It’s 2021, and the current labor market is drastically different from the one that came before it. For the most part, people working in one job for twenty years is a thing of the past. Now, more than ever, employers need to work to retain employees and keep them engaged.
While some employers think that focusing on employee engagement is a waste of time, we can assure you, it’s not. Studies show that employee engagement is linked directly to profitability and productivity. According to a study from Gallup, companies with engaged employees are 21% more profitable than others. It is also worth noting that disengaged employees are more likely to engage in absenteeism. This will likely cause further issues and impact the overall morale amongst teams.
How to Improve Employee Engagement
There is no quick fix to improve employee engagement overnight, but here are some steps that management can take to make a start today.
Create an employee engagement survey
The best place to start with employee engagement is to get a sense of your current situation. Given the nature of the issue, it is crucial to build a survey that will generate actionable results. A good employee engagement survey will encourage employees to be open and honest. Presenting the survey in the right way will help you get realistic responses. Remind employees that the survey will help to improve their lives, the business, and nothing else. Employees often assume that a survey might be used to coerce them into providing information they typically wouldn’t.
Here are some quick tips:
- Allow employees to submit answers completely anonymously – try using a Google sheet or online survey
- Only ask questions that will generate actionable data – remember, you are using this to develop a strategy. Collecting and analyzing data that won’t create action items is a waste of time
- Prepare to hear answers you might not want to hear – if you encourage honesty and anonymity, you are likely to receive some criticism on existing processes. The aim of this survey is to spark change, so don’t shy away from these critiques. If you want to improve employee engagement, you have to be willing to hear what you employees have to say.
Start with management
Although the goal might be to improve employee engagement, changes like this have to come from the top down. It is crucial to ensure that management understands the importance of keeping employees engaged, and what they can do to help. A great way to introduce the idea is to include employee engagement in the performance reviews of managers. Measure key indicators of employee engagement for each manager’s team, such as turnover rate, absenteeism rate, and other performance metrics depending on your industry. When managers are expected to monitor and improve these KPIs, they will become more invested in the issue, and make it part of their own agenda.
Management should behave as the link between you and your employees. They can work to identify barriers to engagement and establish processes to remove them. At the end of the day, your employees know themselves best and should be the driving force behind the changes that need to be made. They know what the problems are, and most likely know what they need to eradicate them.
Set realistic goals, and define them for employees
As you start to work on improving employee engagement, you will likely see that it is a slow burner. Employees typically have to see true commitment to change from management before they commit themselves. So, with this in mind, you are much better off setting smaller, realistic goals initially. By doing this, you are more likely to actually achieve them, and show your employees your dedication to continuous improvement.
Setting these goals is another opportunity to be transparent with your employees. Don’t deny that you are going to these lengths to improve productivity & profitability, but also remind them that their happiness is at the core of that. If you want your employees to be fully invested in change, you have to be totally honest with them. It is also important for goal setting and other employee engagement activities to be maintained throughout the year, in regular day-to-day operations.
Give employees autonomy
Another great way to improve employee engagement is to give employees some level of autonomy. According to research, on average only 20% of employees are fully engaged at work. However, further research shows that a staggering 79% of autonomous employees are engaged, making them much more productive. These numbers are hard to ignore, so it’s no surprise that employers are constantly working to increase employee autonomy.
There are lots of ways to provide autonomy. The first, and likely easiest to implement is flexibility. This can be flexibilty in relation to work schedules or even work locations. Allowing employees to have some input in their work schedule will not only improve employee engagement, but will also reduce absenteeism and poor timekeeping. Offering scheduling options such as self-scheduling or shift bidding is an easy way to start offering more flexibility and autonomy.
Give feedback and show appreciation
Managers are often surprised to hear how effective it can be to provide regular feedback on work and to show appreciation to employees. In fact, appreciation and engagement are directly linked! A recent study proved this, showing that 84% of highly engaged employees were recognized the last time they went above and beyond at work compared to only 25% of actively disengaged employees. Other studies show that 37% of employees cited recognition as the most important thing that a company can do to improve performance.
Not only is this a great way to improve employee engagement, but it is also easy to implement and very cost-effective. The time spent checking in, providing feedback and showing employees your appreciation is the only true cost. However, the increase in engagement will lead to improved productivity, performance, and ultimately profitability.
Now is the time to start trying to improve employee engagement. The longer you wait, the more time and money you are losing. CEOs, business owners and even managers often expect the same level of dedication to a role from employees that they have themselves. In the real world, unless an employee feels some level of commitment from an employer, they will struggle to fully commit themselves. This echoes back to the point that change must start from the top down. Show employees that you care and that you are willing to work to improve their work lives, and you and your business will reap the rewards.