4 Tips to Increase Employee Engagement
As the Great Resignation looms and future working models remain a work in progress, many HR leaders are now doubling down on efforts to keep engagement high.
High levels of employee engagement reap huge benefits when it comes to workplace culture and the bottom line. Gallup found that business units in the top quartile of employee engagement significantly outperform those in the bottom quartile, with organisations experiencing 81% lower absenteeism, 64% fewer safety incidents, 18% less employee turnover and 23% higher profitability when engagement is higher.
But with only so much time and energy to spare on improving engagement, where is it best to focus? Here are six practical tips:
1. Strengthen trust in leadership
The Great Place to Work Institute considers trust the foundation of a great workplace. After the challenges and uncertainties workplaces have faced during the pandemic, trust in leadership and organisational integrity has never been more important.
The most effective way for leaders to engender trust is to lead with humanity and to be transparent with their employees. By being open and honest about their own struggles during lockdown or mistakes they’ve made for example, and by keeping communications open across an organisation so that each and every employee is aware of how working models might change, for instance, people will have greater trust that the leadership team is just like them: human. They’ll be more relaxed and positive at work, and subsequently more engaged.
2. Encourage human relationships
Human connection has never been more important. The isolation, loneliness and loss of human contact during remote work has deprived us all of small, everyday human interactions that occur in the office, from a quick catch up at the printer to a longer gossip over lunch.
A workplace is nothing without its people, its humans, so it’s important to encourage them to be themselves at work. If your organisation is still mainly remote-work based, encourage regular, informal video catch-ups among team members; if you’ve gone hybrid, encourage that Friday afternoon pizza party. In addition to these smaller interactions, also encourage people, wherever they’re working from, to celebrate larger human moments and life events that matter – from meeting someone’s new baby over Zoom to celebrating a milestone birthday with an in-person lunch.
When people feel happy and comfortable at work and when they are free to be human and share every part of themselves with their colleagues, they will have greater satisfaction in going to work each day – and be more engaged as a result.
3. Make recognition and feedback a regular occurrence
We all like to be recognised for our hard work. It gives us a sense of meaning and purpose, makes us feel that the work we do is appreciated and that it is contributing to an organisation’s goals. It makes us feel part of the whole picture. It also makes us more engaged – more engaged with our colleagues and more engaged with our work.
So, make appreciation and recognition part of the everyday workflow. If a colleague has done a particularly great piece of work, take the time to say ‘Great job!’ or, if your organisation has a peer-to-peer social recognition programme, send them a reward to show your appreciation. Doing this regularly and frequently is key – indeed, Workhuman research found that when people were recognised within the last month, they were 3x as likely to agree that their work had meaning and purpose, and 2x as likely to be highly engaged.
The same goes for manager-employee check-ins. Instead of waiting for the annual review – which research has proven to be ineffectual – to provide praise and feedback, make check-ins a regular occurrence. Not only does this enable managers to keep on top of employee progress and engagement, it also enables them to get a more holistic picture of that employee that isn’t afforded by a once-a-year review. This allows them to set realistic goals and even spot opportunities for promotion that might have been missed with infrequent performance reviews. It’s also good for managers too – Workhuman found that when managers checked in at least weekly, their rating is nearly 2x higher than for managers who never check in.
4. Create a psychologically safe environment
Psychological safety at work is simple – it means being able to be our true selves at work without fear of humiliation or recrimination, something that has never been so important to employees. When we can be our authentic selves at work not only are we more engaged and productive, but we’re also happier and more likely to love our jobs. Gallup found that organisations that move towards creating psychological safety for their employees see a 27% reduction in employee turnover, 40% reduction in safety incidents and a 12% increase in productivity.
But how can leaders create a psychologically safe environment? The first step is easy – listen to your employees. Whether it’s regular check-ins, weekly pulse surveys or on a town hall call, take the time to hear what people want in the workplace of today – do they want a more flexible working model to help working parents with childcare? Would they like to see more Employee Resource Groups established? Would they like to see more plants in the office? It could be anything! But what’s important is that no employee should feel like they haven’t been heard.
The second step is to implement – where possible – the changes people want to see, as nothing is more powerful in creating a safe workplace culture and space than implementing the initiatives led by its own people. By its humans.
As senior vice president of Global Human Experience, Niamh is responsible for people and culture globally at Workhuman, empowering a people-first workplace, a culture of positivity, and respect for all.