Employee engagement can truly make or break your business. Workers who care about their jobs, and care about doing them well, tend to be productive, communicative and motivational. By contrast, disengaged workers can slow down production, make mistakes, alienate customers and tank employee morale. You have limited resources to dedicate to improving engagement. Don’t waste them on inefficient employee engagement activities that don’t get real results. The key to actually bringing about change in your workplace? Focusing on strategies that are customized to your specific employees.
Consult Your Workforce
You’re not a mind reader. So while you can make educated guesses about the reasons your employees aren’t fully engaged, you can’t know the cause/s of the disconnect without going to the source: Your employees. It’s an ineffective use of your resources to try to address employee dissatisfaction without identifying the root cause.
For example, say a manager looks around and realizes that workers aren’t talking to each other. Because he thinks collaboration is important to productivity, he might decide that they need to bond more outside of work and insist on establishing a weekly company-sponsored happy hour. If the real reason that no one makes small talk in the break room is that everyone is too overwhelmed by an unrealistic workload, pressuring employees into socializing after work won’t help.
Distributing employee surveys is one way to identify the factors contributing to disengagement. Giving employees anonymity should encourage them to share their true concerns. Ask for actionable suggestions about how to make employees feel valued and motivated.
Keep in mind that engagement may ebb and flow over time, depending on what’s happening within your workplace. Stay on top of new issues by checking in with employees regularly. You might survey the workforce once to establish a baseline and then run more surveys every two to three months thereafter.
Remember asking a parent why you had to do something, and being told “because I said so” in return? It might have convinced you to get moving on your chores, but you probably weren’t enthusiastic about it. That isn’t a dynamic that’s always useful in the workplace. Yes, management can expect that employees will follow directions and respect certain boundaries. To drive engagement, however, the employer has to prove that employees are respected and valued as professional adults.
One way to start is by committing to share more information with employees. Say you can’t afford to give out bonuses this year, for example. You could tell workers that bonuses are cancelled and refuse to answer questions. That strategy is likely to cause resentment and place management and employees on opposite sides of a battle. Or you could explain that sales were down in the last quarter, and share whatever you can about what needs to happen for bonuses to resume.
Open Clear Paths to Advancement
Many of your employees won’t want to stay in their current jobs forever. It’s hard to feel engaged with a job that seems like it’s not going anywhere or leading to anything new. One way to change that dynamic is to help employees visualize the paths their careers could take. You might accomplish that through one-on-one meetings where you discuss employees’ career goals, and ways they can grow within your company.
Keep in mind that advancement means more than just promotions. Fifty-nine percent of millennials surveyed for Gallup’s 2016 How Millennials Want to Work and Live said that having opportunities to learn and grow was a top priority when choosing where to work. Appeal to those workers by supporting mentorships between newer and more experienced employees, paying for employees to access professional training resources and providing opportunities for employees to take on new responsibilities.
Offer Meaningful Employee Recognition
You could start an employee-of-the-month program and hand out a little plaque each month…. but it’s unlikely to inspire any more effort or enthusiasm than you’re currently getting from your workforce. When you’re surveying employees about engagement, ask them for specific suggestions for ways they’d like to be recognized. Expect most of the responses to mention more money and/or time off. Those are the rewards that many employees value most. If increasing pay isn’t an option, could you recognize employee efforts by offering PTO hours as a bonus or reward for hitting certain targets?
Recognition that is spontaneous and sincere tends to be more meaningful than canned remarks. Can you coach managers to acknowledge employees in the moment when they do something well, or establish some other system of publicly recognizing stellar employees? Feeling truly appreciated and valued by an employer can be a powerful motivator for an employee.
Improving employee engagement doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effort and vision on the part of the employer. Do you know how to get started? Learn more at Commonwealth’s recorded webinar, Strategies for Employee Engagement. Still have questions? Contact us today.