At least 85 percent of CEOs say engagement is important for business. However, only 34 percent of US employees (and depressingly low 13 percent worldwide) say they feel engaged at work, according to Bersin by Deloitte, a research and advisory firm.
When employees are engaged, they put dedication and effort into their work. This crucial element makes your business prosperous. So how can you raise engagement in your company? The answer is simple, but it probably is not what you think. Higher pay and monetary rewards are the proven means of increasing overall satisfaction level but, surprisingly, they do not actually drive the engagement. To put it simply, you cannot bribe people into loving what they do.
Instead, you should pay more… attention to your employees – make them feel valued. Only by thoughtful deliberation can you create a working environment that encourages employee engagement. It doesn’t mean you will have to figure it all out by yourself. Here are the things to focus on.
The individual approach is key
One of the challenges of boosting engagement is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. On the micro level, all your employees are unique individuals and there is no way to find one best approach for everyone. On the macro level, even if something works for Google, it doesn’t mean that it will work for your seemingly similar multinational and multiethnic company.
You can start by introducing changes to your hiring policies. Finding talents among the applicants and matching them with the best roles is what you should aim for. Tests help to identify individual tendencies of the new hires, and surveys of the staff can help managers to understand what motivates their teams.
If you do not have enough time and resources to implement survey tools, you can always talk to your employees. Their feedback gives valuable insights that are necessary to predict and prevent any impending problems. Moreover, people are more devoted if they feel their voices matter, so the benefits of this approach for the engagement are twofold.
Make sure procedures do not get in the way
This one might seem obvious, but too often leaders overlook this particular aspect of employee engagement. Cumbersome procedures get in the way of getting things done. This is especially true for big organizations. No need to mention how badly it reflects on the employee engagement.
If performing a single task requires entering several complex passwords, this can be frustrating. Frustration is the worst enemy of the engagement. To fix that, you should provide all the necessary tools for your employees’ efficient work. Perhaps, you should update the procedures. Perhaps, your business has outgrown the existing software solution and need something else instead.
Encourage continuous development
Ongoing training is important as it helps to achieve well-rounded competence of your staff. Nothing new about that. However, creating a learning culture in your company is also beneficial in the context of employee engagement. It shows that employees are valued and their potential is recognized. They feel that the company cares about them enough to invest in their future.
Unfortunately, this simple and intuitive truth is often dismissed because company leaders are hesitant to invest money in “job hoppers”. True, today’s workforce is in flux. All the more reasons to offer something that other employers don’t. This way you can foster loyalty and engagement to retain employees.
Besides, you don’t have to spend big budgets on employee training. Cross-training, coaching, and individual development plans work just fine. Again, the key is a personalized approach. Ask what your employees need? Do they need some basic marketing knowledge to perform better? Do they need programming skills to create custom tools that will optimize their routine work? Do they need paper help to perfect their eloquence in business emails? Make it clear that employees are welcome to make requests.
Acknowledge and appreciate
Money bonuses are the most popular way of recognition. However, we have already learned that they do not drive the engagement. Therefore, instead of (or as an addition to) the intricate system of annual, quarterly and spot bonuses, build a culture where peer-to-peer recognition is encouraged. It’s about creating an emotional connection with your employees and your company in a way that is authentic to your corporate values.
One of the oldest proven recognition in existence is verbal praise. This can be as simple as “Well done!” or “Atta boy!” However, some companies take it to the completely new level, as Yum! does. See more on the Yum! unique recognition culture in this interview with David Novak, Yum! Brands CEO.
Some small non-monetary awards (tchotchkes, golden stars, or some other tokens) can work as well. The main point here is to remind your employees regularly that their input matters. Make them feel valued, respected, and even loved. Yes, recognition is a little gift of love and it is as much art as science.
Forster social activity
Thankfully, that doesn’t mean encouraging your employees to spend more time on Facebook and the ilk. Instead, you should foster healthy personal relationships between the colleagues. Although your company can organize all sorts of corporate events and teambuilding activities, often the most meaningful ones are those that require employees to contribute their time and talent. If you find the right way to approach your team, this request for personal input will make them feel important and valued (as they undoubtedly are!)
Finding purpose through work is a crucial element of engagement and a need that many employees have. Tapping into their hobbies and passions can yield great results. For example, ask them to make a piece of their favorite handcraft with the company emblem and display it in the office. Maybe someone can paint a picture to decorate the meeting room.
Another way to foster social activity and give a sense of purpose to your team is through service projects. For example, teaching arts and crafts in the orphanage, organizing game nights for care home residents, providing paper help for international students, or walking dogs from the shelter. Note, that ideas should come from employees to reflect what is closer to their hearts. When people are invested into something emotionally, it creates the strongest engagement.
Linda is an educator and a training consultant with a background of teaching in college. She is currently working on her first book.