Much as we’d like to think all employees are self-driven, satisfied, and fully invested in their organization's success, engagement doesn’t happen by magic.
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With only 36% of US workers feeling engaged in 2020, it seems that employers may need to do more to win hearts and minds than just handing out a few free lunches now and again.
If you’re worried that you’re stuck in the dark ages of engaging your employees, it might be time to take action.
What are employee engagement initiatives?
Most people’s idea of employee engagement initiatives would probably involve perks and benefits such as free fruit or gym membership. But, in reality, they can be anything that you think will bring out the best in your workers and make them want to go above and beyond the basic requirements of the job.
Employee engagement initiatives are usually part of a broader scheme designed to help develop staff, improve their performance and keep them happy at work. Common examples include:
- Structured career paths to provide opportunities for growth
- Incentives like employee of the month rewards or gift cards for top performers
- A weekly post on your company communication platform highlighting staff successes in the past week
- Regular briefings on the latest company news so no one feels left out of the loop or uninformed
- A virtual ideas box for suggestions to improve working practices or save the business money
- Regular line manager catch-ups with staff to sound out if any issues need to addressing
- Annual awards ceremonies and company away days
How can employee engagement initiatives benefit your organization?
Employee engagement adds value to any business and produces concrete results.
Boost productivity and profitability
It’s little surprise that engaged employees outperform colleagues who aren’t engaged. They generally work faster and make fewer mistakes because they care about what they do. Plus, if someone feels they’re treated well and respected by their managers, they’ll have a sense of responsibility to give their best consistently. All this is good for productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line. Overall, organizations with high employee engagement are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable.
Improve staff retention
If employees don’t enjoy their work or feel challenged, they’re more likely to leave. Many studies suggest that employees who regularly receive constructive feedback, have goals to aim for and receive recognition for good work are more engaged than those who are left to drift. Low staff turnover avoids the vicious circle of hiring, training, and exiting, which can be a significant drain on resources.
Improve job satisfaction
If employees aren’t satisfied with their job, they lack energy and enthusiasm and often have a negative view of their workplace. This can rub off on the people around them, leading to low morale and productivity all round. Initiatives that foster both career and personal development give employees a greater connection to their organization. This makes them more likely to produce quality work, which will keep your customers satisfied.
Employees who enjoy being part of a team and don’t see work as a chore want to show up for work. A Gallup study shows that highly engaged workplaces have 41% lower absenteeism.
If your employees aren’t engaged in what they’re doing, they’re less likely to feel a sense of responsibility for your business and will care less about not turning up. This places a burden on the rest of the team, who may have to increase their workload, leading to stress and resentment.
Keeping remote workers engaged
With millions of people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the global trend for remote working has gathered pace. And some firms have already said they plan to make it a permanent arrangement, even after the pandemic. So how do you make sure your workplace engagement initiatives are still effective?
If managed well, remote working can improve employee engagement. Often, people can work at a time to suit them, and they appreciate managers trusting them to work using their initiative. There’s also less stress from the daily commute as well as fewer office distractions and unproductive meetings.
But working remotely is not without its challenges. Employees may feel isolated, lonely and detached from colleagues. There may be less interaction with managers and the technology supplied may be outdated or inefficient. Homeworkers may also find it difficult to switch off, risking burnout. All of which can make it tricky to maintain a company’s culture, core values, and employee engagement.
With remote working here to stay, effective communication is vital. For example, there needs to be a quick and easy way for teams to ask each other questions if they’re no longer working side by side in an office environment. It’s also crucial that employees are given a clear briefing at the beginning of each task, with regular video meetings so staff can interact face to face.
There’s nothing more frustrating for workers than a computer that keeps crashing or a slow internet connection. To do their job effectively, your teams will need reliable laptops and access to fast broadband. Instead of relying on email attachments that are slow to download, teleworkers can benefit from more efficient remote working tools such as project management platforms, video chat and instant messaging.
Remote workers can sometimes feel like they miss out on the social aspects of an office environment. To keep people engaged, you'll need to include them in the interactions and fun aspects of office culture. At the start of video calls, make time for a catch-up – you could ask how their weekend was or how their kids are, for instance. You could also introduce fun elements, such as online competitions, fantasy sports leagues, or photo boards of pets helping with work!
Employee engagement initiatives you can try
There is any number of employee engagement strategies you could adopt to ignite your workforce, but let’s consider some of the most effective.
