When you walk into your office every morning and see everyone happily going about their tasks, it's easy to be led into thinking, "This is an engaged team!".
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However, happiness is only a small part of the employee engagement mix. A sense of purpose, good health, personal relationships, well-defined roles and communication channels are just some of the other elements that contribute towards an environment where employees are truly engaged.
But before we proceed, let’s answer the most obvious question:
William Kahn, a Boston professor also referred to as the ‘Founding Father of Employee Engagement’ defines it as:
“The harnessing of organization members' selves to their work roles. In engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances.”
In less academic words, when employees really care for and feel a sense of ownership about their company, they are engaged. This could mean going that extra mile without the boss asking for it or nurturing an official side project even if it means working extra hours without overtime pay.
According to recent research by Deloitte, 85% of HR professionals interviewed in a survey in Australia said creating a positive employee experience is a top priority for better employee engagement. In the same study, 84% of respondents said building an organisation of the future is just as critical.
These numbers are not surprising, because done right, employee engagement can offer some remarkable benefits.
A perennially relevant example of this is Harvard’s Service-Profit Chain, which shows how satisfied employees can positively impact customer satisfaction and retention and, ultimately, company profitability. Here’s how:
To break it down further, some of the key benefits of having engaged employees are:
With this in mind, let’s now look at some simple yet effective ideas to create an employee engagement strategy that works.
What Your Company Stands For
Finding the right company values can be a game-changer for employee engagement. Start by figuring out what truly defines your organization's identity and purpose. When everyone, no matter their role, embraces these core values, it brings a strong sense of unity and purpose that keeps them motivated and excited to come to work.
Defining Your Values
Crafting your value statement may sound daunting, but it's worth the effort. Once you've nailed it down, these values become the glue that brings diverse employees and teams together, even during tough times. You can keep it simple with a list of qualities or go into more detail – whatever works best for your company.
Let's See Examples
Take Bright Horizons Family Solutions, for example, their value statement follows the HEART Principles: "Honesty, Excellence, Accountability, Respect, and Teamwork." On the other hand, Starbucks lays out their values in a more detailed way, like creating a welcoming culture, acting with courage, and delivering their best while being accountable.
The Impact on Your Company
Your company values play a huge role in shaping your company culture, and they even affect how others see your business. When these values are deeply ingrained in your employees, it boosts their engagement and productivity during critical tasks like planning, problem-solving, and innovation.
Living the Values
Once you've defined your company values, it's essential to walk the talk. Make sure your team lives and breathes these values, not only at work but also in their everyday lives. This is key to creating a sense of shared purpose among your employees and building a strong, motivated team.
Remember, company culture and shared values are the heart and soul of your organization!
Engaged employees feel a sense of ownership about their role and believe in a clear organizational purpose. The best way to define this purpose is with a mission statement. While many companies have their own unwritten mission statement, putting this into writing can be a great way to bring teams closer and promote engagement.
Here are five questions to ask while defining the core of your existence - your mission statement:
Before formalizing your mission statement, engage your employees to receive their input and feedback using means such as group discussions or by creating an internal survey. Once this process is complete and you’ve firmed up your mission statement, ensure that it is used on your website, on sales and marketing material, in your office, and during important events.
Having a clear set of core values and a well-defined business mission will create clarity at the organizational level. But that’s not enough. Clarity at the individual level is just as crucial. It’s nearly impossible to have a truly engaged employee if they aren’t sure about what role they’re playing in the grand scheme of things and how they are contributing to the success of the company.
Here are a few ways to ensure that individual roles are well-defined, so employees feel valued:
Don’t stop at defining goals and assessing skill-role compatibility. Set clear key performance indicators (KPIs). Define success in the role with weekly, monthly, and annual goals using something as simple as a spreadsheet if you cannot afford to use a third-party HR platform or a custom digital management platform.
Organizations such as Gallup have found that having friends at work makes people more engaged at the workplace. Among other things, Gallup found that women who have a best friend at work are “more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%).” When it comes to promoting employee engagement, giving people regular opportunities to mingle in a social environment could be a great quick win.
Here are some ideas to promote friendships and help people socialise at work:
Break out areas: An office break out area is where employees can bond over a meal or coffee, just relax after work, and even discuss the next big idea. Equip these break rooms with a kitchen and bar to get those interactions flowers.
When you think of internal communications, many organizations often suffer from a communications blackhole, where communication from the top doesn’t correctly percolate down to lower tiers. This could lead to employees receiving the wrong messaging or, worse still, having no idea of the strategic plan they’re supposedly a part of.
The result of this is employees feel excluded from the organizational goals and strategies. Such employees, in turn, are naturally less receptive to supervisor communications and less willing to participate in constructive discussions.
This puts the spotlight on building a strong internal communications network at the organization level. What’s just as important is the styles and channels that managers use to interact with their teams. This could mean examining new communications channels such as Slack and Facebook Workplace or a more scalable custom solution such as a work app.
Here are some easy-to-implement ideas to bolster internal communications:
Front-line managers have the biggest (and most direct) impact on employees’ productivity, efficiency, job satisfaction and overall engagement levels. Expecting managers to inherently know how to deal with conflicts or personnel motivation issues is a tad unrealistic. This is where creating sound training and development infrastructure for managers comes into the picture.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case - especially in smaller organizations. A study by CareerBuilder, an online employment website, found that 58% of managers said they have never received proper management training. Not so surprisingly, the biggest challenge for these managers were: dealing with issues between co-workers (25%), motivating team members (22%), and creating career paths for their team (12%). All of these are factors that can spell the end of employee engagement.
To ensure that immediate managers are ably trained in nurturing employee growth and engagement, focus on these areas:
According to Gallup, disengaged workers have high absenteeism rates, lower job growth and lower productivity. With this in mind, any efforts put into modelling a happy, positive, and respectful workplace culture can go a long way.
Here are a few tips to create a positive work environment:
Trust and contentment at the workplace can be the biggest motivators for employees - ranking even higher than money if a Princeton study is anything to go by. With this in mind, instituting new ways to acknowledge good work and providing incentives for a job well done has direct implications on employee engagement.
Use these monetary and non-monetary means to motivate your employees:
Other perks such as flexible work hours, work-from-home-days, childcare or petcare facilities at work can also go a long way.
Showing that your organization really cares for employees’ health can be a powerful way to reduce employee disengagement by emotionalizing the employer-employee relationship. But to really harness the potential of this employee engagement strategy, it’s vital to stop thinking of employee wellness as merely an additional cost to the company. The Harvard Business Review reports that an employer was able to gain $6 in health care savings for every dollar invested.
If wellness programs are not already being offered at your organization, consider using any of these ideas as a starting point, and build your own programs from there:
In an ever-changing work environment, constant personal development and upskilling is what will give your employees and organization an edge. Encourage a culture that celebrates lifelong learning as both formal and informal training can promote continuous development. Giving employees new opportunities to continuously learn and develop can dramatically improve retention rates, especially for top talent.
Here are some ways your organization can invest in personal development to promote employee engagement:
Finding an employee coaching and development technique that works for your organization and can justify the time spent on these is something that the management and HR teams will need to deliberate on. But there’s little doubt that the rewards can cause the employee engagement needle to move considerably.