Human Resources

What’s the Secret to Employee Engagement?

By EverwiseJanuary 19, 2016

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to reflect on lessons learned and changes to make in the future. According to Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends Survey, employee engagement and culture have exploded onto the corporate scene as a top challenge, one that nearly 90% of companies worldwide face.

Technological innovation has brought increased transparency, which is in turn shaping the corporate environment. Employees are like customers – more than ever, companies have to consider them volunteers, not just workers. As such, two-thirds of HR respondents reported that they are seeking to develop engagement and retention programs but are playing catch-up. Nearly a quarter of them report that their organizations have a poor program to measure/improve engagement, or no program at all, and only 13% of employees are engaged at work, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace.

Gallup found that engaged workers stand apart from their disengaged counterparts because of the effort they consistently bring to their positions – they go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move business forward as opposed to “not-engaged employees,” who are essentially checked out, and “actively disengaged” employees, who aren’t just unhappy at work, but act out to undermine their engaged co-workers’ accomplishments.

In quantitative terms, engagement also impacts a company’s financial success. Engaged employees double their odds of success compared to disengaged employees. Teams ranking in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. They also see significantly less turnover as well as fewer safety incidents and quality defects. Additionally, many studies now show that companies with highly engaged employees can hire more easily and are more profitable in the long run.

What’s the secret to developing a loyal base of engaged employees?  The secret is: there is no secret! We gathered insights from industry experts and brought them together here to help you make a change in your workplace:

  1. Engagement starts at the top
    The Global Human Capital Trends Survey found that issues of culture and engagement are largely driven by leadership, so it is critical to make engagement a corporate strategic priority. While most leaders are measured on the basis of business results, organizations would benefit by holding leaders accountable for building a strong and enduring culture, listening to feedback, and engaging and retaining their teams. This will reinforce to leadership that engagement and retention is of top concern.
  2. Focus on engagement at the local and organizational levels
    While change requires leaders to set the tone from the top, that change occurs at the local team level, so managers and employees must be empowered to make a significant difference. The best managers understand that their success and that of the organization relies on their employees’ achievements. They care about their people’s success and seek to understand each person’s strengths, providing employees with every opportunity to use their strengths in their role. Select managers with the right traits and attitudes and develop incentives to motivate them to work with their employees in identifying barriers to engagement and opportunities to effect positive change. They are the experts on their teams, so they will have the best ideas to maximize their teams and deliver improved performance.
  3. Coach managers and hold them accountable for their employees’ engagement
    Management transparency has a 94% correlation with employee happiness according to Deloitte’s survey. While there are many drivers of employee engagement, one constant is their relationship with their direct manager. Research by Dale Carnegie has revealed that 80% of employees who are dissatisfied with their direct manager are disengaged. More than ever, employees don’t leave organizations; they leave people. Because direct managers have the greatest impact on employee engagement, it is critical to go above and beyond simply motivating or encouraging them and providing coaching to empower them with the tools necessary to foster meaningful relationships with their teams.
  4. Measure in real-time, with realistic, every-day terms
    Put programs and systems in place to evaluate and assess organizational culture, using models or tools to better understand where it’s strong, weak, and how it feels to workers. Start by surveying your employees  to gather data and benchmark the company. Then use tools to make sure you’re tracking the correct metrics, which are linked with business performance improvements. In order to be effective, goals must be meaningful in the context of employees’ day-to-day experiences. Make sure that managers discuss employee engagement at weekly meetings, action-planning sessions, and one-on-one meetings with employees to weave the topic into daily interactions and activities and engrain it into your organization’s DNA.
  5. Make work meaningful
    Coaching and feedback as well as authentic, transparent communication are key to help employees find meaning in their work. Describe what success looks like on the individual and organizational level using imagery and descriptive language to give meaning to their goals and builds commitment. Simplifying the work environment to reduce the burden of today’s 24-7 work environment can also help them focus on what’s important and feel empowered as opposed to constantly deluged with work.
  6. Listen to your employees
    Your workplace must evolve with your employees and their wants/needs. Millennials are shaping the modern workplace, and their desires, needs and values will mold organizations’ cultures and approach to employee engagement over the next decade. More than twice as many employees today are motivated by passion for their work versus career ambition, meaning that leadership will need to place new focus on purpose, mission, and work-life integration.
  7. Show gratitude
    Publicly recognizing employees for their contributions and achievements will not only motivate each individual to continue doing great work, but also their peers. Employees with supportive supervisors are 1.3 times more likely to stay with their companies and are 67% more engaged. Even a simple “thank you” can be a great way to build trust, restore strained relationships (or foster new ones), and energize the workplace.
  8. Make it fun!
    Having fun together not only breaks up the routine but also encourages creativity and collaboration, according to experts. Creating an environment where everyone at all levels (employees, management, and leadership) can get in on this fun will further contribute to authenticity, visibility, communication, and productivity.


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