With retention and productivity strategies becoming a key consideration for organisations everywhere, employee engagement is high on the agenda for business leaders today.
However, creating truly effective engagement strategies is no easy feat. For employee engagement initiatives to be successful, they must be tailored to the unique needs and motivations of each individual.
Why should you care about staff engagement?
Engaged employees voluntarily invest extra time, effort and initiative to contribute to business success. They feel a sense of purpose within their role, and bring enthusiasm, passion and energy to the work they do.
As well as being more motivated, committed and loyal, engaged workers are typically higher performers and produce better results for both the customer and the company. Boost your employee engagement with these six techniques:
1. Make sure you’ve got inspiring leadership
Competent, passionate and hands-on leadership is critical to employee engagement. Showing a genuine interest in your employees and investing time in understanding their needs and aspirations will help send the message that their contribution is valued, creating goodwill and a desire to succeed – both as an individual and as part of a team.
Check-in with them regularly to find out how their experience in the workplace can be improved. This can be done informally, by participating in casual conversation or via occasional non-work activities. Find out what motivates them by instigating more formal employee surveys and avenues for feedback. Make a point of finding out how your employees define success so you can create a rewarding environment in which they can thrive.
2. Provide opportunities for growth
A guaranteed way to disengage staff is to let them feel underused. Engaged employees are those who are given the opportunity to adequately use their skills and are encouraged to stretch those skills in order to progress.
Talk to your employees about their career plan. Does their current role make full use of their strengths and abilities? If not, come up with a plan to expand the role description. Is their career moving in the direction they desire? Try and map out a path within your organisation and agree on targets for promotion. Are there new or interesting projects they can work on to expand their skillset? Perhaps a secondment to a different department or location will give them the variety they need to maintain engagement.
Discuss the training and development opportunities that can help them advance within the company and provide clear and consistent feedback on how they can improve their performance. Ultimately, showing that you care about helping employees maintain job satisfaction will reap the rewards.
3. Foster meaningful work for all employees
Engaged employees believe that the work they are doing is important and has value. They feel they are contributing to something meaningful and take pride in the results of their efforts.
As a manager, it is crucial to frequently reinforce the importance of your employees’ roles to the organisation as a whole. Help them to see the direct connection between their activities and company success, and the ways in which even the smallest tasks can contribute.
Set goals and challenge your employees to meet them to promote a sense of purpose. Grant them the autonomy to improve the way things are done to help them feel trusted and respected, and involve them in decisions that provide a sense of ownership over the direction of the company.
4. Find ways to recognise and reward employees
For employees to be motivated to give their best, they need to know their efforts will be recognised and rewarded. Regularly thanking them for their efforts demonstrates your awareness of their hard work and provides encouragement for them to boost their performance.
Make the time to celebrate accomplishments, rewarding and recognising employees in ways that are meaningful to them. The celebrations don’t have to be lavish to be meaningful – ordering in a team lunch, sharing wins with the wider business or presenting someone with a small gift for achieving a milestone goes a long way to making people feel recognised and rewarded.
While competitive pay and good benefits are key motivating factors in accepting a job, providing incentives for higher performance gives employees something extra to strive for and helps them stay engaged for a longer period.
5. Go green
A study published in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour showed that employees at green firms were 16% more productive than employees at other firms, concluding that "employees in such green firms are more motivated, receive more training, and benefit from better interpersonal relationships. [The] employees at green companies are therefore more productive than employees in more conventional firms.”
Similarly, research from the Charlton College of Business at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth found that employees are likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction if they work for a company that is perceived to be environmentally friendly.
Here are some simple strategies your organisation can adopt to improve your green image and employee engagement:
- Implement company-wide recycling policies and challenge employees to limit waste
- Switch to energy-efficient light globes
- Use recycled paper in the printer and challenge employees to use less
- Provide employees with reusable water bottles to discourage consumption of drinks in PET plastic
- Ask employees to power down their computer and other desk appliances fully in the evening
- Explore corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that can get your organisation involved in helping the local community
6. Put people at the heart of the culture
Companies that understand people are their greatest asset reap the benefits of an engaged workforce. These days, this means considering employees’ lives beyond the office.
Find out the responsibilities of your employees and consider initiatives that enable them to balance work and home life more easily – this may mean flexible hours or remote work arrangements.
Encourage employees to balance hard work with socialising and fun by investing in social events and regular team-building activities. Promote the sharing of ideas, suggestions and improvements by asking for feedback in a variety of ways, such as a ‘suggestion box’ initiative or – more difficult but more rewarding – fostering a culture of honest feedback.
A work environment in which people feel valued, heard and have a sense of camaraderie is critical to employee engagement.
Maintaining employee engagement while working from home
The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. Remote work has become the new norm for many traditionally in-office roles, and this shift is likely to impact work models long after the lockdown is over.
So, how do you boost individual and team engagement while staff are working from home or telecommuting? Try these tips.
Set clear expectations from the outset
Many employees have had to quickly change their working arrangements, which can lead to confusion about what’s expected of them on a day-to-day basis. As a manager, it’s important to communicate your expectations with your team as early as possible, including:
- Their responsibilities – these may stay the same, or they may need to change given the new remote work environment.
- When they should be online and available – work hours may be fixed or flexible
- How and when they should check in with you
- New policies and guidelines about workplace conduct, including how to work securely online
Periodically check in with your team to ensure these expectations are being met, and remember that it may take time to find the right workflow for some employees.
Be deliberate about communication
Communication can be a challenge for remote teams. A study found that many employees struggle with communication issues and even loneliness when working remotely. To mitigate the risk of disconnected teams and disengaged employees, managers must set the standard for regular, ongoing communication.
Organise regular meetings and catch-ups – both one-on-one with employees and as a team – via apps like Google Hangouts, Zoom and Skype. It’s also a good idea to keep lines of communication open with collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Embrace flexible ways of working
Many people are trying to navigate unexpected changes to their lives, which often involves juggling childcare and personal commitments with work. Managers should be empathetic and flexible in supporting employees during these times of uncertainty.
Where possible, allow for flexible work arrangements such as flexible working hours, and acknowledge that different people may require certain accommodations due to family situations and living arrangements. This will demonstrate clear support for employees and help stave off resentment during difficult periods.
Introduce remote employee engagement activities
Boosting team morale is just as important, if not more important, when working remotely as it is in the office. Think about ways you can keep up team camaraderie and combat negative mindsets by injecting fun into your new work environment.
Recognise great work with virtual high-fives through group chats, organise contests or birthday “parties” through video conferencing calls, or set up virtual Friday afternoon snacks and drinks. These are all small but meaningful activities that will help lift employee engagement and combat the pitfalls of physical separation. Remember not to overdo it, though, as Zoom fatigue does exist.
Listen to your team’s feedback
Adopting new ways of working is a learning curve for both managers and workers. With that in mind, encourage your team members to share their challenges and successes while working remotely. Listen to the needs of employees, and incorporate changes to policies and arrangements where possible to help continually improve the work environment for your team.
While it may not be possible to prevent the fear and uncertainty of the current landscape, you can implement processes to support your employees while they navigate unfamiliar territory.
As in any office environment, keeping employee motivation levels up in a remote work situation is key to keeping staff happy, retaining your best people and maintaining team cohesion.
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