How To Improve Employee Engagement - Human Resources Hero

How To Improve Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

Why should you care about employee engagement? Because it’s good business! Unengaged employees tend to file lawsuits, get injured more often, and have worse attendance. Caring for what you do and where you work really matters. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most of your policy violations and employment issues are probably the result of disengaged employees. This means that a little work on employee relations can have a huge impact on employee performance as a whole and your bottom line. Engaged employees are more productive and, therefore, more profitable. It’s a win-win all around.

What Is Employee Engagement

When you map the 100 best companies’ financial results to work for against the stock market, the 100 best companies win by a longshot. They win in turnover, culture, morale, and the bottom line.

So what is employee engagement, and how is it quantified? Employee engagement is a measurement of how motivated employees come to work and how much they care about their jobs. And it’s the most important part of HR. But unfortunately, it’s almost always the most forgotten.

Employee Engagement By The Numbers

93% of HR practitioners surveyed agreed that employee engagement is critical to business success. The other 7% I expect they didn’t even understand the question. Also, 67% of HR practitioners are worried about low employee engagement. The other 33% are either doing a fantastic job, or maybe they’re afraid to admit that it’s an issue. 

Finally, 40% of businesses believe they have more intel on customer engagement and behavior than employee engagement. In reality, I even bet this is closer to 90%. There are entire departments in most companies that exist solely to evaluate and study customer engagement. And even one or two individuals tasked with solely focusing on employee engagement would do amazing things for most companies. 

Having a great culture or engaged employees does not require unaffordable pay rates or exorbitant benefits packages. Many of these things are really inexpensive and sometimes even free, but they make a huge difference. 

If you followed any of the recent big data breaches, I could guarantee you that an angry employee was involved in most, if not all of them. And most of you, I’m sure, recall the backlash a certain online retailer faced after exposure to their perceived poor employee relations. 

We certainly don’t ever want our clients to experience this. So keep in mind that disengaged employees can have an impact on your business in many, many ways, not just internally.

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Culture and Morale

Most of us can relate to the need to attract and maintain loyal clients. Clients have a variety of competitors to choose from, and employees who regularly interact with your clients are the reasons your client remain loyal to you or decide to take their business elsewhere. 

One of the best ways to attract these applicants is to make employees feel special and appreciated. Employee engagement is absolutely a two-way street, so treat your valuable employees the same way your valuable clients.

You would never treat your client as though they were replaceable, and you didn’t need their business, and we don’t want our employees to feel that way either. 

According to Globoforce’s Fall 2014, Workforce Mood Tracker Survey, employees are more likely to stay at a company when they made strong connections with their colleagues. In fact, 42% of people who don’t have friends at work said they would accept a new job if offered one, compared with only 21% of employees who have friends at work.

Employee Engagement Happy Worker

Employee morale is the payoff of having a great company culture.  Companies with higher morale have better retention, less negative attrition, highly engaged employees, a performance driven-style, and their employees are invested in the company’s success. They actually want to come to work and do well.

Companies with high morale tend to attract and retain talented people. The less turnover your company has, the less money needs to be spent on recruiting replacements. And recruitment is definitely expensive. We always want to minimize the negative attrition to spend that money instead of bringing in the best talent to grow and invigorate our business. 

Dissatisfaction and Disengagement Factors

There are several factors that lead to dissatisfaction and poor employee engagement. The most common factors in employee Disengagement are:

  • poor compensation or benefits
  • questionable job security
  • limited opportunities to use skills and abilities
  • poor relations with co-workers or supervisors

You should not wait until the exit interview to find out why you’re losing a valuable employee. If you see signs of poor employee engagement, schedule a meeting with the employee to get a sense of how they’re feeling and why. Often, you might not be able to fix the situation right at that moment, but you’ve communicated that you care and that in itself can go a long way towards retention.

Dollars and cents are important too. I recommend regular salary surveys so employers can ensure they’re remaining competitive. Remember, employees have options these days and it’s often far less expensive to give an employee a simple pay increase than it is to recruit, hire, and train a replacement, especially if it’s a good employee. You don’t know the replacement would be as good. 

Other Factors

Relationships with managers and coworkers tend to be a pain point for disengaged employees. Remember, oftentimes, employees don’t leave jobs, they leave the managers. Effective management training can save employers thousands of dollars in turnover costs. It’s critical to make sure that you have the right leaders at the helm of any organization. 

