Employee engagement can make or break a business. Unhappy employees don’t reflect on the business well. Engaged employees look forward to coming to work and it shows. Organizations with high employee engagement reap tremendous benefits of innovation, productivity, retention, profitability, and customer satisfaction.
However, with Gallup reporting that over 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at their jobs, it is clear most organizations struggle with driving engagement. Actively disengaged employees are not just unhappy or unsatisfied at work. They are resentful and angry, acting out their unhappiness through cynicism, passive aggression, or sometimes even sabotage. Allowing these negative behaviors to fester can be toxic for organizations, dragging down colleagues and eroding performance.
In contrast, engaged employees have an emotional bond with their organization and its mission. They are willing and motivated to go above and beyond expectations in their role. Since engagement has been conclusively linked to performance, cultivating a highly engaged workforce needs to be a top priority for any organization seeking to maximize success. While implementing perks or one-off engagement initiatives may provide a temporary boost, genuine employee engagement requires fostering the fundamental elements that make employees feel valued, empowered, and passionate about their work. What steps can a business take when it comes to improving employee engagement?
The Importance Of Employee Engagement
Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of employee engagement on performance and profitability. In one meta-analysis examining 263 research studies across 192 organizations in 34 industries, companies with high employee engagement had 21% higher productivity and 22% higher profitability. Additionally, organizations with engaged employees tend to have lower absenteeism, fewer safety incidents, better retention rates, and higher customer satisfaction.
With so much research pointing to positive outcomes, it’s no wonder that increasing employee engagement has become a priority for many organizations. What drives engagement in the first place? What are the workplace factors that influence whether an employee is fully committed or disengaged?
Drivers Of Employee Engagement
Research has uncovered some consistent factors that promote employee engagement.
- Meaningful Work: Employees want to feel that the work they do matters and contributes to the organization’s mission and goals. Leaders should communicate how each employee’s role adds value.
- Growth Opportunities: Employees are more engaged when they feel they have opportunities to develop new skills and advance their careers within the organization. Providing training and mentorship contributes to engagement.
- Trustworthy Leadership: Employees need to trust that organizational leaders are acting with integrity and care about their well-being. Trust is built through transparency, honest communication, and caring about employees as people.
- Positive Workplace Culture: Employees want to feel proud to work for their organization and need a sense of camaraderie with co-workers. Fostering teamwork and connection leads to higher engagement.
- Autonomy & Empowerment: Employees value having control over how they organize and carry out their work. Enable employees to work independently, within clear expectations.
- Recognition & Reward: Validation of good work boosts engagement. Recognize contributions publicly and provide meaningful rewards.
Strategies for Improving Employee Engagement
Based on the drivers of engagement, the following are some best practices managers and organizations can implement.
- Set clear goals & communicate vision: Employees need to understand how their work furthers the organization’s objectives. Communicate a compelling vision regularly.
- Provide development & growth opportunities: Invest in employees’ learning through training programs, coaching, mentoring, and support for continuing education.
- Conduct regular performance reviews: Don’t just do annual reviews. Provide regular feedback so expectations are clear. Praise good work frequently.
- Develop inclusive leaders: Ensure managers have the people skills to develop positive relationships, earn trust, and show they care about team members as individuals.
- Promote work/life balance: Allow flexible schedules when possible and encourage employees to take time off to avoid burnout.
- Foster positive team dynamics: Build camaraderie through team-building activities. Celebrate group accomplishments. Facilitate cooperation between teams and departments.
- Ask for input: Invite employees to share ideas and provide suggestions, including how to improve engagement. Act on feedback.
- Set up recognition programs: Institute employee reward programs to celebrate achievements, big and small. Recognition builds morale and commitment.
The Role Of Leadership
Leaders play a central role in building employee engagement, as they shape many of the key workplace factors that influence engagement levels. Effective leaders who foster engaged teams communicate often to provide context and transparency into organizational happenings and decisions affecting employees. They coach team members by setting clear expectations, giving regular feedback to improve performance, and providing support to develop skills.
Engaging leaders also encourage work-life balance by modeling it themselves and enabling teams to have flexible schedules to avoid burnout. Furthermore, they show empathy and care for employees as people first by listening, relating to them, and demonstrating concern for their overall well-being. Additionally, engaging leaders develop trust by having integrity, admitting mistakes instead of covering them up, and consistently following through on promises.
Finally, they inspire passion by articulating a vision for the organization that resonates with employees’ values and gives their work a deeper sense of purpose. With these behaviors and attributes, leaders set the foundation for an engaged, dedicated workforce.
Many organizations make employee engagement a priority after noticing declining retention rates or stagnant innovation. They carry out surveys, hold focus groups, and institute new programs. However, engagement must be an ongoing process, not a one-off event. Checking in frequently, continuously improving the work environment, and providing opportunities for growth and development are critical.
Additionally, employee engagement must be authentic. Empty perks without real meaning may provide short-term excitement but will not result in a deeply engaged, committed workforce. Employees see through superficial attempts easily. Creating an outstanding workplace requires genuine care long term from organizational leadership over the long term.
The benefits of employee engagement in terms of productivity, innovation, loyalty, and customer satisfaction can transform an organization. In today’s tight labor market, developing an engaging workplace culture is also key to attracting and retaining top talent. The organizations that succeed will be those that make employee engagement a true priority. Employees who feel valued, empowered, and aligned with the organization’s goals will become the driving force behind its growth and sustainability.