How to Improve Employee Engagement

Part 12 of the Employee Engagement Series

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report shows that 33% of employees in the United States are engaged at work. That means that 67% of the workforce is disengaged, disenfranchised, and detrimental to the bottom line. We’ve spent the past few months covering the main questions: 

  1. What is engagement?
  2. Why should we care?
  3. How do we improve?

And today we’re going to put all the pieces together.

Simply put, engaged employees are:

  • Loyal and productive.
  • Motivated to do their best work.
  • Willing to push the envelope, go the extra mile, work the longer hours, and advocate for your brand.
  • They have an emotional connection to the company, and are committed to helping the organization succeed.

Disengaged employees are:

  • Generally less happy.
    • I know that doesn’t sound incredibly threatening, but employee moods can have an impressive impact on retention and revenue.  Bad moods spread like wildfire from employee to employee and, eventually, employee to customer. Employees won’t stay where they’re unhappy, and customers won’t buy from unhappy people.
  • Actively speaking out against your organization and harming your employer brand.
  • Less productive and more likely to skip work - negatively impacting production rates and deadlines.

As an added bonus, the financial impact that these employees have is staggering - according to Gallup, actively disengaged employees cost the United States between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity per year. It’s gotten so bad that some organizations actually prefer to pay employees to quit rather than keep them on board and take the prolonged financial hit!

So, how can we tip the scale? How do we help employees become more engaged and invested in the organization?

 

1. Start with Expectations

Expectations include, but are not limited to: explicit and implicit job functions, standard working hours, team and community participation, and quality of work.

HOW TO SET EXPECTATIONS

  • Define and discuss what's expected of their role and their team.
  • Make sure new hires understand why these expectations are in place and their impact on the organization.
  • Showcase past examples of stellar performance.
  • Provide feedback whenever possible to help them stay aligned.

 

2. Focus on Productivity

Give new hires the tools, materials, and information needed to do their jobs appropriately from day 1, and you could see an 11% increase in profitability, and a 27% improvement in quality.

PROVISIONING TIPS

  • Request input from employees and act quickly.
  • Be honest about what can be provided and what can't be provided. Be sure to tell them why.
  • Get creative! There may not always be budget for the materials and information new hires need, but remember that there are a number of free resources online, through the community, or even in the office- you just need to look.

 

3. Allow Employees to Do their Best Work

Employees that work their strengths are happier, more productive, and more successful. Employees constantly placed in the wrong role, or on projects outside their realm of expertise, are more likely to fail.

HAVE THE CONVERSATION

  • Ask employees “What do you need – whether from me or someone else – to continue delivering your best work?”
    • If employees seem stuck, follow up with questions like
      • Do you need more support from management and/or coworkers?
      • Do you seek more autonomy on how you do your job, and/or more freedom to make decisions?
      • Do you lack resources, whether time, budget, personnel, and/or tools?
    • Put in writing what the employee is going to do and how you’re going to help them have a greater opportunity to do their best work, every day.
    • Check in on the progress regularly, and map that to the quality of their work and whether the employee is more satisfied with their output.

 

4. Give Praise

Recognition is easy. Recognition is cheap. And yet employers subscribe to the “no news is good news” philosophy. Employees who don’t feel adequately recognized are twice as likely as those who do feel adequately recognized, to say they'll quit in the next year.

CONSIDER THIS

  • Recognition is more effective when it comes from both management and coworkers.
  • Software tools should be paired with real human effort, to ensure it’s getting done and done well.
  • Praise may be given in a one-on-one meeting between the manager and employee, in a team meeting, with an email or a letter from management, from a coworker from an app, or tied to a tangible reward like a gift card or plaque.
  • Use the SBI approach when offering employees praise; meaning, convey the situation, their behavior, and the impact, so they may fully understand what they did to be recognized and they know to repeat the job well done.

 

5. Show You Care

Less than half of US employees believe that someone at work cares about them as a person. That leaves a majority wondering when they invisible and why they traded their humanity for a number.

BUILD A CARDING ENVIRONMENT

  • Be present. Look people in the eye when you are speaking or simply passing by, say hello when you arrive and goodbye when you leave; smile!
  • Invest in each other. Acknowledge your employee’s or peer’s personal and professional achievements. Trust each other to make decisions and trust each other to learn from mistakes. Be respectful of, and most importantly thankful for, other people’s time and effort.
  • Open yourself up to others and listen respectfully and empathetically when they open up to you. Even if you don’t have time to listen right now, make time later. Pay attention and remember the little things-as they tend to turn into big things in the end.

 

6. Encourage Development

Development and career growth isn't necessarily synonymous with "promotion." Development is understanding an employee’s talents, and pushing them to pursue roles, projects, or opportunities that build on their strengths.