Often, managers are promoted because they have fantastic skills as an employee, but leadership coaching and training are really often omitted from the management onboarding process, and these new managers don’t know how to lead. So they do their jobs fantastically well, but leadership is an art, a talent, and that must be taught and fostered. Neglecting to take it seriously sets managers and their direct reports up for failure. 

Leadership training and coaching when possible should be an essential part of any new manager onboarding process

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Steps To Improving Employee Engagement

Find out if your employees like coming to work.

The easiest way to do this is to ask. Open-ended questions can help, but it can be simple as a yes or no question. Often it can just be visually apparent. 

Build a culture of trust and honesty.

The importance of a culture of trust and honesty is paramount and can’t be understated. Because if we’re asking open questions and employees are fearful of answering, that doesn’t help us. And if we’re doing surveys and gathering data and the employees are scared to answer honestly or don’t feel that matters, again, not going to help us. If that is the case, we’ve got to build trust and consistency first, which can take some time. 

There’s a concept called the psychological contract, and it’s the idea that employees come with certain expectations in terms of treatment and outcomes at work. And when that contract is broken through dishonest or unfair treatment, the employee will either stop caring or even leave.

Gather more Information from your employees.

Talk to your frontline managers, conduct exit interviews, surveys, and use your performance evaluations. Looking at these metrics can tell you a lot about what’s going on and where the common issues lie. For example, if many employees leave in the first six months, you may want to take information from their exit interviews and satisfaction surveys and determine how the interview process, onboarding process, or training can be improved to reduce this turnover.

If you suspect manager relations are an issue, consider skip-level interviews, you might get more insight. But understand that it could take a couple of meetings if employees are afraid to open up at first. Consider running a focus group. They can help employees feel more anonymous in their feedback, resulting in much more candid information.

Show them you care.

Recognize your employee’s contributions. Employees want to know their valuable contributors. Use recognition programs as incentives to pull employees out of the negative relationship. This pessimism and negativity are often born out of feelings of insignificance or replaceability. By showing employees that they’re valued in your organization, you’ll increase their accountability and their engagement in their work.

Employee Receiving an Award | Human Resources Hero

We seem disconnected and disengaged employees mostly when people believe they can’t act creatively also. Where jobs are so mechanized, you feel like part of a machine. Let’s encourage their creativity. If you can’t offer autonomy and creativity, then consider something else. Every time might have different stress and leverage points. Our job is to see what works and to keep trying until we get it right. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen little things like just free food make all the difference. 

Utilize your leaders.

How can we utilize our leaders? We can provide training. We can develop employees not just for the job that they’re in but for the next position. We can empower both managers and employees to resolve their own issues. We can provide support, of course, when they need it. 

Surveys find that managers who focus on their employee’s strengths can practically eliminate active disengagement and double the average US workers engaged nationwide. Hire managers with strong people skills who can motivate and lead and get buy-in. If the manager is new or green, make sure leadership training is a big part of their onboarding.

Demonstrate trust.

There are many ways we can demonstrate trust to our employees, first with policies like unlimited PTO, flexibility in hours, working remotely, meal periods, leaves of absence, and these can all show employees that you respect employees’ time and support a healthy work-life balance. This allows them to find a balance that fits as long as they can live up to expectations and complete their job duties. What says trust more than an employer trusting their employee to get their job done? 

Update your policies.

You can also create positive employee relations by updating policies to reflect our practices and cultures. Make sure you are invested in your employees and have solid succession plans in place for top performers. We often pay the most attention to the lower performers. But with the top performers, it gives the unintended consequence of them getting bored. You have to have a plan to develop them. 

Communicate often based on your employee preference, so if an employee needs many check-ins, give it to them. If they don’t and want to float along and continue to motivate themselves, let them do that. Get your employees involved in a non-profit cause on behalf of the company. It’s a great team builder.

Invest in employee development.

Investing in employee development is not only a benefit to you, but it makes them feel valued. And it makes them better at their job. According to Gallup, the ideal culture puts people first and is predicated on strong relationships, a commitment to employee happiness, and a strong emphasis on employee development. 

Once more, this culture reminds employees of their worth as individuals through consistent recognition and appreciation from managers and peers. Due to the documented benefits, companies invest more in recognition programs to boost company metrics like employee turnover.

Invest in community building

Investing in community building is really important too. Your community in your office, in your company, in your organization. It’s great when employees feel connected to their coworkers. You can do this through retreats, holiday parties, summer picnics, company-provided lunches, and anyway that employees can get to know their coworkers when it’s not necessarily related to work. They want to get to know them on an individual level, build connections with them. It makes them feel more accountable to them. It makes them want to help. It makes them want to be reliable.

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