How to Improve Employee Engagement (Really)

Now, more than ever, organisations need to rely on their workforce’s energy, commitment, and engagement to thrive. In highly competitive industries, this may determine if a business survives. Empowered teams that are fully engaged even when working remotely, a.k.a. a decentralised environment, is the holy grail to business leaders and managers in a post-pandemic world.

A common myth is that leaders are a company’s true asset, but in reality, leaders can only perform if the majority of the workforce is fully engaged in their work. Otherwise, the workforce could only add minimal value or even work against the organisation.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagementEngaged employees are emotionally invested in committing their time, talent and energy to add value to their team (and work) and advancing the organisation’s mission and goals. On the flip side? Disengaged employees contribute, directly and indirectly, to the bottom line.

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, employee disengagement costs the US upwards of US$550 billion a year in lost productivity. This means that employee engagement is a severe problem for managers and leaders and an excellent opportunity to seize.

Employee Value proposition’s younger sibling

Employee valueThink of a company’s employee value proposition and employee engagement as sisters. They are separate but related concepts, and both affect employee satisfaction. Investing in developing and offering a strong employee value proposition puts a company in the right place to attract significant talent and boost employee engagement.

Is cultural intelligence part of the family?

The latest buzzword in human resources is cultural intelligence. It is also known as CQ, which stands for cultural quotient. Cultural intelligence refers to the skill to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. A company culture with cultural intelligence is poised for better outcomes on a global playing field.

CQ is needed to cross boundaries and manage a team of different cultures. People with cultural intelligence can relate to their global peers with empathy and understanding.

cultural quotientCultural intelligence is part of the foundation needed for employee engagement. It is especially relevant to multinational organisations. Recognising the importance of cultural understanding, cultural training (i.e., cultural awareness training) has come into the picture.

Cultural training gives learners the skills to understand, work and flourish in and with cultures other than their own.

5 Effective Steps to improving Employee Engagement

Employee engagement requires feedbackThere are many steps for improving employee engagement, and these steps are not complex to implement. The key is to prioritise them. It means that managers and leaders must be aware and actively seek to improve employee engagement.

It is also important to remember that there is no hard and fast rule as to what drives employee engagement. The steps below that describe leadership and development opportunities and the chance to contribute to a meaningful vision are crucial to engaging and motivating employees, no matter the size or scope of an organisation.

Step 1 – Put People in the Right Roles

Put employees in the right rolesGet the right people into the company and make sure they are in the right jobs. Ensure that all talent acquisition and retention strategies align with the company goals.

Looking at statistics, getting the right person for the job can constantly be improved. Deloitte’s Talent 2020 report says 42% of their survey respondents seeking new employment believed their current position did not use their skills and abilities well.

It is worth including that acknowledging and treating each employee with respect is among the most meaningful things leaders can do to boost engagement. That doesn’t mean constant praise but more about making employees feel valued and included in your organisation.

While employees don’t automatically engage when you give them more praise, they quickly become disengaged if they feel invisible to their seniors.

Step 2 – Train and Train again

provide trainingNo one can expect to build a culture of trust and accountability — and much less improve engagement — without setting the team up for success. This means providing the proper training and development from the get-go.

Onboarding and training are when employees learn how to do their job correctly and provide a significant chance to engage with you, ask questions, and clarify concerns. If employees don’t have a solid grasp of their new responsibilities, they can get confused and frustrated, potentially leading to disengaged, unhappy workers.

Another recent HR survey found that one-third of new hires leave their jobs after six months, highlighting the need for meaningful, engaging onboarding processes in organisations of all sizes.

Training is ongoing as employees need to constantly be challenged and upskilled in the workplace to keep them engaged. Embrace a holistic approach to professional development. Consider conferences, meetups even hackathons and competitions. There are also podcasts to TED talks, webinars and online courses. Learning doesn’t need to happen during seminars or training days.

VRLet employees hone their skills in the way they learn best. Instead of offering rigid learning opportunities, the key is to provide employees with the tools and opportunities for self-directed development.

Let’s look at the return on investment (ROI). Studies found that companies that offer in-depth training programs have a 24% higher profit margin than those who get by without formal training programs. These companies even report a 218% higher income per employee.

Conclusion? Even though training and development programs may mean an up-front cost, investing in an employee’s development will drive serious returns. Training and development empower employees with the vital skills they need to be more productive.

Step 3 – Make Work Meaningful

planning-business-tripEngaged employees find their work meaningful and have a clear understanding of how they contribute to the company’s mission, purpose and strategic objectives. This ties back to Step 1 – Put People in the Right Roles.

Countless surveys and reports have found that employees who don’t have meaningful work will walk out. On the other hand, this means that employers who can unlock the secret of what provides meaning at work will find the key to employee engagement.

Regardless of age, sex, region, or length of time with their employer, 55% of Deloitte’s survey respondents said their motivation levels would increase if they did meaningful work. An additional 42% said they would be more loyal to their employer. Over one third said they would take more pride in their work and be willing to put in extra hours to ensure a job’s completion.

Although it’s easier said than done: provide more than just a job.

Step 4 – Communicate, check-in, converse

Employees engaged at work The days of annual and mid-year reviews to connect with your employees are long gone. The workforce in this age craves regular feedback. The good news? More regular feedback leads to faster improvements.

Use both formal and informal check-in strategies. Use them weekly, if not daily. In 2016, Google confirmed that through a careful review of their own company’s performance data, they could prove that frequent conversations between a leader and their team members were a leading indicator of a team’s high performance.

Time spent by a leader with their team members should ideally be a mixture of formal time (in training, coaching, performance managing, etc.) and informal time (a coffee, lunch, tea break etc.).

Also, think about providing networking opportunities to encourage your employees to bring fresh ideas and best practice knowledge into the workplace. It reinforces the idea that they’re valued within the organisation.

Social networks can also help employees feel more engaged in their work. Social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack or Yammer enable people to support each other in knowledge sharing and problem-solving at the click of a button. It increases overall job satisfaction and cultivates solid professional relationships.

Step 5 – Ask for ideas

Asking for ideasYour existing workforce tells an important story about how practical your current talent management approaches are and hints at the current level of employee engagement.

Take a hard look at your employee turnover figures: retention is a litmus test for whether your employees feel engaged in their work. Any churn rate greater than 10% suggests a problem in your internal practices.

Successful managers are transparent in their approach to improving employee engagement. So talk about it with your team. Why not hold employee engagement meetings and engage everyone there for discussions and solutions.

Conduct a 360-degree feedback process to get a sounding board for the pain points. Then develop a plan to activate these changes. You and your team leaders must follow through on their promises. The team should meet any feedback with actionable, tangible change. Maybe even ask employees to judge their supervisors on what they do, not what they say.

Employee Engagement : Happy groupFinally, before implementing the steps above, conduct an employee engagement survey to root out issues and work towards improvement. The steps are not complex, but they must be prioritised.

The rewards, as mentioned above, are high. Companies that get this right can generate financial returns, stay ahead of competitors and attract the best talent.

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