Today more than ever, organizations rely on the energy, commitment and engagement of their workforce in order to survive and thrive in this era of unmatched competition in every field.
Low employee engagement remains a persistent problem for organizations of all sizes around the world. In 2020, a global Gallup study found that just about 20% of workers in full-time employment are ‘engaged’ at work. “Engaged” essentially means being highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace.
With low engagement in the workforce, it is very difficult to create a culture of trust and accountability. Organizational goals are harder to achieve if employees are not comfortable working together or with their employees.
However, you need not worry, just as there is a solution for most problems, there are also effective ways to increase employee engagement. Here are some strategies that organizations can deploy to better engage employees with their work and with their colleagues.
2. Emphasize Your Mission
Every workplace needs to have a sense of direction, a purpose, and something to work towards. Without this, employees would be everywhere, and with no particular roles to play in building the organization.
Employees are likely to be more engaged when there’s a goal they can get behind in and a purpose to steer them through the ups and downs of work. Introducing core values and a mission statement is a perfect foundation for company culture. If you have a company culture, it plays a huge role in how engaged your employees are. An employer can start by creating a pithy list of company core values, then train each employee in these values.
Doing so will guarantee that employees understand the importance of the company’s values, how they positively impact the business and what is expected of each individual. Leaders should lead by example and hold every member of their team accountable. Failing to do so will foster a bad company culture of distrust, and without a sense of direction, employees become more disengaged.
Engaged employees are doing meaningful work and have a clear understanding of how they contribute to the company’s mission, purpose and strategic objectives. Again, this is why they first have to be placed in the right role. Many employers make the mistake of hiring great talent just to get them in the door without having a clear career path or role for them.
2. Communicate Consciously And Regularly
As organizations grow, the ties binding co-workers can loosen and weaken and, before employers realize it, departments are working in isolation and their staff become disconnected from their colleagues at work. Unless there is a dedicated internal communications team, it’s likely to become the Human Resource Manager’s responsibility – potentially with assistance from the marketing team – to take charge of company communications.
It is crucial to start communicating news more frequently and intentionally wherever employees are spending their time – be that digitally or physically. Simple steps such as making use of intranet, HR systems, or even putting up posters in shared spaces will prove advantageous. This will help keep all employees, regardless of the department they are in, informed of what’s going on, whether that’s a change to HR policies, any good news about a client, or even recognizing that it’s someone’s birthday.
Distance should never be a reason to be plagued by employee disengagement. Managers who work remotely or who manage remote teams will have to be even more intentional about their communication strategies.
However, a recent Forbes study on the effects of remote work found that most employees show signs of burnout when having virtual meetings every day. In the study, 38% of remote employees reported feeling exhausted after daily virtual meetings. Considering that the study was conducted in 2020 when most organizations switched to remote work, it emphasizes the need for managers to get their remote communication plans and strategies right lest they fail.
3. Prioritize Feedback
As an employer, sometimes it serves best to just sit, listen, and give feedback. Optimal amounts of feedback correlate with positive manager reviews. Even managers who give their direct reports too much feedback are rated higher by their team than those who don’t provide enough. The gist? Employees crave feedback, and it influences their level of engagement.
Employers can start by scheduling check-ins for each employee with their manager, then encourage middle management. It is important to establish regular review sessions with every team as an ongoing initiative to considerably improve employee engagement.
While it may be tempting to implement a company-wide schedule for feedback, employers need to keep in mind that every team is different and frequent touchpoints may feel unnatural to some while to some, they can be enlightening. Managers should talk to their direct reports about their preferred methods for receiving feedback in order to engage employees in a way that’s meaningful to them.
4. Investing In Employees’ Wellbeing
Engage For Success (E4S) has been at the forefront of UK research into employee engagement and has argued that engagement and wellbeing are intertwined. Speaking to HR magazine in 2014, taskforce member Wendy Cartwright said: “where there is high engagement but low wellbeing, there is a risk of burnout over time, and where there is high wellbeing but low engagement, employees may be feeling generally satisfied and well but are unconnected to the organizational purpose and goal”
Taking steps to create a healthy workplace – by introducing an employee assistance programme, training mental health first aiders, and promoting healthy eating and exercise – can all help to improve staff wellbeing, increasing the rate of engagement the bigger picture.
It is invaluable to take a look at the organization’s culture and the behavioural expectations it has on an employee. For example, some workplaces have a ‘long hours’ culture with people often staying late, either to cope with high workloads or in a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to demonstrate their commitment to the course? Do people come into work when they’re ill and should be resting at home?
Researching the causes of mental and physical ill-health in your organization should be a priority. Then create and implement the appropriate interventions to tackle the issues you’ve uncovered.
5. Recognize Good Work
Does your organization regularly, publicly and willingly recognize and reward its employees? Even if a few of your leaders and managers often thank their staff for their efforts, there’s always more to be done.
Engaged employees will go out of their way to go the extra mile and get work done with sheer accuracy. However, today’s workforce wants to know that the leadership notices and appreciates their efforts. Employers should also go the extra mile and take time to acknowledge their employees and their good work. They should also be allowed to do the same to their peers.
Putting in place digital channels through which staff can thank each other for going the extra mile or introducing an incentive-based scheme or awards programme are great ways of cultivating a culture of public recognition and appreciation.
Aspirly is one such platform that employers should look to deploy in the workplace. Aspirly gamifies the working experience, and of course, most, if not all, games played come with rewards for the victors. And workers feel more engaged when their performance in such activities are rewarded.
Since feedback is a top priority among employees, managers should be encouraged to make positive recognition part of their day-to-day work-life. Managers should look to utilize communications channels and consider engaging HR departments to implement incentive programs.
6. Empower Employees
It’s understandable that some leaders resort to micromanagement in times of crisis, or where team members are incompetent or unable to respond to pressing deadlines.
Workers’ enthusiasm and creativity are usually worn down by constant correction and negative feedback. Workflows get stifled by managers that are acting as roadblocks to action. And, ultimately, employee retention and recruitment will suffer.
The alternative is to empower, support and trust your workforce to produce results autonomously and refer back to you if they need more guidance. Employees may not always feel free to come forward and speak out if the leadership insists on micromanagement.
Also, making sure employees have enough challenges and variation in their workday is one of the most important managerial tasks. If their ability to develop themselves and learn even from mistakes is curtailed, employees lose motivation and start to look for engagement elsewhere.
Employees should always be empowered with the chance to bolster their skill set, learn from their peers and undergo structured training programs. Regardless of how an organization structures its training programs, they can be sure that the more empowered the employees feel to develop new skills, the more likely it will be that their employees will remain consistently engaged in their daily work.
Employees are the engine that powers up a workplace, so improving employee engagement is a fundamental step to business success. When you create a positive work environment where people can grow daily and receive recognition for their efforts, nothing will stand in your way to achieving your goals.
Hopefully, these tips inspire you to focus more on engaging your workforce because that means improving your entire organization’s performance. Start implementing the strategies for engaging your employees today, and you’ll boost your organization’s profitability before you know it.