HOW TO FOCUS ON DEVELOPMENT

  • Define attainable goals for the employee and monitor their progress.
  • Make the discussion surrounding their growth an ongoing and collaborative process.
  • Create opportunities for employees to be challenged and acquire new skills.

 

7. Make their Opinions Count

Employees that can successfully express their opinions feel valued and empowered to make decisions, voice ideas, and provide significant contributions to their workplace. All you have to do is ask, and act.

HOW TO ASK AND ACT

  • Promote open dialogue through stand-up meetings, 1:1s, 30-60-90 day reviews, and informal get-togethers.
  • Endorse good opinions and ideas and work through the ones that could use improvement, or provide reasons why it won’t work.
  • Create feedback loops to keep employees involved in the decision-making processes.
  • Be engaged in day-to-day operations and ask for input regularly.

 

8. Make the Mission Clear

Studies show that today’s workforce spends more time in the office than they do at home, more time with co-workers than with family, and more time focused on work-related topics than personal interests. They need to know that what they do has an impact, a significance. You do this by building, living and breathing a solid mission statement.

HOW TO BUILD A MISSION STATMENT

  • Keep it short, sweet, and easy to remember. A mission statement should define the company goals, ethics and culture. This is the truth of the organization and is the compass for all decision making.
  • The mission statement should address the basics like:
    • What does your company do, and why do you do it?
    • What markets are you serving? How are you serving them?
    • Do you solve a problem for your customers and clients? How?
    • EXTRA CREDIT: What does your ideal work environment for employees look like?
  • Align business objectives to the mission. If you can’t, it’s time for a new mission.
  • Have employees adopt the mission early during the onboarding process.

 

9. Focus on Quality

Focusing on quality output when working together also requires employees to focus on effective collaboration. They’ll need to find where they fit within the group, monitor their progress and impact, and be accountable for their work.

ENSURE QUALITY

  • When forming a group or team, be sure that all members able to commit fully to the schedule and demands of the project.
  • Set expectations early. What is it that needs to be done and when do you need it by? What is the ideal end state?
  • Have quality checks throughout the project. This can be done through regular status meetings, review sessions, or through a more formalized company process.
  • Keep a close eye on cross-functional teams. Each department works in their own mysterious ways, and that can make working together incredibly complicated. Managers can help ease tension by prepping their departments ahead of time, asking for feedback on how they can improve, and acting upon that feedback to help keep quality output the center of attention.
  • Make quality a key piece of your messaging and communicate that message early and often.

 

10. Find Good Friends

Nurturing friendships between engaged employees allows them to build meaningful connections that boost workplace happiness, find support and strength through those tough projects and late hours, and foster more open, honest, and creative communication within teams and departments.

FOSTER FRIENDSHIPS

  • Look for opportunities to get people together both inside, and outside of work.
  • Get people to open up and talk about themselves right off the bat.
  • Provide chances to share in the little victories and big life events.
  • Allow for group discussion and brainstorming on things surrounding product, services, business direction, etc.

 

11. Talk Progress

Employees thrive on feedback. They need to know what’s expected of them, how they stack up to those expectations, and what they can do to improve. Feedback allows employees and employers to connect when things are going well and realign before things go south.

TOUCH BASE

  • Check in with employees regularly. This conversation can be an informal meeting over coffee, or a formal appraisal.
  • Clearly define expectations for their role and their team. After all, how can they progress if they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing?
  • Track employee performance.

 

12. Let them Learn

Doing the same thing day in and day out is mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. People want variation. They want a challenge. They want to improve.

LEVEL UP

  • Have employees think about their current position. Are there any processes that could be improved? What would they change, why, and how? Have them present their ideas. Take action on the ones that would improve the processes and work through the ones that may not. This exercise allows them to think critically, learn new skills, and impact their current work environment.
  • Encourage employees to take on new responsibilities or roles that will allow them to hone their skills. Mentorship programs are a great way to provide one employee with more responsibility and another with a chance to learn and grow.
  • Work together to identify opportunities that will help the employee to level-up. Establish attainable goals and check in regularly.

 

Employee engagement needs to start early and stay consistent to be effective. Having great onboarding helps. You can start introducing new hires to the mission and their impact on the organization before day one. You can encourage the development and continued education of current employees and help foster relationships for employees who are changing locations or roles. It allows you to be present, show you care, keep them in the loop, and show that you’re invested in their futures and wellbeing. If you want other ideas on employee engagement, or if you want to see how onboarding helps, reach out to one of our experts today!

 

Get new hires started faster and happier with our new infographic!

Kathy Moening

Written by Kathy Moening

Kathy is a marketing manager at Click Boarding and directly responsible for brand, web, events and communications. She helps drive company growth through integrated sales and marketing programs that boost brand awareness and generate revenue opportunities.



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