What is Employee Engagement?
why does Employee Engagement matter?
Any organization is only as strong as its employees. Even the best ideas will ultimately falter if the people tasked with executing them aren’t committed.
Engagement is distinctly different than satisfaction. An employee could be content in his role, and show up every day without complaining, without actually being invested in the greater goals of the organization. Such a person is unlikely to put in extra effort when it’s required, and may not identify opportunities to go the extra mile when they arise. While this is better than the alternative—a company full of unsatisfied employees—businesses should strive to go beyond that minimum and to nurture workforces that are actively participatory and tuned into the company mission.
Achieving this goal is an ongoing struggle for many organizations. In a Harvard Business Review survey, under one quarter of respondents characterized the employees in their organizations as “highly engaged,” despite the fact that 71 percent described employee engagement as important to their success. Clearly, there is work to be done.
WHY IS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT VALUABLE?
An engaged workforce is valuable in a wide variety of ways. At a high level, there’s a financial incentive. Engaged employees work harder, and tend to be more productive, which benefits the bottom line: according to a Global Workplace study conducted by Towers Watson, companies with engaged employees are on average 6 percent more profitable than those that struggle in this area.
Kenexa research noted a similar impact, finding that businesses with motivated employees have five times the shareholder returns within a five-year window.
The benefits go beyond output. Employee turnover is an expensive reality of business, and it gets worse with a disengaged workforce. Even relative satisfaction is not enough to prevent people from leaving—if the only reason your employees continue to stay with your organization is the paycheck, they’re not likely to stick around long after getting a better offer from a competitor.
This issue shows no signs of abating. Gallup has described millennials as the “job-hopping generation,” citing how many are regularly looking for new roles. Creating a strong company culture requires keeping these employees for extended periods, which in turn requires creating an environment where they feel engaged. Gallup found that only 29 percent of millennials feel emotionally attached to their work, which in part explains their willingness to jump ship.
On the other hand, engaged employees feel more loyalty to their organizations, and are willing to stick it out for the long haul. This leads to them cultivating institutional knowledge, improving in their roles and functioning as integral parts of establishing and maintaining a culture centered around hard work and mutual respect.
THE IMPACT OF ENVIRONMENT ON EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
Engaging employees goes beyond offering a salary in line with industry standards. It also requires creating an atmosphere where they feel comfortable enough to be happy to come into the office every day, but also motivated enough to do their best work once they arrive.
These days, creating that environment requires some outside-of-the-cubicle thinking. There are a number of things that you can do to transform your workspace into one where people feel comfortable making an emotional investment. They include:
- Hang up motivational posters: Looking at blank walls all day is enough to sap the
energy of even the most devoted worker. Shake up that routine by adding colorful wall art with positive messages that remind everybody in the office what you are all working toward.
- Decorate Desks: Employees that are treated as interchangeable cogs are going to feel like they’re replaceable. Celebrate their differences by encouraging them to bring in personal items while also supplying them with functional & motivational gifts like Successories mousepads, mugs, notecubes and more.
- Embrace color: There is no law that says office walls have to be white. Adding brighter hues to the office can help transform it from a drab, boring place, to one that people enjoy and are excited to be in. Using your company colors is also a good way to reinforce branding and create a greater sense of cohesion. Meeting rooms can also benefit from brightly painted whiteboard walls. Scatter dry erase markers that employees can use to brainstorm or doodle.
RECOGNITION IS KEY TO ENGAGEMENT
When it comes to driving engagement, few things have a more reliably positive impact than regular recognition. Employees of all levels and backgrounds enjoy being told when they’ve done a good job, and it’s one of the best ways to reinforce good habits. The statistics show that:
- Turnover is 31 percent lower at companies that have recognition programs, Bersin found.
- 60 percent of Best-in-Class organizations noted that recognition is a powerful performance driver, per the Aberdeen Group.
- Companies that spend at minimum one percent of payroll on recognition see a positive impact 85 percent of the time, per Globoforce.
Highlighting good work done by employees shouldn’t only happen within the context of quarterly or semiannual reviews. Rather, it should be a consistent process that is directly connected to people doing good work. Small, regular tokens of appreciation can have a strong impact on cohesion and engagement, and are not difficult to implement.
You could give a travel thermos to an employee that’s been working overtime and relying on coffee-fueled mornings to get an important project done well. Or, give an awesome talking stress reliever to that person who has deftly dealt with a litany of difficult clients. These small but meaningful gifts clearly connect positive behavior with a positive reward, and go a long way toward creating an invested workforce.
PROMOTE ENGAGEMENT AT MEETINGS
Meetings are valuable times for promoting engagement. When facilitated poorly, they can have a negative effect: if people are forced to slog through long meetings where their minds wander and their eyes glaze over, they won’t come out of them feeling more invested in the goals of the company.
You can avoid this pitfall by making meetings an opportunity for collaboration and learning. Encourage people to take notes and voice opinions. Employees want to feel heard, and by giving them a platform to share, you can stoke those feelings.
Making meetings more productive and collaborative can start as easily as passing out new office supplies with a motivational message of your choice. Have every employee bring a notebook and pen to every meeting, and take notes on any ideas that come up while they are listening.
Instead of a group of people staring blankly ahead or surreptitiously checking their phones, meetings will become an environment where people are thinking, learning and growing.
Every person has a unique perspective. Good ideas can come from anywhere, and you’re not fully leveraging the expertise you have at your disposal if employees don’t feel comfortable—or interested—in talking during meetings. When people give their opinions on a subject, they are inherently more invested in it, and the more employees have contributed to an endeavor, the more that will feel ownership over it.
ENGAGEMENT IS ABOUT MINDSET
No one action will magically cause employees to be engaged. However, consistently looking to encourage employees will in turn lead them to want to support the organization as a whole. Extending respect to your workforce could lead to higher profits, lower turnover and a stronger company overall.