According to recent statistics, 61% of the UK’s workforce is disengaged, and it’s costing the UK economy £340 billion a year.
That’s a lot of GDP for a lack of incentive. Why are employees feeling so lax? Are they losing confidence in their work? Is it just an attitude problem? Is there something wrong with their workplace? What could it be?
There are many reasons why employees struggle to stay engaged.
Some people find it difficult to work to the 9 to 5 structure. Others complain that they feel they don’t have much purpose at work, don’t feel motivated by their goals or a lack of company communication means they struggle to relate to the company mission.
There are ways to combat this feeling and introducing different schemes, such as rewards and recognition, or policies, such as flexible working, can drastically improve engagement levels.
But rewards shouldn’t be treated like dangling carrots in front of your employees – staff need more than free donuts on a Friday to stay engaged.
You can calculate the cost of disengagement at your company here. But the bottom line is, any loss caused by something that you can easily counteract is unnecessary.
Workplace leaders must begin to place employee engagement as one of their main priorities, as engaged employees lead to better employee retention, higher levels of productivity and improved standards of work.
So, to improve employee engagement levels, it may be useful to fully understand what engagement in the workplace actually entails.
It’s more than just employee happiness, for starters. An employee can be completely disengaged from their job, but totally content at the company and in their day-to-day life. For instance, they turn up late, spend an extra 15 minutes in the canteen at lunch, and fail to answer their calls on time – but they still leave with a smile on their face and a hefty paycheque in their back pocket.
Employee engagement is less to do with happiness – though it does, of course, play a part – and more to do with effort and contribution in the workplace.
A good definition is that employee engagement is how much an individual contributes to the working success of a given company or workplace.
Employee engagement is based on the personal involvement of the employee in the success of the company.
This is why disengagement has such a negative impact on company profits if not dealt with – hence the scary empirical data at the start of this article. Employee engagement directly impacts the performance of the company as a whole. If one person falls off the track, your entire company could be held back.
But don’t worry – there is a way to deal with it.
In today's business environment, employees are looking for more than just a standard 9-5 job. With all the opportunities out there, employees want to feel that they are getting the most out of the company they work in. They want to feel involved in the company, excited by the business goals and feel a real connection to the organisation and those within it.
Not only does being engaged benefit the employee, findings by Gallup showed that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability. So how does this happen?
Employees who are engaged are more likely to be motivated and committed to their work, as engaged employees genuinely want to see the company succeed. This leads to a higher quality of work being produced, whereas disengaged employees will never go the extra mile and will only produce the work they need to. This means that with a more engaged workforce, the business will be more successful and more efficient in hitting goals and reaching targets.
When employees don't feel engaged in the company, it's likely that they will think about moving on. Now you may think disengaged staff leaving isn't such a bad thing, but the effect of this will be high staff turnover levels, increased recruitment costs, lowering the knowledge base of the company and reducing morale amongst the remaining team. When the problem with engagement may lie with your business and not the individuals, if you don't improve the situation, this could become a very costly cycle.
This is why organisations must place employee engagement as their priority. This goes beyond offering free coffee or a ping-pong table in the break room, and instead requires a real commitment and investment from workplace leaders.
Here are a few helpful things to consider when putting together an employee engagement strategy for your company.
According to employee engagement theory, one of the most important aspects of engagement in the workplace stems from having a ‘WHY’.
To encourage staff engagement, identify the big ‘WHY’ of your brand or company – you might know this as your company’s mission statement.
For example, Google have: “Organise the world’s information and make it universally useful,” while Whole Foods have: “Help support the health, well-being, and healing of both people – customers, Team Members, and business organisations in general – and the planet.”
By articulating your brand’s particular ‘WHY’ and values – this will help clarify not just your company’s purpose but the purpose of your employees. This, in turn, helps outline the ideal standards and methods which are needed to achieve this purpose.
The way you communicate with your staff, as well as how often you do so, can affect how engaged they are.
Employees with a good rapport with their management are more likely to stay on the ball. If they feel ignored or like their line manager doesn’t even know their name, disengagement levels will undoubtedly rise.
Send weekly or even daily emails and arrange frequent one-to-ones with staff to catch-up with them. By keeping up the communication, you will be aware of anything that may be making your employees feel less engaged, so you can work to tackle the issues and find solutions together before it becomes a bigger problem.
Collaborative work is also a good way to keep communication flowing inside and between departments, as well as a good way to get the inspirational blood flowing.
The environment in which you work can hugely influence your work ethic and behaviour.
To give one example, workplaces with little natural light can make employees feel sleepy as it upsets their natural circadian rhythm. You can combat this by making sure there is enough natural light in your office – but this isn't always easy.
You can improve the environment and general feeling in the office by: (a) encourage your staff to leave the office for some fresh air at lunchtime, (b) having good lighting in the office – different types of LED lights, for example, can impact employee energy levels, and (c) giving staff access to areas where they can have a change of scenery from time to time.
It’s a good idea, if you have the budget, to have a common room or staff room where staff can either work away from their desk for a while or have a pause from staring at their laptop screens.
Establishing clear role definitions is vital for engagement. One of the key reasons for having a ‘WHY’ that is promoted and broadcasted around the office is that it gives your company a clear purpose. It works the same for individual positions – when you know that you own a task and it's results, you're more likely to locked in and driven to the results.
If employees are not entirely sure what their role actually contributes to the company, how can they be expected to feel committed to helping the company achieve successful results?
