For over 20 years, we’ve discussed the importance of employee engagement, as employees make, or break, an organization. So, when employees are not engaged, they are bringing a minimal effort to work (adding little value). Moreover, when employees are actively disengaged, they are likely working against the organization and bringing everyone down. Negativity is contagious. According to Gallup’s State of the Workplace Global Report, less that 1/3 of your employees are engaged.
Today, we want to discuss your organization’s biggest opportunity (and most silent engagement killer). You may be thinking about those actively disengaged, grumbly, visibly toxic employees. Yes. They are a problem (to be discussed later), but today we are going to discuss the bulk of your employees – those who are not engaged. Most of your employees are not engaged.
The crux of the matter is that isn’t not necessarily easy to identify those employees who are not engaged. They might be content, show up on time, get the job “done.” They might fall into that ever-so-precarious "satisfied employee” category. They inhabit that middle ground, and they might even be doing more harm than good.
Employee engagement isn’t an impossible thing to achieve. It simply needs to be an organization priority and strategy. Every organization and organization’s needs differ; nevertheless, there are foundations to engagement in every company.
How do you improve employee engagement?
This can give you a bird’s-eye-view of global engagement in your organization as well as engagement within departments, age groups, locations and more.
2. Take down the obstacles. This might sound like a metaphor for something bigger-than-life. Really, it just means you need to keep your organization’s software up-to-date, ensure employees have comfortable chairs and office spaces to work, get rid of the sputtering lights, and all those other hassles that, really, interrupt an employee’s day. If you still have dial-up internet, you need reassess your tech.
3. Improve processes. Do you really need to call a meeting for that one thing? Probably not. Make meetings matter. Streamline administration processes. Simply put, stop wasting your employees’ time.
4. Improve communication. People talk a lot. But the problem is, often, that what they say isn’t received. Having the skills to express needs and be heard, understood, and, when applicable, implemented is effective communication.
As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest with communication is the illusion it has taken place.”
Train senior staff. Have them ask these three questions: What is the goal? Who needs to hear this? And how should I pass along the information?
So often employees don’t receive the information they need. Help them with active listening skills. We’re a nation on auto-pilot, and we need to practice. Finally, ensure your workplace has an internal communication strategy.
5. AlignmentAlign each person's job with the organization’s mission and vision and communicate that to your employees. Alignment in the organization improves collaboration and a collective pursuit of company goals. When employees don’t have a clear understanding of how their job contributes to the overall goals of the organization, they can’t possibly understand their purpose.
6. Provide your employees with fair compensation for their work. This seems like it should go without saying, but we’re saying it because many organizations haven’t gotten the memo. This World Economic Forum article sums it up beautifully. Fair compensation best practices include transparency, providing meaningful benefits, ensuring minimum wage matches living wages of the area, disclosing indicators related to compensation, among other issues. Beware of salary compression.
7. Provide your staff with meaningful recognition. A sincere “thank you” goes a long way. Be specific about what the contributor did to improve processes and/or the work environment. Know how employees like to be recognized – not everyone wants the parade. That said, achievements should be public: post them on a bulletin board, include them in e-mails, and take time to recognize outstanding work during meetings.
8. Strike that work-life balance. Burning the midnight oil is very 1990s. Recognize that people have incredible lives outside of the office and workplace. As an organization, develop clear boundaries and policies regarding work stuff after hours. Promote flexible work arrangements – late starts or early leaves for working parents and/or caregivers. Offer remote or semi-remote work options if you can.
9. Support your workers’ mental and physical health. Begin with the basics and make sure all your workspaces are up to code and safe. Have good lighting, office chairs, desks, and places to rest. Consider doing lunch-and-learns with a corporate nutritionist. Revamp the snacks and include healthy alternatives to the typical chips and sodas. Encourage a healthy community at work, where people don’t feel alone. Create a weekend walking club (roller blading, cycling, softball league etc.) to promote both physical and mental health. Provide information about anxiety, depression, and other mental health illnesses. Take the mystery out and discuss mental health openly. Provide counseling services. Take care of your staff.
10. Let them go. Not every employee will be right for your organization. It’s important to understand that terminating an employee is a business decision, not an emotional one. If an employee fails to comply with codes of conduct, and fails, after coaching and interventions to meet with performance expectations, it might be time to let them go.
Employee engagement is not just a buzzword; it's a critical factor in the success of any organization. Engaged employees are more productive, creative, and loyal, which ultimately leads to higher profitability and a more positive workplace culture.
To boost employee engagement, start by fostering open communication, providing opportunities for growth and development, recognizing and rewarding achievements, and promoting a healthy work-life balance. Remember that employee engagement is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and adaptation.
100% employee engagement doesn’t happen anywhere; however, improving employee engagement with these six meaningful strategies is a great place to begin. (This goes for all organizations!)