Transparency at Work

How to Improve Employee Engagement

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Emma Cullen2021-10-06
Employee engagement is an increasingly important focal point for HR professionals and organizations everywhere. So, what is it? Why is it important? How can you implement it easily into your organization in a fun way?

Organizations who strive to keep their employees engaged do so by providing the tools and an environment that helps people perform to their best abilities. It has been noted that engaged employees are more committed to their organization’s goals and values, and are more highly motivated to contribute in a positive way.

What is employee engagement?

Depending on what site you visit you will probably get a different version of, essentially, the same idea. Employee engagement is a measure of how invested employees are in their work and their organization. Engagement is one of the main factors that drive performance and output.  

As Kevin Kruse notes, this is not about how happy an employee is or how satisfied they are, it’s more about how committed employees are. The way to differentiate is to think of motivation and ask how motivated someone is to do their job, and importantly, to do their job well. This is the crucial factor to keep in mind. Our individual motivations may be different but those are motivated in their work are more likely to be productive and to thrive in their role.

What is an engaged employee? 

An engaged employee feels that they are a fully-integrated member of their team, supported by regular and constructive feedback, and helped to develop new skills within their role. They know their goals and have a solid understanding of their role and how they contribute to both the team and company. The key takeaway is that engaged employees are passionate about the work they do and are far more likely to do things to their utmost ability. 

Conversely, disengaged workers tend to do the bare minimum and are far less likely to put in discretionary effort. Now this is not to say that all employees are either engaged or disengaged. Many experts agree that there are, in fact, three levels of engagement - Actively engaged, not engaged, Actively disengaged. 

What you’re likely to see from these two other groups is at best, people doing the bare minimum and at worst spreading negativity through their teams and company as a whole. Likewise, they aren’t likely to leave a glowing review of the company and you will probably also notice that productivity levels are less than satisfactory.

What does it mean for employers and organizations?

Engaged organisations have a strong and genuine company culture, trust and fairness based on mutual respect, and two-way commitments, between employers and employees. This creates an overall positive environment and a positive atmosphere for work. Both a positive and negative is that engagement can easily spread. The effect of highly engaged management can spread down to smaller teams and the individuals in those teams.  

For companies, employee engagement is about nurturing positive attitudes which lead to better business outcomes. An organization who works actively with employee engagement will have employees who take pride in working as part of a team. With this comes loyalty, and employers can help to reduce things such as sick leave, whilst increasing productivity.

How can you improve employee engagement?

So here is the million dollar question, and really this is for many companies an important financial consideration. From more profitable teams, to spending less on recruitment costs, making a concentrated effort to improve employee engagement is both a smart HR and financial decision.   

Let’s now look at what you can do to make your employees feel more invested and passionate about their work and your organization as a whole. We have included a few easily downloadable templates to help get you started.

1. Set clear company & team goals 

2. Encourage feedback

3. Get management onboard

4. Run regular surveys 

5. Focus on career development

6. Promote transparency 

7. Improve collaboration

1. Set clear company & team goals 

An important characteristic of an engaged employee is that they see clear value and meaning in the work that they do. Working without vision or end goal is a fast track to a demoralized employee. By providing clear and well-communicated goals on both a company and team level you can provide employees with goals they can feel they are helping contribute to. Clear goals on a company level should trickle down to departments and then down to individual teams; this way everyone can see the end they are contributing towards.

Team Goals Meeting

Team Goals Meeting

2. Encourage feedback

Feedback is not just a way of letting employees know if they are doing a good job but a way in which you can help guide them to understanding if their contributions are affecting team goals, targets, and objectives. Feedback likewise, does not mean criticism, the goal should be to help employees improve their work and give them something to strive for, an important part of engagement. Additionally, positive reinforcement is obviously a good way to show appreciation but can be a great way to guide employees and help eliminate the imposter syndrome many face when starting a new job.

Feedback Session

Feedback Session

3. Get management onboard

I mentioned earlier that engagement can have a trickle down effect. Leadership, both positive and negative, can have exponential effects on a workforce. Having highly motivated and passionate managers lead teams will much likelier lead to more engaged teams. Gallup notes how crucial managers are to engagement levels, so it’s vital to make sure that leaders in your company understand the importance of engagement and the impact they will have on others.

4. Run regular surveys 

If you want to know exactly what it is you need to improve then you need to ask. If you want to know if your changes had any effect, then you need to ask. Running regular engagement surveys is how you can ask questions and gather actionable insights. By giving your employees the opportunity to give honest and well-thought out opinions you will learn what engagement levels look like, what needs to be addressed immediately, and what aspects of your organization are working well.

Employee Engagement Survey

Employee Engagement Survey

Click to learn more about Employee Engagement Surveys. 

5. Focus on career development

When I say career development here I mean so much more than a pay raise or a change in job title. The goal here should be to clearly map out what an employee's progression path can look like and what the organization can do to help them achieve this. We spoke about team and company goals earlier but the focus here should be on helping employees achieve personal goals. Whether this be additional training, workshops, or courses, work to map out a reliable and comprehensive professional development framework that will help keep everyone motivated now and in the future. 

6. Promote transparency 

If you want people to be passionate about working for your organization then you have to give people the opportunity to voice their opinions and let them feel like their opinion matters. This ties into the idea of contributing towards company goals, the aim here should be to have everyone invested in the company culture and vision, thus letting people have their say, voice their opinions, and share their stories is a vital factor in having everyone row in the same direction.

Company Update and Q&A

Company Update and Q&A

7. Improve ways of working

Most companies should aspire to have as little friction as possible when it comes to cross-team and cross-department collaboration. This can be difficult to achieve but eliminating blockers from people’s day to day duties is a key component to streamlining work and breaking down barriers and silos. Additional stressors, unnecessary hurdles, and extra hoops to jump through can be prime reasons why someone would be unmotivated to do their work. A streamlined ways of working can help ensure everyone has the opportunity to do their work to the best of their ability while limiting external factors.

The first step to engaged employees

We hope you understand a bit more the value of an engaged workforce and just how important it is to the overall health of a company. It is something that every good HR department should monitor and consider when looking to implement new strategies or policies. We also have this Engagement Workshop template that teams can use to discuss in smaller groups. It is ideal if you think teams may need to have more conversations about engagement or you want to foster more conversations about the topic.

Engagement Check-In

Engagement Check-In

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