There’s a direct correlation between employee engagement, productivity, and profitability.
The statistics on employee engagement are not particularly encouraging for employers. In the United States, Gallup reports that just 36% of employees are engaged in their work — and that’s an improvement from past years. Globally, it’s even worse with just 1in 5 employees engaged at work.
What this tells us is that there’s a huge upside for improving engagement. So, let’s discuss why employee engagement is important and some employee engagement ideas to improve your workplace.
Why is employee engagement important?
Is employee engagement important? You bet it is. Study after study shows the dramatic impact when employees are involved and motivated in their work:
- Higher productivity
- Greater job satisfaction
- Higher retention and lower turnover
- More innovation
- Greater customer satisfaction
Engagement is a significant competitive advantage. When workers are engaged, they outperform their peers. Overall, organizations with high engagement levels are 21% more profitable on average.
6 strategies to foster employee engagement
Organizations spend a lot of time and money attracting, recruiting, and hiring a skilled workforce, but the job of getting (and keeping) employees excited about their job doesn’t stop after the onboarding process is complete. The best-performing companies know this is an ongoing effort that requires commitment.
As you look at our list of strategies designed to improve employee engagement, you’ll notice one theme throughout is consistent communication. It takes a concerted effort by business leaders to engage and communicate regularly.
Here are 6 proven strategies to improve engagement by your workforce.
1. Provide recognition
A Harvard Business Review survey showed that 72% ranked recognition for high performers as one of the most important ideas for employee engagement.
How often do you recognize your employees for good work? Just 1 in 3 U.S. workers surveyed said they have received recognition for their work in the past week — roughly the same number that say they’re engaged. Coincidence?
To be effective, recognition should be:
- Frequent: Celebrate even minor wins regularly.
- Timely: Recognition should happen immediately following goal or milestone attainment.
- Noticeable: Foster public recognition among peers.
- Social: Create opportunities for others to add their recognition.
- Personal: Recognition should be tailored to individuals.
Recognition doesn’t have to be formal or expensive to be successful. Even a simple thank you in a public way can make a big difference. A Harvard Business Review survey showed that 72% ranked recognition for high performers as one of the most important ideas for employee engagement.
2. Create alignment
The most engaged employees are those that find purpose in their work. Employers need to ensure team members know — and understand — company goals and how their individual contributions help achieve these goals. When there’s alignment, productivity blossoms.
Rather than focusing on performance management, companies emphasizing performance alignment see higher employee engagement.
Many organizations struggle with this concept, especially as goals change or evolve. Employees need regular reminders of the importance of meeting goals, the role they play in success, and what benefits they get from achieving them.
Alignment needs to be part of a company’s culture and reinforced by an organization’s senior leadership. To be effective, individual goals and performance reviews must be aligned with company goals.
3. Offer training and development opportunities
Nearly a third of employees report they’ve never received any formal workplace training even though 93% of employees say training and development programs improve their engagement.
When employees see their organization investing in their career growth, they are more:
- Likely to stay at a company longer
- Proficient at their jobs
- Productive and engaged
In today’s difficult labor market, training and developing employees is also a smart move when it comes to creating the next generation of managers and leaders. When employees get promoted, it can also show others what it takes to get recognized and rewarded and provide additional incentives for engagement.
4. Maintain fair pay plans
Nothing can kill engagement and morale faster than when one employee finds out another doing a similar job is making more than they are.
Compensation is the second-largest contributor to job satisfaction, and employees today are demanding fair and equitable pay plans.
No matter what you think, employees share pay rates, so you need to make sure there’s a logical salary scale for team members based on experience, merit, performance, and role. You’re also in competition with every other company out there. So, you also need to make sure that your salaries are in line with industry norms, supply and demand, and location. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of benefits packages in the overall compensation.
5. Be flexible
With more than 11 million current job openings in the U.S., workers have more options than ever before. Today’s workers are demanding greater flexibility in their jobs and many are leaving companies that won’t provide that flexibility.
As employees got comfortable working from home, many are simply refusing to return to the office. Nearly 2/3rds of workers say they are currently exploring job and career options. What’s more, they value workplace flexibility and the ability to work remotely full-time or on a hybrid schedule almost as much as salary and benefits.
Besides remote-work options, employees are also seeking flexibility such as:
- Condensed workweeks
- Customized working hours
- Part-time positions
- Job sharing
- Flexible vacation time, including unlimited paid time off
6. Manage the disengaged workers
No matter your efforts, some employees will be actively disengaged. We’ve all worked around these types. They’re consistently negative, often vocal about being unhappy, and can create toxic environments that impact everyone around them.
No matter how skilled they are at their job, they negatively impact engagement in the workplace and rarely change their attitude.
You need to remove the negativity one way or another to avoid unhappy employees from disrupting the workplace for everyone else.
Business leaders must recognize the impact this group of employees has on overall morale and motivation and take proactive steps to address this. You need to remove the negativity one way or another to avoid unhappy employees from disrupting the workplace for everyone else.
When managers fail to deal with poor performers or “problem employees,” they are increasing the risk top performers will leave.
Creating a more engaged workforce
The good news in all of this is that employee engagement can be improved by following through on just a handful of ideas, most which don’t cost a cent. Even a minimal investment can make a big difference, especially when you compare it to the costs involved in allowing disengaged employees to dominate your workforce.