To give an example that you will probably have experienced in the past, when you ask someone what they do for a living and their response is a cluster of ‘erms’ and ‘kind ofs’ – chances are, they’re suffering from both unclear role expectations and disengagement from their company.
To solve this, sit down with your employees and discuss how each of their tasks and responsibilities adds to the company's wider goals, no matter how small or unimportant a task might seem. Once employees know exactly WHY each task is so important, they are likely to be so much more engaged. Make sure to also communicate how their efforts have contributed to company successes in quarterly reviews for continued motivation.
There isn't a 'one size fits all' method to motivation and concentration, every single member of your team will have different techniques to stay focused while working.
Find out what helps your employees to concentrate at work - flexible working hours, for instance, are proven to help employees stay engaged because they’re able to maintain a rhythm that is most suitable to them. Working very early in the morning works well for some, whereas some employees are more suited to a later start and working into the evening.
According to a recent survey, 53% of people in the UK workforce claimed that they feel they would be more productive if they could work outside the office more. It’s unsurprising that 40% also said they would rather be offered flexible working hours than a pay rise.
At the end of the day, when you show your employee's that you trust them to complete their tasks in a time and environment that works for them – they become more engaged. They feel less constricted by a schedule that isn't suited to them and instead simply focus on hitting their targets.
Workplace culture is not something tangible – it’s the vibes, the mood, the energy emanated by the workforce, the language they use and the mindset they adopt.
This can develop organically but can also be influenced by direct, active input from managers and staff.
It’s the responsibility of the employer to act as a cultural steward of the workplace. Group dynamics are one of the biggest tools for steering company culture in the right direction, and can be used to keep employees engaged – for example, in collaborative work and team challenges. When employees feel that their colleagues in their team are relying on them, they don't want to let them down. This leads to team that is engaged, accountable for their actions and motivated towards the results.
It is important to regularly asses the health of your company culture. This could be via social events, by monitoring their relationships and common behaviours. If you notice any members of the team seeming slightly on the outside of the group, talk to them in private and see if anything is affecting them. If social relations aren't strong in the workplace, it can very quickly lead to employees feeling disengaged and unhappy, so you will want to find a solution as soon as possible.
When you introduce a reward scheme, you will notice a difference in engagement levels almost immediately. It helps to incentivise staff to work hard to achieve their goals and the goals of the company.
Employee recognition is one of the most effective methods because it lets employees know that they’re doing their job right, improves morale, enhances loyalty and contributes to improving a supportive work environment.
Likewise, employees who feel they are appreciated are less likely to suffer from disengagement and leave their post. Employee recognition is therefore constructive, adding value to employees and their work, and is useful for retention rates. Find out more about our Recognition platform here.
The best company cultures begin at recruitment. The hiring process is crucial when it comes to ensuring future engagement.
Talent acquisition is a major part of any business. When talent scouts are shortlisting for any vacant role, it’s important they hire the right candidate. If an employee doesn't understand the role fully or their personal goals and traits don't align with the company values, it can lead to the individual being completely disengaged from their position.
Ensure that your recruitment process and onboarding stages are thorough and informative. Being engaged with the company and its values from the very start is vital for strong engagement levels, so hire for both skills and a culture fit to the company for strong engagement.
Training needs should be assessed regularly to make sure that staff have the right qualifications, skills and know-how to properly do their job.
Training can also keep employees engaged because it is intellectually and mentally stimulating. Learning new things can be fun(!) and useful to encourage staff to use new and innovative approaches in their job.
Training up your staff, therefore, helps develop the company overall, and keep your employees interested in their job. By adding new elements and levels to it, you keep them on their toes!
Disengagement rubs off. If your employees are disinterested in their job or company, clients will sniff it out instantly. This means that engagement in the workplace greatly influences brand reputation and client rapport.
If your employees are engaged in what they are doing and sound passionate about their company, the clients will pick up on this and will be more likely to come back, stay loyal to the company or recommend it to other people.
There are numerous benefits to an engaged workforce. To name a few, engaged employees are more likely to:
The only way to know if your employees are engaged is to find out how they are really feeling about their role. As a workplace or HR leader – employees might not always feel comfortable to tell you exactly how they are feeling and it becomes very difficult to measure. This is where confidential employee survey tools come in.
Perkbox Insights is a tool that allows you to gain honest, useful and measurable employee feedback. By frequently checking in with employees to find out how they are feeling about different elements of the business and allowing the responses to be confidential – you can truly measure engagement levels in the company. If the results show that something in the business might be impacting your employees' engagement, you can quickly work to rectify the solution and then later check back in to see if your solution worked.
In short, employee engagement is something that you want to be working to improve and measure, constantly. By sending short surveys to your employees on a weekly, or bi-weekly basis, you will have a better understanding of how your employees are feeling in this moment.
When you measure employee engagement too infrequently, for example within an annual review, employees may have been feeling disengaged for a long period of time and your business could be suffering.
By measuring engagement levels frequently you can tackle any issues in small chunks, making the task less overwhelming.
Get started with Perkbox Insights today. Learn more about the Perkbox platform and see it in action.
A good definition is that employee engagement is how much an individual contributes to the working success of a given company or workplace.
Employee engagement directly impacts the performance of the company as a whole. If one person falls off the track, your entire company could be held back.
An employee who is engaged will be more likely to be loyal to the company, happier at work, positively influence other employees and produce better results.
And have our very best HR insights and company news sent straight to your inbox. You won't regret it.
Thanks for subscribing