How engaged are your employees? How much do they buy into your company vision?
One recent study found that globally, only 13% of employees are actively engaged on a daily basis. Your workforce doesn’t just magically begin to buy into your company vision. Increasing employee engagement is a process that requires a comprehensive strategy, built on both your current and desired corporate culture. For your efforts to drive tangible business results, consider these nine tips to improve your employee engagement.
1) Get the C-Suite to Buy-In
For consistent success, employee engagement has to be a comprehensive, organization-wide strategy. That, in turn, requires buy-in from organizational units across your business.
As a senior HR leader, you will be responsible for implementing and monitoring many of the below activities. Still, you will need leadership backup throughout the business for lasting success. To get that buy-in, consider highlighting some of the below benefits of engaged employees, courtesy of recent Gallup research:
- Significantly decreased absenteeism, with more employees feeling motivated enough to come to work every morning.
- Lower turnover in all types of organizations, as workers are more likely to stay at a company where they feel motivated.
- Smaller risks of safety incidents and quality defects, with engaged and motivated workers buying in enough to take personal pride in successful, safe work.
- Higher productivity, sales, and customer satisfaction as a result of a workforce willingly acting as an extension of the brand.
Many other studies and surveys have found similar results. Executed correctly, a strategy to activate your employees will lead to business benefits across the organization. These actual statistics will be vital in getting the entire leadership team to buy in.
2) Refine the Onboarding Process
That first impressions matter is not just a cliche. Especially when it comes to your workforce, that statement remains entirely valid. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, one-third of employees across industries leave within six months. A structured, relevant onboarding process can help to prevent the problem.
In fact, the quest for employee engagement starts the first time a new hire walks in the door. How they are introduced to the work, expectations, and business practices of your organization will shape their interactions with it in the future.
The right onboarding process, of course, is more than just factual learning about the job at hand. It introduces new hires to your corporate culture and provides the opportunity to ask questions. Employees who go through this type of qualitative process become much more likely to be actively engaged.
3) Recognize Employee Accomplishments
Why should your workforce engage with and feel connected to your brand and business? Ideally, that process is intrinsic. Still, it doesn’t hurt to add some external motivation to the process, as well.
As software CEO Mike Cappel points out, employees don’t become brand advocates simply because you say thank you. However, the opposite is true: workers who don’t feel recognized enough, or feel invisible to leadership, become twice as likely to quit.
Recognition, ideally, should come from multiple sources. Senior leadership in the worker’s organizational unit should play a part. So should peers, who can be encouraged to recognize their colleagues’ work with the right culture and mentorship programs.
4) Enhance Professional Development Opportunities
The correlation between professional development opportunities and employee engagement may be the clearest piece of evidence in this article. It’s simple: the more you help your workforce improve themselves and their career, the more likely they are to engage with your organization and brand. Professional development, of course, can take many shapes:
- Annual budget allocations for travel to conferences and training seminars
- Regular, company-hosted retreats and presentations from credible experts
- Time allotted each week for webinars and self-improvement for all workers
- Industry and professional publications available to all employees
- Tuition reimbursement for higher education courses relevant to your company and industry.
Studies have found that these and other professional development opportunities lead the average employee to be 15% more engaged. In other words, a strategic professional development program is a clear way to improve your employee engagement.
5) Increase Employee-Brand Associations
How closely do your employees relate to the brand of your business? This question is just as important in B2B industry as it would be in their consumer-facing counterparts. The more closely your workers associate themselves with the company for whom they work, the more their engagement and productivity increases.
Employee advocacy can also be a crucial marketing tool. Your workforce can add third-party credibility to your messages to potential buyers. The closer you can relate your brand to the people who work to support it, the more benefits you will begin to see.
Getting there tends to be complicated. One way to accomplish it is to make sure that every employee, no matter their functional expertise, gets to see the finished product or service they helped to produce or provide. Internal discounts and input in the decision-making process can also help to build employees’ internal connection with the company they work for.
6) Encourage Work Ownership
In a way, this tactic is an extension of the previous one. Employees naturally buy in if they see the larger whole, which allows them to associate themselves with the company they work for closely. The same concept is magnified if they feel ownership in the outcomes of their employer.
The most literal definition, of course, is a system, in which employees own shares or share in the earnings of the company. Designated work ownership tends to align the goals of employees and employers, encouraging them to work harder because they will see the tangible benefits of that work.
More subtle ways to accomplish the same general principle also exist. Consider the concept of idea ownership, in which employees at every level are encouraged to share and help implement strategic improvement suggestions on a company-wide basis. This tactic, a core part of modern six sigma management, builds buy-in by raising the stakes in the company’s current and future success.
7) Emphasize Your Team’s Work-Life Balance
You might have heard about the rising importance of work-life balance, especially for younger professionals entering the workforce. One recent survey, in fact, found that it is the most important factor for job satisfaction. Meanwhile, the majority of employees see it as a more important reason to choose a job than money.
The concept, again, is relatively simple. If you give your team the opportunity to balance their work stress with their professional life, they will become more likely to be motivated and engaged when they do work. You can accomplish that goal through several initiatives:
- Flexible hours, allowing for personal commitments like dropping off children at daycare
- Remote working opportunities, from home or multiple locations within your company
- Regular social events on and off premises, with the opportunity to invite close family
8) Build a Corporate Wellness Program
Through many of the tactics above, you may have noticed a trend: mental well-being matters to achieve comprehensive employee engagement. Physical well-being, however, can have just as much of an impact.
The right wellness program is a core benefit for both potential and current employees. It helps to build both the perception that your business cares about its workforce, but also offers tangible benefits for both the organization and its workers. A wellness program increases employee health, which in turn tends to reduce healthcare costs for both parties.
Crucially, it also leads to higher engagement. Your employees find reasons to stay with your company and begin to think of it as more than just the place where they get some work done. As a result, they start to buy in, recognizing the benefit as outreach by leadership that they’ll be glad to reciprocate.
9) Measure and Benchmark Your Engagement Rates
Finally, regardless of which of the above tactics you choose to implement, it pays to take a data-driven approach. Start with a benchmark of exactly where you stand in engagement rates, focusing on metrics related to how closely your employees connect to their job. Then, begin to implement improvements, and keep measuring.
Part of your strategy should include regular ‘checkpoints’ at which you determine whether substantive changes are occurring as a result of your programs. Monthly or annual benchmarks can help you measure success both as a historical trend and to compare yourself against industry metrics.
With that data in hand, you can begin to adopt a more strategic engagement strategy over time. You will start to find out which tactics work, and which need further refinement. The resulting resource prioritization will be a crucial part in driving employee engagement not just for its own sake, but to tangibly improve your business.
In many ways, employee engagement has become a buzzword that organizations across industries seek to implement. However, without a strategic approach, you will be unlikely to succeed. Buy-in from across the organization measures specifically designed to improve engagement, and a data-driven approach to defining and approach success all help to achieve that goal.