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What is employee engagement? Definition, benefits and implementation strategies

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When employees are engaged at work, they’re happier and more productive in their roles. As a result, the business benefits from decreased costs and increased profits.

In this article, we’re going to explore what employee engagement is, how it could benefit your business, and ways you can implement employee engagement strategies.

Defining employee engagement

Employee engagement is a measure of employees’ enthusiasm and dedication to work.

Engaged employees care about their work and workplace, and believe their employer cares about them. They’re also more likely to feel like what they do makes a difference.

Employee satisfaction, meanwhile, is a measure of how happy someone is at work. Engaged employees are more likely to be satisfied employees.

Employee engagement is important for a successful workplace because if an employee isn’t engaged, they’re less productive, and may provide a lower quality of work. They’re also more likely to experience burnout.

Eventually, this will lead to them leaving, which will increase your employee turnover. All this will impact your customer satisfaction and workplace culture, and may cause decreased profits.

On the flip side, engaged employees experience greater workplace satisfaction and are therefore more productive in their roles.

They provide a greater quality of work and customer service, which translates to the business getting better reviews and making more money.

And, as employees are happier, they’re less likely to experience work-related stress, so they stay for longer, saving you the increased costs that come with hiring and training new employees.

Benefits of engaged employees in your workplace

Disengaged employees make up almost a quarter of the global workforce, according to Gallup research.

This is almost double the number of employees who are actively engaged, which sits at just 13%. But why does employee engagement matter?

Corporate Leadership Council discovered that: “Replacing employees who leave can cost up to 150% of the departing employee’s salary. Highly engaged organizations have the potential to reduce staff turnover by 87%; the disengaged are four times more likely to leave the organization than the average employee.”

Imagine the money that a business could save by reducing employee engagement by just 10%, let alone 87%. This could then be spent on other areas of the business, like upskilling existing employees or investing in a tool to help with your employee engagement initiatives.

When employees are engaged, it also makes them more productive and creative. This makes them more efficient problem solvers and better team players.

There’s also a significant link between employee engagement and employee well-being.

Gallup also found that the relationship between the two is reciprocal. When employees are happy in their roles, they’re less likely to burn out or feel stressed, and they can therefore do more.

How engaged – or disengaged – your employees are could therefore make, or break, every area of the business.

Strategies for improving employee engagement

There are many strategies you can adopt to improve employee engagement. These include:

Create a strategy

To benefit from high employee engagement, you need a solid engagement strategy. Establishing clear objectives for your employee engagement initiatives allows you to assess what’s working and what’s not so that you can lean into what gets you the best results.

Considering your company values, and comparing any strategies to these, can help. This will give you a clear direction for your employee engagement initiatives, as well as ensure you’re not sending conflicting messages that could lead to confusion and disengagement instead.

Collect employee feedback

It can help to include employees in the design process. That way, you know what they need from you as an employer, and everyone is working toward the same goals. They may also come up with valuable ideas you hadn’t already considered.

Sending out an employee survey is one way to collect employee feedback on your initiatives. Sending them regularly allows you to compare answers against your employee engagement metrics.

Your employee satisfaction survey could include questions on how they feel about company culture, their roles, their managers, work-life balance, etc.

Based on the answers to your engagement survey questions, you can evaluate where you are now and where you want to be. You can then adjust what you’re doing to further improve your employee engagement initiatives.

Other options to collect employee feedback include focus groups or a suggestion/feedback box where they can anonymously post their thoughts.

However you collect employee feedback, allowing them to share their opinions makes them feel more valued and improves their well-being.

Build an open, authentic culture

Another important strategy to improve employee engagement is building an open, honest company culture. Open communication allows everyone to feel valued and ensures they speak to each other in a positive, supportive way.

Open communication works both ways – positive and negative. While you want to be honest when someone has made a mistake and provide constructive feedback, you also want to praise them when they’ve succeeded. Eighty-two percent of employees feel that recognition is important to their workplace happiness.

When recognizing achievements, be authentic and personalize any praise. This will ensure employees believe the praise and feel valued.

Offer career growth opportunities

Offering career growth opportunities is another way to show employees they’re valued and supported.

Eighty-seven percent of millennials want professional or career growth opportunities. As they become the largest demographic group, this will become increasingly important.

Provide a greater work-life balance

Providing a greater work-life balance, and increased flexibility, doesn’t just benefit your employee retention.

It can also help you attract a wider talent pool – disabled employees, neurodivergent employees and working parents all have skills you could benefit from, but may not be able to work traditional hours. Increased flexibility allows you to tap into these neglected talent pools and reap the rewards.

Introduce initiatives from the start

It’s a lot easier to keep employees engaged if you introduce any engagement initiatives from the moment they join. Once someone’s habits and opinions are ingrained, it’s more challenging to change them.

Engaging new hires as early as possible, and teaching them about your company culture so they can adopt your practices, is therefore crucial.

You could even start before they join. Ways you could do this include:

  • Emailing them details of what will happen on their first day
  • Encouraging them to join ERGs, and
  • Sending a welcome pack.

Maintaining employee engagement over time

Sometimes maintaining momentum can be harder than getting started. But if you really want to benefit from employee engagement, you need to be consistent. If company culture changes from one day to the next, employees will feel confused and frustrated. You’ll experience more disengaged employees as a result.

Continuing improvement and adaptation of engagement programs show employees that you’re serious about improving employee engagement.

Make employee engagement a daily habit

It can help to incorporate engagement strategies into daily operations.

For example, if someone has made a mistake, demonstrating a no-blame culture and focusing on solving the problem makes it clear to them that you really won’t hold mistakes against them. They’ll therefore feel more supported in their role.

Establish a culture of ongoing feedback

Encouraging a culture of ongoing feedback and open communication plays a big role in how supported employees feel.

When they feel like they can speak up when they’re frustrated or have made a mistake, without fear of reprisals, they’re going to feel more valued in the workplace and therefore engage more in the workplace.

If employees feel like they’ll get blamed when something goes wrong, they’re less likely to feel valued at work or put as much effort into their role. Their productivity, and your profits, will suffer as a result.

Get leadership onboard

Even if there’s a change in leadership, new leaders should be just as committed to increasing employee engagement, if not more so.

Culture is set from the top down. If leaders aren’t actively working to create an engaged workforce, employees will wonder why they should, and job satisfaction will decrease.

Show employees you value them

Employees leave mainly because they don’t feel like anyone cares about them, according to Ed O’Boyle, Global Practice Leader at Gallup, when he spoke at Workhuman Live 2022. Making employees feel valued, and caring for their physical and mental well-being, should therefore be a focus of your company culture.

You could do this with regular check-ins to discuss employee well-being and ways you can support them.

Providing ERGs where employees can engage with their colleagues who share similar interests is another way to build a culture of belonging, allowing employees to be a part of not just the team that they work in, but the wider company, too.

A more engaged workforce leads to greater organizational success

A thriving workplace with engaged employees experiences greater productivity, fewer sick days, better company culture and greater profitability.

To do this, you need to make improving the employee experience a key part of your company culture. Leaders also need to embody this – the more leaders who reflect company values, the more significant the impact it will have.

The more you understand how to keep employees engaged, the more engagement initiatives you can adopt into everyday practice. Doing this starts by learning more about employee engagement and asking employees what they need from you. This will help you get the most out of them and increase your retention rates.

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