Employee Engagement: 6 Strategies That Work

Employee Engagement: 6 Strategies That Work

Happy and productive employees are good for business. It’s a fact. However, few workplaces managed to maintain high engagement levels.  In 2020, 49% of workers stated that they are disengaged, according to Gallup’s latest data. In other words, they feel no psychological attachment to their job or the employer, and, as a result, have low-to-no motivation for doing the best work.

On the other hand, the same survey indicates that the number of engaged employees reached 38% of the total workforce — the highest since 2000. What this data is telling us is this: some companies are clearly succeeding in keeping their people motivated, whereas others don’t. So what sets leaders apart from the laggers? Let’s drill down to the matter. But before we jump in, let’s get some key definitions out of the way.

So What is Employee Engagement?

Gartner provides the following baseline definition of employee engagement:

“Employee engagement stands for the “individuals’ alignment with the organization and their willingness to invest discretionary effort (go above and beyond the call of duty) to achieve organizational objectives.”

As this definition suggests, employee engagement pertains to employees’ motivation, morale, and overall willingness to pursue the set goals. Clearly, a lot of factors contribute to high levels of engagement:

  • Individual compensation
  • Positive workplace culture
  • Good leadership
  • Proactive mentorship
  • Mature HR practices
  • Ongoing training and development opportunities
  • Personalized approach to every employee

Workforce engagement is high among organizations that actively invest in well-being, not one’s that merely attempt to boost employee retention and on-the-job satisfaction with cash bonuses and higher salaries. A solid employee engagement strategy incorporates multiple facets for monitoring staff performance, productivity, and happiness and finding new ways for empowering people to do their best work, both on individual and team levels.

Helpful template: The X model of Employee Engagement PowerPoint Template

Why is Employee Engagement Important?

As prompted at the beginning of this post, when workplace engagement is high, businesses are seeing better returns on their investment.

The disengaged workforce, in turn, leads to lower day-to-day productivity losses, operational inefficiency, and ultimately sky-high employee attrition rates.

Employee Engagement at Workplace, an employee with a trophy (employee of the month)

According to various sources:

  • Disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion per year.
  • Four in five employees wish they could receive more recognition for their work. Since that’s not happening, as much as 64% are open to changing jobs this year.
  • 20% of the most disengaged employees cause the biggest productivity losses within a company.

On the other hand, when staff engagement levels are high, great things happen for their employers too:

  • Highly engaged business units show a 21% greater profitability.
  • Employees are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best when they feel that their voices are heard.
  • Businesses with higher than average employee engagement exceed the financial performance of peer companies by 73.5%.

As these data points conclude: a corporate employee engagement strategy can deliver measurable results. Whereas the lack of one will cast a direct negative impact on your bottom lines.

In a study conducted by Gallup, it was found that even in times of Coronavirus, there was a rise in the percentage of engaged workers in US companies. Those employees who are highly involved in and committed to their work and workplace reached 38%. This is the highest level since Gallup began tracking this metric.

Employee Engagement Trends

Source: Gallup – Employee Engagement Trends

How to Improve Employee Engagement: 6 Strategies That Work

Apply the following employee engagement strategies to boost employee motivation and increase engagement.

But remember, team engagement is a continuous effort. You can’t foster sticky behavior changes with point improvements. So consider how you can work in these ideas into a more comprehensive company-wide cultural and managerial strategy.

1. Shift from the Boss Culture Towards Coach/Mentor One

A toxic workplace culture, that stems from mismanagement and gaps in leadership, is a root cause of low engagement. After all, it is the management that accounts for 70% of variances in team engagement. Their personal behaviors and their subsequent projection on subordinates can affect your entire organization.

For instance, one leader with strong micromanagement inclinations can cause low morale among subordinates, plus sabotage cross-department success with their tendency to request constant approvals and drive down individual ownership in projects.

Furthermore, most of the “boss” leadership styles are rarely compatible with creative and innovative work. Autocratic and Coercive leaders hinder an individual’s ability to generate innovative ideas and show any sort of initiative. That’s why the leading companies are stepping away from the ‘my way or highway’ type of leadership towards coaching and servant leadership models.

Employee engagement illustration, employees raising the hand

Leaders that take on the role of a “Coach”:

  • Identify individual team member’s strengths and determine how to use them the best way possible.
  • Encourage the team to solve any issues on the local level, instead of escalating them to upper-management.
  • Focus on individual and group training and development as part of a larger employee retention plan.
  • Cultivate a growth mindset within the team — essential to reaching the stated team objectives faster.

