Employee engagement is not just the concern of the HR department – in a fast paced, always connected world where talent is increasingly in short supply, employee engagement should be recognised as an integral component of wider-business strategy.
The most compelling argument for proactively investing in, managing and sustaining employee engagement is that to ignore it, is to allow productivity, creativity and innovation to plummet, not to mention for costs to rise. The proof is compelling– with the likes of Deloitte, Gensler, Forbes, The Harvard Business Review and Gallop just some of the organisations investigating the connection between engagement and productivity.
Research from Gallup suggests that 83% of the UK workforce is either disengaged or ambivalent about their job or the company they work for and that employees who use their strengths, skills and abilities every day are six more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to leave their jobs. With disengagement costing up to $550billion in lost productivity around the globe each year, it’s quite clear that business leaders can ill-afford a workforce that is anything less than engaged. Failure to address it, is a significant opportunity wasted.
Here are seven key ways to boost employee engagement and put it at the heart of business strategy:
1. Shared purpose and values
80% of employees feel more engaged when their work in-line with their employer’s mission and values.
Achieving a sense of shared purpose starts with a healthy culture, where internal communication is strong, and individuals understand how their contribution matters in relation to company goals. This need for shared purpose is particularly important to the younger generation and is integral to their work ethos and career motivation. Research shows that 42% of the workforce wants to work for a company that makes a positive impact, 44% would prefer meaningful work to a high salary and 36% would work harder if their employer benefited the wider community.
2. Community and collaboration
Employees with a best friend at work are seven times more productive than those without.
Happiness drives productivity and so opportunities to collaborate, work with others and forge meaningful relationships, perhaps even friendships, are important within the workplace. Regular team meetings, staff nights out, wellbeing activities, buddy-schemes, learning lunches and CSR activities all help to forge the strong personal connection between colleagues and the camaraderie that can drive individual, team and company performance.
3. Praise and incentives
70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve if managers took the time to say thank you more.
It’s not surprising that employees want to feel their contribution is valued. Employees who receive praise, recognition and thanks have greater job satisfaction and are more productive too. Outstanding workplaces rely on praise, recognition and incentives to motivate employees, remind them of their work and encourage consistent high performance.
4. Culture of trust, innovation and space
70% of employees’ rank being empowered to solve problems and embrace new opportunities as an important part of their engagement.
Trust forms the basis of all positive interactions in the workplace, particularly as more and more employers embrace flexible working arrangements and activity-based workplace design. With work no longer a place, but an activity, it’s important for employees to feel they are trusted and empowered to work when, where and how they see fit, with the focus on productivity and output, rather than presenteeism or hours worked. Trust is also instrumental in encouraging people to think more laterally, innovate, problem solve and take responsibility for decisions.
5. Workplace wellbeing.
91% of workers in companies that support well-being say they feel motivated to do their best and 89% are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work.
The happier and healthier the employee, the more focused, loyal, productive and present they are. Workplace wellbeing programmes that span physical and mental health help to reduce the number of sick days (as well as long-term sickness and eventual staff attrition), which in turn saves money, keeps knowledge within the business and drives productivity. Putting greater focus on wellness programmes is an investment in workplace culture and could include on-site fitness activities, access to employee assistance (eg giving up smoking, weight loss, counselling), financial education and more. With more care, focus and attention given to employees’ needs, both professionally and personally, it is possible to unlock extra discretionary effort and build a loyal and motivated workforce.
6. Progression and learning.
Businesses with a strong learning culture enjoy employee engagement and retention rates around 30-50% higher than those that don’t.
Career progression and opportunities to learn new skills are important wants from today’s workforce. Workers without the opportunity for advancement will stagnate, fee less valued and become less engaged, which can in turn impact wider morale and productivity. It is important and lucrative for employers to put robust training and personal development plans in place as this helps to develop skills, spur innovation and retain top talent.
7. Resilient workplace design.
85% of employees are dissatisfied with their workplace.
Strong office design can make employees up to 33% happier at work.
An important enabler of employee engagement is the workplace for it is where employees collaborate, experience workplace culture, develop ideas, learn new skills, build relationships and interact with the brand. With creative and considered workplace design, it is possible to boost employee engagement and create a happy, health and motivated workforce that takes pride in its surroundings, each other and their work. Examples include providing activity-based work settings, creating stimulating and engaging spaces that help to spark creativity, equipping spaces with innovative technology and incorporating areas for rest, relaxation, learning and socialisation.
IBM’s The Employee Experience Index highlights the shifting needs of the modern worker “ “Now we are entering the cognitive era. It is a time when work can be a more rewarding experience for employees.” At a time when access to the best talent is highly competitive and companies are working hard to find innovative ways to improve productivity and output with the same resource, it’s important to remember the direction correlation between employee engagement and business performance. The figures make compelling reading, companies with engaged employees see 233% greater customer loyalty and a 26% greater annual increase in revenue. Leveraging this knowledge and putting employee engagement at the very centre of business strategy could make all the difference between business survival and long-term prosperity.
A consultative approach.
As a society, we have a lot to learn from how we approach our own personal change journeys. Self-imposed change is often approached with trepidation, enthusiasm and excitement as we embark on lifestyle changes or begin a new job. In an age of business-critical and self-imposed change, the challenge of how to engender enthusiasm in the workforce rather than fear, or worse still apathy, is very real. At a time when employees expect consultation and co-creation, it’s no longer appropriate or wise to develop new work environments without soliciting their views and actively engaging them in the process. Meeting this need for inclusion is best achieved by gauging employees’ views on every aspect of the workplace experience, from how they view the quality of the coffee to personal rewards, management styles, technological provision and working cultures. For workplaces to drive efficiency, productivity, morale and innovation, they must be coupled with great change management and behavioural and attitudinal transformation programmes. Communicating in an informative and timely manner is important, even for those aspects of a project that individuals can’t influence and control. Feeling ‘in the loop’ rather than ‘in the dark’ is helpful in its own right. In addition, creating the opportunity for various groups to contribute to and influence some aspect of change is empowering. All businesses must strive to unlock greater productivity from their people if they are to compete in an increasingly competitive age. While culture might seem intangible, its benefits can be felt and seen in the everyday behaviours of employees and the contribution they make. For business leaders in pursuit of more, taking a closer look at what binds, unites and motivates their people is a very important first step.