The Fundamentals of Employee Engagement

It’s widely accepted — yet not widely practiced — that employee engagement is a major factor when determining a business’ success. Yet despite this area of opportunity, its implementation appears to be cripplingly low. In fact, a 2015 Gallup study indicates that only 32% of employees feel engaged at their jobs.  While creating dedication was of little importance decades ago, the modern shift to younger staff, online reviews, shifting employee priorities and increased accountability now create a direct correlation between engagement, organizational growth and profitability. Ultimately, the key to boosting staff loyalty may require a complete overhaul of company culture.

Engagement and Retention

“Employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses” is a common mantra among HR experts. In other words, disengaged or dissatisfied workers mainly leave because the environment fails to align with their needs.  Further complicating matters is that Millennials make up the vast majority of today’s workforce, where they only spend an average of 4.4 years in a single job.

Considering the paradigm shift in retention, having an engaging organizational culture is essential and — more importantly — effective.  According to the aforementioned Gallup study, staff who feel highly engaged and invested are “59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12-months” and are “18% less likely to change employers in a 12-month period.”  With this in mind, placing some emphasis on employee engagement could cumulatively save billions of dollars across all businesses in the United States.

Facilitating Employee Engagement

A solid corporate vision is the foundation upon which employee engagement is built. Without a concise set of goals or directions, companies can’t drive employees to align with their long-term needs.  Furthermore, this vision needs to be presented to new hires and made available in writing for easy reference.  Employee engagement also depends heavily on emotional investment; in other words, workers must want to support the established goals if they’re expected to remain interested.

Regular communication makes a big difference when driving employee engagement.  Employees should know how their organization is faring financially, which objectives have been met and — most importantly — the role they played and continue to play in furthering those goals.  At no point should staff feel like they’re working for a “faceless corporation,” limiting their perception of the company to being little more than an income source, rather than a collaborative effort for success.

Consistent feedback from upper management helps keep people engaged for two reasons. First, it acknowledges individual staff’s roles in meeting the corporate vision. Second, it provides an opportunity for employers to help steer their workers in the right direction.

Feedback, however, goes both ways.  Organizations who want to engage their workforce should always be receptive to questions, concerns and ideas.  This makes daily operations a collaborative effort, rather than the traditional top-down approach generally practiced today.

Fostering teamwork has a large impact on keeping employees engaged.  When staff members work well together, they’ll generally feel more satisfied. This is an excellent opportunity to evaluate existing workers who may not get along well with their peers.

Supervisor investment helps bridge the gap between management and employees, leading to increased engagement.  As stated earlier, workers quit their bosses, not their jobs.  Supervisors who show genuine concern for their team members establish a personal and professional relationship.  Being honest, displaying fair treatment and keeping up with the wellbeing of employees are all excellent ways that managers can become more involved.

Recognition is something all employees desire, so it’s no surprise that this is a key factor in engagement.  Contrary to popular belief, rewards don’t have to be monetary or in the form of tangible prizes — although it certainly helps. But even a simple trophy, certificate or verbal congratulation goes a long way.

Employee development and advancement are priorities among the most talented and valuable staff.  Offering increased challenges and responsibilities with potential promotions will keep people interested in performing their best.  Ultimately, these engaged employees contribute to increased productivity and lower turnover.

Overall, creating employee engagement is a complex process, especially when the current culture is entrenched in the opposite direction.  It’s a collaborative effort between front line workers and management that may require large changes to best practices; however, with proper managerial training and a focus on teamwork and positivity, any organization can engage its workforce to become more competitive and successful.