What makes a workplace a place of work? Is it the office premises, the machine equipment or the luxurious facilities? No, it’s the human workers, also known as the human capital, that determine both the quality of the workplace and the future of the organization.
The more engaged they are, the better it is for the organization.
With the advent and proliferation of the knowledge economy, corporate leaders have come to realize that they must go beyond acquisition and recruitment and focus on the full employee lifecycle. They recognize the importance of discovering viable employee engagement strategies to maximize their human capital investment and turn them into high-ROI assets for the business.
With effective employee engagement ideas, employees will not only have the ability to improve their performance but will also bring unique benefits to the organization in the form of higher profitability, better customer retention, better talent acquisition and retention, lower employee turnover, and a safer work environment. This adds to the bottom line quarter over quarter and ensures long-term prosperity for the organization.
What is Employee Engagement?
In a 2017 study by Gallup, it was found that only 15 percent of the world’s one billion workers are engaged at work. That’s an alarming statistic. Lower engagement leads to lower productivity and thus, slower economic growth. It’s a downward spiral that originates with our lack of understanding of human capital management, or more specifically, employee engagement. It is clear that very few organizations truly understand or value the meaning of the term.
That brings us to the question, “what is employee engagement?” It sounds simple, but goes deep. Let us start with what it is not. It is not a strategy. The word “strategy” connotes being able to bring about a preferable outcome through tactical moves. However, what a sound employee engagement strategy essentially does is to boost the likelihood that the relationship between the employee and the organization will be positive in nature.
Here’s a quote by Annette Franz on the topic:
“employee engagement cannot be a strategy because engagement comes from within the employee. It’s the emotional connection or commitment that an employee has to the organization that then causes the employee to want to put forth the additional effort to ensure the organization and the brand succeed.”
But for the sake of this article, we have used the term strategy to signify the necessary steps you can take in order to ensure that the employees achieve a positive emotional connection with the organization and, above all, the work they are assigned to do. In light of that, there are three parts of any feasible employee engagement strategy:
- Physical – employees exert a high amount of energy to do the work. The level of complexity of work corresponds to the employees’ specialized skill sets.
- Emotional – employees understand the job’s significance and put their heart into the job. They feel challenged and inspired while doing it and feel a sense of achievement when finished.
- Cognitive – employees become engrossed with their work and start to get into the flow.
When an employee is engaged on these three levels, his or her personal investment in the work is maximum and he or she starts to feel an emotional connection to it.
The Benefits of an Engaged Workforce
- Are self-motivated
- Have a clear understanding of their roles
- Recognize the significance of their contribution
- Focus on future training and development
- Feel that they belong to the community—that is, the organization
Employee engagement results in improved motivation and better job satisfaction, and thus, a lower cost to value ratio for your human personnel expenditure. It goes like this: while every employee adds to the bottom line, every engaged employee adds that much more.
This idea, also known as the service-profit chain, was introduced by Harvard researchers in the 1990s that traces business profitability and customer loyalty right back to engaged, motivated employees.
Top corporate leaders know that engaged employees can help raise productivity, increase profits, enhance customer experience, foster brand loyalty, and facilitate growth.
8 Employee Engagement Strategies for Improved Workplace
Employee Engagement Strategy #1 – Adopt a Bottom-Up Approach
The construction of a house starts by building the right foundation at the bottom—not the roof! With any major decision in the organization, it is warranted that it starts at the lowest tiers—your employees. Conduct questionnaires and surveys that permit your employees to express their opinions and concerns. Actually, these might be the best way to spur your employee engagement strategy. The more you ask for their opinions, the more they feel esteemed, entitled, respected, and like they belong to the organization.
Employee Engagement Strategy #2 – Promote Two-Way Communication
To promote employee engagement, the first requirement is to keep the employees out of the dark. If organizations act secretive and only divulge information on a “need-to-know” basis, it will likely cause lower engagement rates among their employees. Transparency begets trust when employees get to understand how corporate decisions will affect the workplace or how they should deal with situations.
But is disseminating information enough? No, communication should go two ways—the employees should be encouraged to share their concerns so they don’t feel ignored or unvalued. Top business leaders generally believe in the open door policy and do not use “top-secret” information to their advantage.
Employee Engagement Strategy #3 – Encourage Community Participation
An organization is essentially a community; each member fulfills a specific task and serves the community as a whole. To encourage this community spirit among your employees, any engagement activity can help, from organizing a big annual event to simply taking a team out to lunch.
Notwithstanding the hierarchy present in the organization, it is better to maintain a certain level of equality and unbiasedness where everyone feels they are important to the community.
This philosophy is typical in the new-age technology startups where they adopt a more casual, no-walls organizational policy. Though sustaining this new business approach might be tricky, it can lead to highly engaged staff.
Employee Engagement Strategy #4 – Recognize Good Work
Two out of three employees feel they do not get enough recognition for their work. As a result, most employees will not deliver their maximum potential and may engage in unwanted behavior. Also, highly-trained and qualified talent is always looking for better options out there.
For this reason, it is wise to create a recognition-rich environment where good work is rewarded with perks and incentives. At the very least, a few good words and a certificate of appreciation can go a long way in letting others feel valued for their work.
