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 commit to the 9 to 5 structure. It may have suited Dolly Parton, but for some, making a living proves terribly challenging when by 3pm you’re falling asleep at the desk.
Others complain that they feel they don’t have much purpose at work or don’t feel motivated because they don’t have a real goal to work for.
A lot of this can be helped by having an employee recognition and rewards scheme, or opting for a 4 day week – though this will be difficult if it jars with company policy. This can help remind employees that they are valued in the workplace by showing them, as their employer, that you recognize their hard work.
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.
If we want to prevent employee disengagement, 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.
No, 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 therefore that employee engagement is based on 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 threat – there is a way to deal with it. Here are a few helpful things to consider when putting together a work motivation and staff 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. This is often referred to 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 or general messages – even WhatsApp will do (as long as it’s not out of office hours!) - with staff to catch-up with them. Make sure you know how they are spending their time, and if it needs to change, organise a meeting to pitch engagement ideas.
Collaborative work is 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 influence your work ethic and behaviour. For instance, workplaces where there is 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.
Obviously, this is a bit harder in winter and in offices where, unfortunately, there are no windows.
A good way to combat this is by making sure you: (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.
Establish clear role definitions. 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’s works the same for individual positions.
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.
If 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.
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 which is most suitable to them.
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.
As well as flexible working hours, there’s also scope for offering weekly meditation or corporate yoga classes. The wellness industry is booming, so there’s plenty of choice for managers looking to help their staff de-stress.
Workplace culture is not something tangible – it’s the vibes, the mood, the energy emanated by the workforce, the language they use and the mind-set 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.
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. This is why line managers are expected to be observant creatures.
Any kind of reward scheme can help incentivise staff to work hard to achieve their goals and the goals of the company.
Employee recognition is important because it lets employees know that they’re doing their job right, it improves their morale, enhances their 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.
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 to they hire the right candidate. If they fail to, this can lead to the individual being completely disengaged from their position.
Maybe they don’t have the right skills, or have simply failed to integrate well into the team. Whatever the case, it’s vital the recruitment process is strict and strong enough to prevent any poor choices from falling through the cracks and damaging the company culture.
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.
Engaged employees are valuable assets to your company, but there are also benefits of employee engagement for employees too.
Employees that are engaged with their role are more likely to be independent and have a greater autonomy than those who feel detached or disinterested at work.
Engagement also generally means that the employee has a better understanding of their intrinsic contribution to the organisation, and so feel more valued in the workplace.
Managers will no doubt have noticed that employees who seem more engaged with their work have a better rapport with their colleagues and invest more time and effort into their personal and professional development.
It’s clear that solid engagement is a win-win situation for the company and the employee. When putting together your business strategy, don’t disregard better engagement.
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