Every business owner and manager dreams of having team members that care deeply about their business and take personal pride in their work. However, those employees can be hard to find – and that level of enthusiasm and dedication can be more difficult to maintain over time. In fact, highly engaged employees are a somewhat rare breed – according to Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace Report, only 13% of employees worldwide consider themselves to be actively engaged.
That said, having a team of highly engaged employees who have a passion for their work is what makes a business grow and become truly exceptional – so while it is difficult, building employee engagement can be one of the most important and gratifying aspirations that a manager, owner or member of the C-Suite can take on.
It Begins And Ends At The Top
Employee engagement starts with you. Your team needs to see how much effort you put in – that you are willing to go the extra mile and beyond, whether that is staying late, coming in early, doing extra research, educating yourself on new topics and industry trends, or otherwise putting your all into your work.
That’s easy when it is your own company that you’re running – after all, no one cares about your business as much as you do yourself. That said, managers, executives, department heads and other leaders should also care; for those in leadership positions, the performance of your team is a direct reflection on you!
Why Should You Be Concerned?
Hopefully you want to improve employee engagement at least partially because you care about your employees as people, not just cogs in a machine (if that’s already your thought process, you might be in the wrong place reading this article – but hopefully we can shift your mindset). Employees who have a sense of accomplishment at work are happier individuals overall, and that shows in their productivity – it is a win-win situation all around.
Engagement also improves overall morale, customer satisfaction and customer service, decreases turnover, improves workplace safety (where applicable), lowers shrinkage in retail and similar environments, and reduces the number of write-ups and need for disciplinary action in general.
Internal Assessments: Measuring Employee Engagement
Like any new initiative, you should start by seeing where you stand – develop a baseline measurement of how engaged your employees are. Examine hard stats like your turnover rate and employee retention as well as the number of types of problems like shrinkage, accidents, and other negative incidents that require intervention from management.
Furthermore, perhaps you have some trusted senior team members that you can ask about what’s really going on in your office? Also pay attention to softer metrics like overall morale – how happy do people seem? Does your team participate in company events or other activities outside of work? This type of anecdotal feedback can be astonishingly valuable.
Finally, you can use anonymous workplace surveys (there are plenty of private tools online for that – both free and paid, depending on your needs and budget) to determine what people really think and what would motivate them to improve.
Steps To Improve Engagement
Financial compensation such as raises, bonuses, and other types of benefits are always helpful, but the intangibles can matter just as much – if not more. Company activities, publicly praising team members who reached certain goals, or even buying lunch or a round of happy drinks for the team can go a long way towards them feeling more appreciated and foster a culture of recognition.
Simply being accessible for conversation is great as well – many disengaged employees may feel like the boss simply doesn’t understand, so having a real conversation with them can be enlightening for both sides – and don’t be afraid to be somewhat transparent and let them see the bigger picture and the future of the company, and their potential place in it. Nothing inspires positive action like giving someone new goals and aspirations.
Offering various learning or self-improvement options such as paying for conferences, books, online courses, tuition reimbursement, or ways for your employees to continue their education is also an excellent way to help your employees develop their skills and take a more active role within your company.
Finally, sometimes the most important steps are the simplest – provide regular constructive criticism and clear feedback, and let the team know exactly what you expect of them on a regular basis. And empower them to reply honestly and ask for the support they need to do their job well!
Reward Active Displays Of Engagement
Last but most certainly not least, rewarding employees who actively show engagement through extra compensation, verbal shows of appreciation, or prizes for meeting goals (such as an additional days off, some kind of department outing or party, or fun items like iPads or other appropriate gifts) can help motivate the team.
However, nothing really works as well as getting in the trenches right along side the team – show that you – the boss man or lady – are engaged, and your employees are most likely to follow suit.