10 techniques to help with employee engagement
There ain’t no sunshine when engagement’s gone, that’s for sure. Keeping your employees interested and immersed in their job can be challenging, especially at 5pm on a drizzly, Monday afternoon. But if you can crack the commitment code, your company culture will reap the rewards.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is an environment where workers give their best effort each day. Employees are committed to the company's goals and values, and are motivated to drive the organisation to success.
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.
Instead, employee engagement is more of a two-way process. An organisation trusts and values its employees and communicates openly with them. In return, they receive their employees' full commitment and the business should see more success, resulting from an increase in productivity and wellbeing levels.
Employee engagement is based on the personal involvement of the employee in the success of the company.
The opposite of employee engagement, disengagement, can have a very negative impact if not dealt with. Employee engagement directly impacts the performance of the company as a whole so if one person falls off the track, your entire company could be held back.
What does employee engagement look like?
An engaged team is energised and enthusiastic. They come to work with new ideas, innovative thoughts on how to do their job and how they can bring further success for the business. They have clear goals and targets to work towards, are supported and encouraged to learn new skills, receive regular recognition and reward for good work and constructive feedback when things could be improved.
Importantly, employees become engaged when they are able to give their opinion on how the business is run and feel that these are listened to. They know what the organiation's aims and goals are, the plans to get there and vitally, how their role and contributions fit into the bigger picture.
Why is this so important?
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 have 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, in turn, leads to a higher quality of work being produced. On the other hand, 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.
How can you tackle an engagement issue?
The bottom line is, any loss caused by something that you can easily counteract is unnecessary.
This means that workplace leaders must begin to place employee engagement as one of their main priorities.
Here are a few helpful things to consider when putting together an employee engagement strategy for your company:
10 simple steps to a more engaged workforce
1. Bring the whole company on board with the business mission
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 making sure everyone in your company is on board with 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.
2. Focus on communication
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.
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. This can help to keep employees engaged as they become inspired by new ideas and ways of working from their colleagues.
3. Create an engaging work environment
The environment in which you work can hugely influence your work ethic and behaviour. Workplaces that aren't designed with employees in mind can hugely disrupt energy and engagement levels.
Small ways that you can improve the environment and general feeling in the office include encouraging your staff to leave the office for some fresh air at lunchtime meaning employees return feeling more energised and with increased productivity levels, giving staff access to different working areas, where they can have a change of scenery from time to time without feeling constrained to their desk, or ensuring that employees have access to natural light (or softer lighting) to boost energy.
If you have the budget or space, 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 is a great way to build engagement. As at the end of the day, no one likes feeling chained to their desk.
4. Set clear role expectations
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 be locked in and driven to get 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. When you combine this with communicating how their efforts have contributed to company successes within performance reviews, employees will be continually engaged.
5. Introduce flexible working
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 on their own terms.
6. Work on your workplace culture
Workplace culture is not something tangible – it’s the atmosphere around the office, the energy emanated by the workforce, the language they use and the mindset they adopt.
While this can develop organically, it's great for this to be maintained and guarded by managers, workplace leaders and every single person in the company.
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 workplace culture. This could be via social events, by monitoring their relationships and common behaviours, or through confidential surveys to find out how your employees are feeling. If the workplace culture is lacking, it can very quickly lead to employees feeling disengaged and unhappy, so you'll want to find a solution as soon as possible.
7. Recognise and reward great work
When you introduce a reward scheme, you will notice engagement levels rise almost immediately. It helps to incentivise and reward those staff who 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.
When employees know that their hard work is being noticed and appreciated, they become more engaged and more likely to repeat this great work.
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. Sound good? You can find out more about our Recognition platform here.
8. Engagement starts at recruitment
The hiring process is crucial when it comes to ensuring future engagement. When talent scouts or HR managers 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 quickly lead to the individual being completely disengaged from their position should they be successful at gaining the position.
Ensure that your recruitment process and onboarding stages are thorough and informative, be sure to look beyond a candidate's skills, and think if they would be a good cultural fit too. Being interested, excited and aligned with the company and its values from the very start are vital for strong engagement levels.
9. Create personal growth and development plans for your employees
At some point in our lives, many of us will have experienced how frustrating and disengaging it can be when you don't have the skills to do the job in hand. To tackle this, training needs should be assessed regularly to make sure that staff have the right qualifications, skills and know-how to properly do their job. Further to this, by working with employees to map out a career development plan, what it will take to get there and provide opportunities to develop the necessary skills – employees will become excited and engaged as they know they are working towards their next step.
Training can also keep employees engaged as 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.
Importantly, training up your staff also 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 and your company will reap the benefits.
10. Maintain a strong employer brand
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, client rapport and overall business success.
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.
By investing in employee engagement and working to improve your employees' lives, both inside and outside of work, you will develop a strong employer brand. This will not only help you to attract and retain the top talent, but also produce satisfied customers.
Can employee engagement be measured?
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. 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.
When should you measure it?
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.
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.
Recap: the benefits of employee engagement
Employees with high engagement levels will:
- Be independent and have a greater autonomy than those who feel detached or disinterested at work.
- Have a better understanding of their intrinsic contribution to the organisation, and so feel more valued in the workplace.
- Feel happier and more satisfied in their roles.
- Less likely to miss work without a good reason.
- Stay longer in the company.
- Staff positively influence other employees.
- Offer positive suggestions for the organisation.
- Have greater loyalty to the company.
- Produce better results; whether this is output, customer service or higher standards of quality.
- Provide the organisation with higher profitability.
- Hold a better rapport with colleagues.
- Invest more time and effort into their personal and professional development.