One of the most important variables for success in any organization is employee engagement—despite the fact that many businesses don’t track or seriously consider employee engagement at all. So what exactly is employee engagement, and what can businesses do to increase it?
Why Does Employee Engagement Matter?
According to Happeo, employee engagement is “a way of work and collaboration that emphasizes bottom-up interaction that benefits the business. By committing to prioritizing goals and values, employees feel motivated to contribute to the success of the business while also enhancing their own sense of well-being.” Engaged employees, in other words, are fully invested in the work they do on a daily basis, and are capable of achieving their full potential.
This is beneficial for businesses in several ways:
- Productivity. Employees who are working at their full potential will be able to achieve more each day. They’ll create more value for the organization, and will be capable of achieving better goals.
- Morale. Engaged employees will also benefit from higher morale, which supports a positive feedback loop with productivity. Additionally, collectively high employee morale will sustain a healthier work culture, giving businesses more potential for development.
- Retention. When employees feel engaged with their work, they’re much less likely to look for work elsewhere. Accordingly, engagement is an incredible tool for improving employee retention (and cutting replacement costs).
The Secrets of Employee Engagement
So what steps can businesses take to increase employee engagement?
- Improve trust in leadership. Relationships with leaders play a massive role in determining an employee’s sense of engagement. With strong, trustworthy leaders in place, employees feel more pride in their work—and feel more engaged with the organization. Improve trust in leadership by fostering mutual transparency and open communication. You should also listen to employee feedback about their leaders, and make improvements and changes when necessary.
- Foster team bonds. Employees also show higher signs of engagement when they get along well with their coworkers. You can’t always force employees to get along, but you can improve bonds and teamwork potential with the help of good hiring practices and regular teambuilding events. If and when employees get into a conflict, practice healthy conflict resolution to resolve those disputes.
- Give employees a sense of purpose. It’s hard to define “purpose,” since what gives one person a sense of purpose may not translate to another person. However, your employees will need some sense of purpose if they’re going to be engaged. You can foster this by doing something good for the world as a company, or making employees feel like they’re making a real contribution to the organization’s success.
- Allow employees to work on a diversity of tasks. When people are subjected to doing the same tasks over and over again, they tend to experience burnout—the practical opposite of engagement. You can limit this negatively influencing factor by giving employees the option to work on a wide range of different tasks. Sometimes, all it takes is a small change to a daily routine or a new set of responsibilities to make an employee feel refreshed—and give them a new sense of energy and commitment to their jobs.
- Support education and skill development. Along similar lines, you can improve employee engagement by giving your employees more options for ongoing education and skill development. Reimburse your employees for what they spend on classes, training sessions, certifications, and other beneficial modes of improvement, or give them more opportunities to develop themselves in-house. They’ll feel more engaged with their work and more valued by your organization, and you’ll end up with better-trained employees.
- Appropriately challenge employees. People tend to do their best work when they’re somewhat challenged by the tasks in front of them. If the work they do is too easy, they tend to get bored or feel unstimulated. It also lends itself to feeling “in a rut.” If the work is too hard, they tend to feel overwhelmed and overstressed, with little hope for improvement. Try to balance workloads and assignments to keep people somewhere in the middle.
- Make work fun (when possible). It’s probably no secret that “fun,” or enjoyable workplaces tend to be more engaging for employees. Obviously, you can’t have fun all the time—or else no “real” work would get done. But you can make an effort to make the workday more entertaining for most of your employees. Consider adding recreational activities to your breakroom, or setting daily challenges to keep employees active and interested.
- Establish upward potential. Consider promoting from within, rather than hiring external parties, whenever possible, and show employees how much upward potential they have in your organization. When employees feel like they have practically unlimited potential, they naturally feel more engaged—and will work harder as a result.
- Create a valuable work culture. Employees feel more engaged when their core values align with those of the organization that employs them. But to achieve this, you have to have solid core values of your own. Create a set of core values (if you don’t have one already), and develop your overall work culture. The more you foster it, the more you’ll give your employees a sense of belonging.
- Enable autonomy and independence. Multiple studies show that autonomy in the workplace—in other words, when employees feel capable of setting their own goals, priorities, and tasks—is one of the most important factors for job satisfaction. Employees who are allowed to work autonomously and independently are almost always more engaged than their counterparts. Trust your employees to handle their own work when you can, and make them feel empowered in their daily responsibilities.
Employee engagement is somewhat elusive to measure and analyze, since it’s at least somewhat subjective. However, if you remain committed to improving employee engagement, and you’re willing to adapt to new insights and information, you can spur a meaningful increase in collective productivity, morale, and employee retention.