How to improve employee engagement

To be successful with any task or activity, you need to be engaged with it, particularly at work.

Increasing employee engagement at work has been shown to directly relate to organisational success – profitability, productivity, customer loyalty and reduced levels of absenteeism and turnover.

Only 2 years ago, a Gallup study showed that 68% of employees were still not engaged and 21% were actually actively disengaged from work.

In today’s workplaces, people want to feel more involved and connected to what they are doing so that they can really invest themselves fully into it. Cash alone doesn’t cut it – today’s employees are looking for meaning in their work, as well as having some say in how work is delivered.

What are some of the proven benefits of increased team engagement?

The Institute for Employment Studies in the UK (IES) concluded in their report on employee engagement a couple of years back that real and measurable improvements are seen in organisations with an engaged workforce. Improvements like…

  • Employees really trying to understand the wider context and purpose of the organisation
  • People going above and beyond to work on tough organisational issues, even working longer than contracted hours (although obviously that may have some downsides too from a well-being point of view, so needs tightly watching)
  • Feeling aligned with, and identifying with, the organisation
  • There being more respect between staff and managers
  • Actually wanting to learn and develop.

How can you improve employee engagement in your workplace?

Here’s some ideas for you:

1. Energise manager-employee performance conversations

To make that all-important connection between effort put in by employees and the value they’re creating for the organisation regular line manager-employee performance conversations and, in particular feedback (positive and ‘constructive’), is essential – so make sure your process is slick and simple and that everyone is confident and motivated to use it.

Another essential part of these conversations is for both manager and employee to know what it is that energises and motivates them and how that can be used to deliver tasks and projects, so putting their strengths to work.

2. Don’t forget career development conversations

One of the conversations that SHOULD happen regularly at work (say every 3 or 6 months, at least to some extent) is the CAREER conversation. In practice though, this is viewed as one of the most challenging conversations to have at work and as a result, doesn’t happen as frequently as it should – for managers, this is often for want of a clear framework to talk through an employee’s career plans and also a concern that this kind of conversation might lead to someone deciding to move on from their role or from the organisation. For employees, there’s usually a difficulty in seeing what other opportunities might exist, which makes it hard to know what to say to your boss.

The irony is that if you DON’T have this conversation with your employees as a manager, they are MORE likely to leave as they definitely won’t feel appreciated or see a long term future in your organisation. In our company, we have these conversations every 3 months, and the employee collects data every 6 months on where others feel they are making their greatest contribution and what this might say about where their future may lie. This conversation, had regularly, will make a big difference to staff engagement overall.

3. Engaging development plans

In between these two conversations comes the personal development plan – an employee’s route map for learning and development and growth into the next role.

In our experience, if this plan is focused around developing our natural motivations and strengths by skill-building in these areas, there’s a lot more engagement in doing the learning – so focus less on rounding out employee’s weaker areas and more on getting people awesome at using their strengths.

4. The employee experience

Employee experience is becoming an increasingly important element of staff expectations, particularly with the arrival of Generation Z into the workplace, who typically expect that an organisation will ‘individuate’ their experience of work by understanding them, allowing them to craft their role and their career to their own unique qualities. This is definitely helped by following the first 3 points.

In addition, an aligned, consistent experience in every aspect of organisational life will help create the conditions for engagement by helping employees to trust the organisation and its brand at every touchpoint.

Consider every aspect of your employer brand: the recruitment process, onboarding and induction, workspace and break-out space design, catering, team offsites and celebrations, provision of healthy snacks, encouraging wellness and fitness. All of these things need to align and be consistent with your organisation’s brand if employees are going to develop a deeper, more engaged connection.

5. All sorts of forums for discussion

It’s so important for people to stay connected and feel supported to remain engaged at work, so encourage regular team meetings (for projects and departments) so that people have an opportunity to open up and share, discuss, plan and decide on a whole range of issues.

To get the most and best from diversity within your organisation, putting shout outs to a wider team for help in thinking about an issue from a completely new angle can be really productive. In addition, if it’s not there, set up an online forum for colleagues to chat, share ideas, create ideas boards, post birthday messages – whatever they feel is important to their work life and relationships.

6. Show appreciation in your benefits package

Some organisations offer bonus structures and commissions for salespeople, or those in senior roles. But what about the rest of the organisation? Appreciating and recognising hard work and commitment is a key way to not only increase productivity, but of improving employee engagement too. So consider rewarding all staff for their efforts by offering creative benefits like gift cards, vouchers, gym memberships and other things that your people will really value (perhaps through a company like Perkbox, which does all those things I’ve just listed and more).

