- Form small groups and have employee groups focus on narrow, specific tasks. This allows employees to work at a faster pace and encourages everyone to have a say in the process.
These engagement strategies require you to think universally. Remind everyone that this business is a community—starting with you, including your managers and acknowledging the work of your employees. Communities flourish when everyone feels included, trusted and valued.
Grow Your Leadership Skills
Recognizing the need for employee engagement and taking the steps to create an engaged company culture will be of great benefit to any organization. By creating a culture where employees feel valued and their ideas are always considered, productivity will rise, employee satisfaction will increase and profits will soar.
Leadership in the business setting is a continual learning process. Our degree programs at PGS can help you grow in your leadership skills to bring greater employee engagement. From associate to the doctoral level, you can discover a path that can help you enhance and elevate your company culture.