If you run a business or work in a management role, you have probably heard of employee engagement and its role in a company’s long-term success. But what is it exactly, and why is it so important?
To answer that question, we must first understand the distinction between employee engagement and job satisfaction. Despite popular belief, the two aren’t the same thing at all. It’s entirely possible to be satisfied with your employment situation while not being engaged. If an employee is engaged however, odds are they are more than happy with their job. Key difference? Productivity and performance.
Why engagement matters
There isn’t one generally agreed upon definition of employee engagement, but the one that in our mind works best defines it as “the extent to which people are personally invested in the success of a business”.
That definition encapsulates the essential components of engagement while highlighting its primary benefits – personal investment and improved performance as a result.
Engaged employees identify with their company’s values and mission on a personal level, which drives their motivation and the desire to see it succeed.
Engagement directly affects employees’ performance, and employees’ performance directly affects your bottom line. Even if we look at it just from a financial perspective, the tremendous effect engagement can have on the success of your company is impossible to ignore.
According to the 2013 State of the American Workplace report by the Gallup research firm, poor employee engagement costs companies in the US upwards to $550 billion in lost productivity each year.
Further research indicates that companies with higher employee engagement outperform their competition in several key categories on a consistent basis. So if you want your company to be in the former category, consider taking steps to develop your own employee engagement strategy.
Employee engagement is an intricate matter that requires many different elements in order to work well. From good communication to a healthy work environment and opportunities for growth, among many others. All of them are absolutely vital if you want your engagement strategy to succeed.
1. Establish core values
Why does your company exist? That belief or a cause that motivates you and pushes you to move forward. That is what your mission statement should represent – a clear and concise articulation of your company’s vision.
The core values of your company should be an extension of that vision. They serve as the basic principles that help define your company’s purpose and the practices that are used to achieve it.
Core values form the foundation of your company’s culture, and as such should be reflected in all aspects of your organization: visual esthetic, dress code, communications, workspace, down to your hiring process.
An authentic and consistent company culture that constantly reinforces its core values inspires employees with a sense of purpose and creates a strong emotional bond between them and the work they do at the company.
2. Improve communication
The sheer number of systemic problems that can usually be resolved with better communication speaks volumes to its importance.
Good communication with proper and constructive feedback helps everyone feel included and appreciated, while also helping establish trust between management and employees.
For best results, your company communications should be frequent, consistent and in line with your established core values.
Regular daily or weekly team meetings for smaller companies or quarterly all-hands meetings for larger organizations are all great ways to provide updates on the state of the business, and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Holding regular CEO open door hours where anyone can drop in and ask senior management questions or suggest changes is also a fantastic way to collect feedback while promoting an atmosphere of transparency and accessibility in the company.
3. Create ideal workspace
Since your mission and core values are at the heart of the company it stands to reason that they should be reflected in workspace as well.
The ideal space is one that is fun and easy to navigate. It should inspire collaboration and the feeling of community. In short, it’s a place where employees will want to spend their time.
Think about what matters most to your business and build your office space around that. Do you put teamwork above everything else? Maybe creativity? Or innovation? Use the answer as your starting point to create a workspace that is unique to your business.
Show your employees that you care about them by providing free snacks and beverages in the break room. Maybe add other cool perks like table football or a video game corner. Small things like that can go a long way in creating a space that people will simply enjoy being in, keeping them more engaged.
4. Implement health initiatives
Since employee health and well-being directly influence their performance, including them in your engagement strategy is just as important.
Providing health benefits to employees is no longer just a nice perk. It also makes a lot of financial sense. Investing in health programs allows companies to save money in the long term by reducing costs related to absenteeism and lost productivity caused by illness.
In addition to that, health programs with group activities or competitions are a great way for employees to bond and work as a team.
The best part about this is that you don’t really have to go all-out to implement a successful health program.
You can start by simply encouraging your employees to have more health-conscious choices like walking or biking to work. Set up regular fitness classes with a hired instructor, or offer to subsidize gym memberships. If you’re willing to go a step further, you could even set up your own gym onsite!
As an extra incentive, consider offering free healthy meals and beverages for employees who choose to take part in the program.
There’s really no wrong way of doing this, as long as you keep it voluntary and allow employees to choose their own level of participation.
5. Promote appreciation culture
Without a doubt, money plays an important role in how an employee feels about their job. However, great salary or regular bonuses are hardly the deciding factors when it comes to our motivation and productivity. The emotional element is what by far matters the most.
Our desire to be appreciated, to feel like our contributions are being recognized and to belong to a larger whole are perfectly human. For your employees being recognized helps them feel like a valued member of a team, creating that emotional connection that keeps them engaged.
To do this successfully, you’ll need to implement recognition activities that contribute to a larger culture of appreciation in your company. It can be weekly recognition activities where individual team members are commended for great ideas or creative solutions to specific problems, or quarterly/yearly company-wide awards for outstanding performance.
You can take it a step further and introduce profit sharing programs or equity options for your employees, further promoting their investment in the company’s future.
Over time, recognition should become an integral part of your internal culture and all daily interactions, where everyone can feel like their contributions to the success of the business actually matter.
6. Encourage work friendships
It’s fair to say that expecting everyone to be friends at work is a little unrealistic. However, research has shown that companies where friendships among colleagues are common benefit from better employee engagement and are more successful overall.
Not only does promoting work friendships boost employee satisfaction, it also helps reinforce the sense of community and loyalty that further contribute to their engagement.
While you can’t force people to become friends, it is in your best interests to create an environment where friendships and personal connections in the workplace are encouraged.
You could start by setting up a game room in the office, where employees could unwind and connect over videogames, board games or foosball.
Another great way to cultivate social interaction in the company is by organizing regular offsites or retreats where coworkers can participate in fun bonding activities together or simply work outside of the usual office setting. Even something as simple as a pizza day once a month is a great way to inject a little fun into your company’s day-to-day proceedings and allow employees to take a break from work to socialize and connect.
Just make sure not to push it onto your employees. Remember that you’re not trying to make friendships mandatory but to create a context where friendships can grow organically.
7. Facilitate personal growth
Great talent is your company’s most valuable resource, so not investing in their growth and development is something you simply cannot afford. Having a personal growth program for your staff should be one of the key elements of your engagement strategy.
To stay engaged, employees need to feel that they are constantly growing, and it’s your job to provide them with the necessary tools. Otherwise, you risk having high turnover where stagnating and bored employees will simply leave to pursue other opportunities.
There are multiple ways you could provide your staff with different avenues for development. One of the most accessible ones is holding regular company seminars hosted by your senior staff and field experts where they could share their knowledge with the rest of the team and answer their questions.
If you’re willing to invest a bit more, consider subsidizing tuition programs or online courses for your employees to help them gain new knowledge and pick up skills adjacent or outside of their field.
Another great way to promote growth in your employees is to allow them to work on their passion projects. Something they’re personally invested in that falls outside of their regular job scope. They’ll appreciate the freedom to work on something they really care about, and your business will only benefit from their increased motivation.
Make it work
It’s a fact – engaged workers increase performance, drive innovation and help companies grow. So if you care about the success of your business, chances are you already utilize some of the elements of employee engagement that we have discussed here. Now it’s time to take it to the next level and turn it into a comprehensive engagement strategy that will help make your company the dream job for your current and future employees.