So there’s just a few ideas on ways to improve employee engagement at work – there’s obviously hundreds more ideas out there, many of which don’t cost the earth but will pay back over and over in terms of your people’s productivity and performance – give it a Google and you’ll find many more ideas. Plus, it’s the right thing to do right? It’s our duty of care to build organisations where people can thrive and not just survive.

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The article below was originally published in April 2017 and has been moved here due to its relevance to the topic.

How to build employee engagement in the workplace

Engagement in any activity is integral to the success of it. This is certainly the case in the context of a workplace. Improving employee engagement in the workplace is key to the development of your staff and in turn, your profits.

In the modern workplace, our people want and need to feel more connected to what they are doing in order to devote a greater sense of themselves to it. Money alone is no longer enough to keep your top talent motivated – they are constantly searching for meaning, fulfilment, engagement and empowerment.

Creating an environment like this is easier said than done, but there are ways to improve workplace engagement that can get everyone motivated and involved. This is certainly not something to start on a whim, but rather a long-term commitment by a motivated organisation that wants to see a return on investment.

Why create an engaged workplace?

The Institute for Employment Studies in the UK (IES) concluded in their report on employee engagement, that it is no longer a temporary trend; focusing on your employee satisfaction has solid, tangible benefits for business. When employees feel engaged in their work 6 tangible improvements in their demeanour and work productivity can be observed:

  1. Having a strong affiliation with the business.
  2. Showing an interest in working hard to rectify problems or issues.
  3. Taking the time to understand the context of their work or the business as a whole.
  4. Exhibiting greater mutual respect between staff and managers.
  5. Being happy to work extended hours to meet deadlines.
  6. Showing a willingness to retrain or learn specific tasks.

Some ways to improvement engagement are simple; others take more time and investment. Here is a list of some of the most popular ways of improving employee engagement in the workplace.

Focus on developing your employees?

Your employees have ambitions and plans of their own. It’s important that you provide a growth environment for your employees to avoid losing good staff due to lack of opportunities to grow and progress. With that said, it’s time to build a stronger relationship with your staff by:

  • Organising regular performance dialogues and feedback
  • Organising career development discussions and follow-through
  • Establishing what motivates them and how they can do more of what they are great at, making great use of their strengths
  • Helping them to develop creative problem solving and solutions-based thinking
  • Helping to build flexibility and resilience of employees during rapid change

Meeting on a regular basis with the colleagues you work most closely with makes perfect sense. It gives people an opportunity (and designated time) to open up and share, discuss, plan and decide on a whole host of issues. However, keep in mind that productive businesses work best in collaboration, so don’t dismiss the idea of joining unaligned groups together. Who knows, the boss’s personal assistant might have all the answers needed by the marketing department for their new ad campaign.

Nicer break rooms

Modern, inventively-lit, well-stocked break rooms could be a key way of not only bringing the workforce together, but keeping them happy and hydrated too. What you spend on sparkling water and Scandinavian furniture could be doubled in staff engagement and productivity.

Online chat forum

Everything has moved to the digital age now that it’s 2017, why not bring the workplace communications system there too? Set up an online forum for colleagues to chat, share ideas, create ideas boards, post birthday messages – whatever they feel is important to their work life. It important to give your employees a creative outlet.

Workplace ambience

Check out Google, and other digital start-up companies and invest in the workforce.

Start a company Spotify account that plays through the PA system. Maybe try comfortable lounge areas to encourage collaboration and team-work. Incorporate a standing area of tall tables and whiteboards on walls to create fast-paced work stations. The sky’s the limit, not just for what can be made available to staff, but also what they can achieve in such engaging environments.

Workplace rewards

Many businesses offer bonus structures and commissions for salespeople, or those at the top of their department. What about everyone else? Rewarding hard work and commitment is a sure-fire way to not only increase productivity, but of improving employee engagement too. A common workplace complaint is staff feeling underappreciated or undervalued by their employers. Low-morale can be detrimental to a business. Avoid this by rewarding staff for their efforts through gift cards, vouchers or gym memberships and other benefits that your staff will really value.

Open forum

Allow staff to give feedback on situations from the everyday to the most integral to the business. When every part is functioning optimally it ensures a business is doing the greatest work it can. Giving staff an opportunity to provide feedback, advice, suggestions and concerns will mean that an accurate picture of the work life of staff is being received by those at the top. It is pivotal for staff engagement to make sure that everyone feels as though they can do their job freely and fully without interruption or fear of reprisal.

These ideas are just some of the ways employers can choose to build engagement in the workplace. There are hundreds of ways to do this, and some businesses, both big and small, are finding great success in going the ‘extra mile’ for their employees. They don’t always have to be extravagant; many things can be small steps towards appreciating staff worth. And, as they say, from little things, big things grow.