It’s worth noting here that every form of recognition should conform to the organization’s mission, goals, and philosophy. It is about steering the human capital in the right direction, after all.
Employee Engagement Strategy #5 – Invest in Personal Growth
This is part of the nurturing phase of human capital management. Every human asset that you acquire should be fostered and polished to assist in the long-term growth of the organization. Whether it is by running a proprietary training program or sponsoring higher education for your employees, you are not only investing in the future of your company, but also creating a sense of loyalty among your employees.
Remember, every employee loves a company that supports them in their professional career and adds value to their personal lives. Want to retain top-notch talent in your organization? Do not act selfish or dismissive. Ensure their personal growth and you will reap the benefits.
Employee Engagement Strategy #6 – Hire Competent Managers
Your secret weapon to spur employee engagement is the managers—they are the middlemen between boardroom members and the employees. In most cases, the employees interact with the top-level executives rarely, if ever, but have daily interactions with their immediate bosses. Whether they are feeling secure, angry, or ignored depends on the tact of the respective manager.
Are they capable of handling the employees? If not, what can they do better?
Gallup’s chairman, Jim Clifton, once said:
“Employees—especially the stars—join a company and then quit their manager. It may not be the manager's fault so much as these managers have not been prepared to coach the new workforce.”
While organizations can choose to educate their managers on how to better engage their employees, it is always better to hire a capable manager first. Check their professional background and try to see if they are suited for the tricky job waiting for them.
Employee Engagement Strategy #7 – Create a Sense of Purpose
Employees are not robots; they are human. Organizations that tend to see employees as a commodity that can be bought at a certain price have not woken up to the true essence of human capital, unfortunately. Your employees are not another factor of production, but prospective champions of your organization’s values and principles.
Although a hefty paycheck definitely helps, when an employee feels an emotional connection to your brand they will be able to provide higher personal investment and contribute in far greater measure.
One of the ways to ensure this is to let your employees know how significant their contribution is. Tell them how it is helping in achieving the organization’s business objectives. Simply speaking, organizations need to start making their employees feel that they matter.
Employee Engagement Strategy #8 – Sketch a Success Roadmap
This applies most if you hire millennials in your organization. For many millennials, just coming to the office, doing the work assigned, and taking the paycheck back home is not enough. They are more conscious about where they will stand in the next five or ten years. They need to know there are sufficient growth prospects for the role they are fulfilling.
Sketching a proper roadmap of success is yet another pillar to a successful employee engagement strategy. Holding regular career counseling sessions or chalking out a clear career advancement path might help a lot when it comes to millennial employee engagement.
Employee Engagement Best Practices
The five best practices for employee engagement are as follows:
1. Communicate Employee Engagement Strategy
The success of the strategy depends on how well everyone understands it in the first place. These are the main points that need to be addressed:
- What is the strategy and what does it achieve for the organization?
- How is it going to be conducted (through surveys, existing data, etc.)?
- What will be measured (customer engagement, productivity, etc.)?
- Details of the survey and the updates after that.
- How will the organization improve its metrics?
- The more detailed, the better—always.
2. Identify Action Areas
Without specific areas to measure and rectify, it would not be possible for an organization to deploy an effective employee engagement strategy. Instead of trying to work all drivers of employee engagement, organizations should answer two questions: “Which are the most critical drivers of employee engagement?” and “Which among them can possibly be tackled with available resources?”
Proper resource planning with concrete action areas makes or breaks a good strategy.
3. Identify S.M.A.R.T. Goals
This one is a no-brainer. Without any goals, an organization does not have a direction to follow. What does it want to achieve? What does it need to improve? What is the role of the strategy? All these questions need to be answered first.
Moreover, such goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely—that is, S.M.A.R.T. With tangible outcomes in mind, managers will be able to properly execute the strategy and figure out whether it is following the expected results or not.
4. Prepare Action Plan
Once the particular goals are in place, it is time to prepare an action plan on how to attain them. At this stage, the allocation of resources and definition of key performance indicators (KPIs) are taken care of to facilitate the measurement of progress.
It is vital to note that the effectiveness of the action plan resides on the direct supervisors. Employee engagement rates soar when they distribute the results and propose future endeavors.
5. Ensure Sustainable Development
A proper employee engagement strategy also enlists on how best to sustain engagement efforts over time. Countless research and industry best practices suggest organizations:
- Commit to a long-term strategy that goes beyond one simple survey
- Involve both leadership and staff and gain a middle ground for better collaboration
- Measure and optimize until it reaches the desired numbers
- Align with business goals for better consistency.
Frankly, an effective employee engagement strategy is not a one-day affair. Only an ongoing process will obtain incredible results.
How to Get Started
This is where most get stuck.
The best way to get started is to identify where you stand. Get a meeting with the managers and the employees. Identify what the current employee engagement rate is.
Invest in proper employee engagement software (Workmates, for example) to make the entire process easier. This platform is your perfect starting point in putting these employee engagement strategies into action.
If you are hiring new employees this season, here is a bonus, FREE report—“The New Hire Orientation Process What To Do & Where To Start”—that details the ideal onboarding process for new hires.