Employee engagement is the term used to describe how people feel when they show up to work. Engaged employees enjoy going to their jobs. They feel valued and respected. They feel comfortable and challenged. They’re enthusiastic about their work. They feel as though they are contributing to the overall goals and mission of the organization. They have the company’s interests in mind, because they feel the company cares about them in return.
However, in 2015, only 32% of American workers were considered engaged with their work, according to a poll by Gallup. This means that the majority of the population is dissatisfied, bored, or uninterested in their jobs.
What does this mean for companies? Low morale, low health, low productivity, and decreased profits.
What does this mean for society? An unhappy, unhealthy workforce that could potentially implode for the worse of our overall economy.
The Importance of Employee Engagement
Thankfully, more and more companies are pushing for a higher focus on employee engagement. Organizations are seeing the benefits and importance of engagement towards building a strong company.
Gallup created a meta-analysis with over 1.4 million surveyed employees in over 20,000 companies. They found that “those [companies] scoring in the top half on employee engagement nearly doubled their odds of success compared with those in the bottom half.” Furthermore, Gallup confirmed a direct link between employee engagement and nine key performance indicators:
- Customer ratings
- Safety incidents
- Patient safety incidents
Employee engagement has been proven to better quality of work, improve innovation, boost productivity, and better the health of employees. This all leads to low turnover rates, word-of mouth marketing, and higher customer service and satisfaction— all of which directly contribute to a company’s bottom line.
Furthermore, engaged employees want to find the best, most efficient processes that will make their lives easier and better the overall functionality of the organization. This leads to innovative and creative ideas that enable a better working environment for everyone. In this way, even a few engaged employees can create a cycle of engagement with their peers.
So how can you start enhancing engagement in your business?
Create a strong company culture.
Engaged employees need to feel a purpose for coming to work. Feeling fulfilled at work is a especially important to Gen Y and millennial workers. They want to be able to feel that their work, no matter the task, is connected to the overall mission and values of the organization.
Make the purpose of the organization at the forefront of every task and strategy. Emphasize how each individual can use his or her job to fit into these values and goals.
Your company culture is not just the company’s mission, though. It also exists in the day-to-day. What does the atmosphere feel like when people walk in the door? What do you and your employees do to create that atmosphere?
The company culture can dictate how people feel when they come to work. How they feel will then establish how engaged and enthusiastic they are.
Offer flexible work schedules.
Part of creating a strong company culture is offering a work-life balance to employees. In today’s society, there is a strong emphasis on balancing work and life—and organizations are expected to work with and for that balance.
Offer a flexible work schedule to your employees. A scheduling system like Forge allows people to schedule their work around their life. They aren’t forced to come to work when something else is going on at home. In this way, a flexible scheduling system can boost engagement; employees choose when they want to work, so they are more likely to be engaged during those hours.
Aside from flexibility, work schedules should also focus on productivity. How can employees feel useful during their hours at work? They don’t want to sit in the back room bored the whole time. How can you ensure that their hours are interesting, engaging, and fruitful?
Promote learning and development.
Another part of company culture is encouraging growth. Providing opportunities for employees to learn through different types of trainings, tuition reimbursement, or conferences can make people feel valued and appreciated.
Two of the best ways to provide opportunities for growth is through technology and mentors. The worldwide web is filled with online training opportunities and e-courses that can teach your workers everything from customer service tips, leadership techniques, and even how to balance home and work life. In this way, training can boost engagement, as employees can learn methods and techniques that will help them succeed at their jobs and in their personal lives.
Mentor programs are also a great way to boost employee engagement. Employees have a partner they can talk to openly about their concerns and questions. This creates a positive environment where development is valued and discussed. A mentor can also give honest, constructive feedback.
In this same way, feedback and communication is crucial to strong employee engagement. People who receive feedback are more likely to be engaged. Gallup’s analysis found that “companies who implement regular employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.95% lower than for employees who receive no feedback.” Feedback makes employees feel as though they are being noticed, so they work harder to make a good impression. They also feel like others care about their work, so they’ll start to care in response.
Although positive feedback about strengths is more engaging, most employees also appreciate honest feedback about weaknesses and opportunities. It shows that others are looking out for them and want them to succeed. 360-degree feedback from managers, peers, subordinates, and even clients has been shown to create a strong company culture of feedback.
An open and honest line of communication makes employees feel valued. It shows that the organization is willing to grow through its people.
Most importantly, ask your employees what they want. Get their opinions and suggestions. Ask for advice.
What would make this working environment better? How could you feel more engaged working here? What would make you happier to come to work? What is and isn’t working?
Your employees are on the front lines, so they can best identify processes and behaviors that are hurting or helping the business. Asking will not only give you ideas that you can implement, but it will also make your employees feel heard. It’s like reverse psychology: asking what would get them more engaged makes them more engaged.
The Bottom Line
Boosting employee engagement is about valuing, respecting, and hearing your employees. Create a culture that focuses on the employee’s work-life balance and professional and personal growth. Engagement enhances the health and happiness of your employees, which is in turn improves the productivity and profitability of your business.