2. Improve Employees’ Physiological Safety at the Workplace

Again, toxic behaviors among management or peers can create a strong sense of physiological discomfort with an employee. Such pressure further increases the person’s stress levels and undermines their performance.

What’s even more problematic is that one negative employee experience can decrease the person’s psychological safety by up to 35%, according to Gartner. And when people feel threatened in one way or another, they tend to make rash moves. As a result, the same study suggests that employee misconduct can increase by as much as 33% at workplaces with low physiological safety.

One of the best employee motivation techniques for addressing this issue is to create a simple process for reporting any sorts of unethical behaviors. Make it clear that your company has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, shouting, and other impromptu actions. Have your HR teams explain what steps you are taking to ensure greater physiological comfort and that no employee should be afraid to call out misconduct at any level.

3. Address and Prevent Employee Burnout

Keeping your employees productive does not equal making them overworked. Sadly, as much as 67% of employees state that they are sometimes, often, or always feel burned out at work.

A proper work-life balance is essential to mental wellbeing, which, in turn, drives higher day-to-day engagement. Some of the methods of employee engagement that can help create a more balanced work culture are as follows:

  • Allow a set number of work-from-home days per month
  • Restrict employee hours to prompt everyone to get more organized with their time
  • Suggest more flexible hours/arrangements for working parents
  • Set up a workplace volunteering program
  • Provide a personal wellness/health allowance
  • Allow a set number of personal ‘mental health days’ per year
  • Encourage (not fret upon) vacation time

4. Pitch More Career Development Opportunities

As much as 94% of employees said that they’d stay with their current employer longer if they felt that the company truly invested in their career development. High employee turnover and low engagement often stem from the fact that people feel confined to their roles and see no evident career progression path (even if there is one). That is why to maintain a high employee retention rate you should proactively educate your staff on possible career development opportunities.

Mind that vertical progression (a promotion) isn’t the only option for retaining and re-engaging key people. Most employees would happily look into horizontal growth opportunities — upskilling, training, certifications, and other education that could help them get even better in the current role.

A solid employee engagement best practice, in this case, is encouraging managers to advocate for and be held accountable for their subordinates’ development. In particular, prompt the team leaders to:

  • Recognize and celebrate people who made solid progress since they started the job.
  • Discuss, set, and report on short- and long-term goals that they’ve set for each team member.
  • Pitch suitable candidates for promotion or new roles to the recruiting department to ensure meaningful internal promotions.

Helpful template: Personal Growth

5. Promote Inclusivity

Diverse and inclusive organizations are more successful, be it in the workspace or remotely. Research shows that 20% in organizational inclusion further translates to:

  • 6.2% rise in an on-the-job effort
  • 5% rise in employees’ intent to stay with the company
  • 3% rise in individual employee performance.

Compound this with the fact that a diversity and inclusion policy also boosts your employer brand and you are sure to get that stakeholder buy-in for your employee engagement ideas, based around the idea of increasing D&I.

6. Steer a Culture of Continuous Feedback

Traditional employee engagement surveys are nice-to-conduct, but they rarely provide you with the full picture of employee well-being (or lack thereof). Rather than sending company-wide general surveys, move to a more individualized, metrics-driven approach to measuring the effectiveness of your efforts. Specifically, you should look into ways to capture and analyze the following metrics and KPIs:

  • Employee turnover rates
  • Levels of absenteeism
  • Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)
  • New hire failure rates
  • Employee retention percentage
  • Peer relationships metrics
  • Individual and team performance metrics
  • Job/role satisfaction scores

Helpful template: Net Promoter Score PowerPoint template by SlideModel

All of these act as strong proxies for employee engagement. Plus, by collecting this type of data you can further plug it to real-time big data analytics tools that would translate them into actionable insights that HR teams can act upon. The current state of machine learning enables algorithms to sift through all the data at hand and identify early patterns of dropping performance or engagement. By drawing early attention to areas of risks, managers could create more timely and personalized re-engagement plans for individuals instead of acting all surprised when a star employee brings in a resignation letter.

To Conclude

Employee engagement is challenging to get right, but expensive to get wrong. Lack of proactive care and attention towards your team directly impacts your company’s operational effectiveness. Furthermore, employees’ disengagement and frustrations will find a direct reflection on your customers in the form of poor customer experience. So it’s time to get proactive with employee engagement. You now have all the strategies you need for that!

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One Response to “Employee Engagement: 6 Strategies That Work”

  1. KAGISO masilo says:

    the article was very useful (employee engagement)

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