Anyone who’s ever started a new job knows just how nerve-racking it can be. From meeting your new co-workers and getting to grips with in-house software to finding your bearings, there’s a lot to get your head around. A formal onboarding process can nurture recruits from day one – if not before – so they feel welcome, supported, and not overwhelmed. Organizations with a robust onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82%.
Mentoring and coaching
An employee mentoring system that matches up senior team members with less experienced staff promotes collaboration and personal growth. And in practical terms, it means someone’s there to answer questions and concerns, even if it’s online. Employees are more likely to stay with a firm if they know there’s room for career and personal advancement. Organizations with employees who receive regular coaching improve business results by 21%.
It's important to recognize employees’ achievements and give credit where credit’s due. When employees feel valued and appreciated for their hard work, they want to continue to do a good job for their employer. According to Deloitte, organizations with a high-recognition culture have a 30% lower turnover than those who push people to perform without reward.
But recognition can be a tricky balancing act, as each person is different. Some crave public recognition, while others avoid the spotlight and might prefer a private message or gift. The key is to motivate team members without creating an overly competitive environment.
While exit interviews are a good way of finding out why an employee has left your organization, they don’t help you keep someone who may be thinking about leaving. Stay interviews allow you to intervene before it’s too late, so you can understand how you can retain talent. Encourage your employees to discuss their career goals and what they need to help them reach those goals. That way, you can understand their motivation for staying and give them the support they need to progress.
One of the easiest ways to engage with your people is to get regular feedback, whether that’s about how stressed they’re feeling or whether they have the right tools for the job. You can quickly distribute surveys to every employee to get an immediate response about engagement levels in your team. Measuring employee engagement in quantifiable terms can be tricky. But employee satisfaction surveys and snap polls are an excellent way to gauge your organization's general mood in real-time.
Using instant communication tools rather than cumbersome systems such as email and intranets are a great way to keep employees connected wherever they’re based. They’re ideal for company-wide announcements and make it easy for teams to work on projects together. With 72% of employees saying technology is important to their overall productivity in the workplace, having the right tools can make a big difference to engagement levels.
An open, transparent culture that supports the sharing of knowledge is key to engaging and motivating employees. Teams are often insulated within their project and workspace bubbles, so they have limited visibility over what the rest of the company is doing. Teams that share content, technology tips and new ideas will evolve much more rapidly. When people feed off the ideas of others, they feel inspired to achieve more.
Improving employee wellbeing
Employees who are fit and healthy are more productive and take less time off, saving your business time and money. Schemes that encourage both physical and mental wellbeing have staff who are well-rested, focused and more alert at work. They also encourage employees to stay healthy outside of work, too - 61% of workers in the US say they’ve made healthier lifestyle choices because of their company’s wellness program. You could implement initiatives that include regular health clinics, cycle to work schemes, and free healthy snacks.
Better work-life balance
Thanks to an increase in flexible and remote working, especially during the lockdown, many workers already benefit from a better work-life balance. But others are at risk of burnout, trying to home-school their children while still putting in long hours at work. So businesses must look at what they can do to help people who are struggling to juggle work and family. Work can be a lot more fun when it’s flexible.
How to implement employee engagement initiatives
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to engagement initiatives. You have to find out what works best for your business and adapt your policies accordingly. While you can have some quick wins, like launching a weekly e-bulletin, other initiatives will be part of the employment engagement picture at a more strategic level. Schemes like wellness programs, performance reviews and onboarding processes will need HR input so results can be measured, and you can see the impact over time.
Whatever you do, it’s vital to create a culture where employees feel they’re a pivotal part of the process. Never assume you know what they want. And, ideally, there should be an alignment between your company’s overall business objectives, team targets, and an individual’s goals.
Be clear about who’s going to track the progress of your initiatives, whether that’s HR, line managers or senior employees. You could even form an employee engagement committee or hire an employee engagement specialist to oversee your strategy.
How to make the most of employee engagement initiatives
You shouldn't see an employee engagement program shouldn’t as something that’s set in stone forever. It should be an ongoing process that evolves as your workforce changes or the popularity of specific initiatives wanes.
Keep re-evaluating your processes to see where they can be improved by gathering feedback from remote and office-based staff. Ensure you’re regularly measuring employee engagement and analyzing the data to find out what works for your workforce. It can also be useful to set specific goals. For example, if staff retention has been an issue, you could aim to reduce turnover by 10% in the next 12 months.
As you begin to understand better what makes your employees tick, you can start to make your employee engagement initiatives more personalized.
An employee journey map – a visualization of the various stages an employee goes through in their time with a firm – is another way to analyze employee ‘pain points’ when action is needed to keep engagement levels high.
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