Implementing an Effective Employee Engagement Strategy
Businesses are increasingly placing value on their employee engagement efforts. It's because companies with engaged employees may reap the benefits of increased productivity, improved employee retention, and growth. Engaged employees are also likely to stay with the business longer, provide better work output, and be more enthusiastic about their contributions. An effective employee engagement strategy lays out the actions needed to encourage employees to take pride and ownership in their work. These strategies should also be linked to the company's mission and core values.
What is employee engagement?
Paychex HR consultant Rob Sanders describes employee engagement as "the behavior and attitude characterized by a deep and broad connection to one's organization and role." This connection is driven by an employee's commitment to the success of the company and their own individual performance. In short, engaged employees want to do well and they want the business to succeed.
The process of engaging employees starts with job interviews and new-hire training, where they first learn about company culture and career development opportunities. On an ongoing basis, successful strategies for employee engagement can increase productivity and retention as well as create a positive work environment.
What an engaged employee looks like
Engaged employees may look very different when comparing one organization to another. Factors like company culture, management expectations, and accepted behaviors all affect engagement at work. Top-level management should model the attitudes desired to demonstrate how employees can express engagement levels. Although this expression may vary between companies, some similar behaviors have been noted across industries, such as:
- Providing feedback and suggestions for how to improve the business
- Seeking new opportunities instead of complaining about lack of work
- Inspiring clients, partners, and coworkers to feel passionate about the company's mission
- Referring others to the organization
Importance of employee engagement
Engaged employees can help businesses succeed because they are more likely to contribute to the organization at a higher level on a longer-term basis. If employees are engaged in their work, they're likely to stay with the company longer, which can reduce the costs of employee turnover in the long run. These employees may also establish valuable work relationships and embody the company's culture and core values.
Alternatively, when employees become disengaged, dissatisfaction can ensue. They may start to find excuses to be absent from work and refuse to take advantage of opportunities for career progression or situations that could benefit from their expertise. In these instances, both the employee and the company are missing out on opportunities for success.
How to improve employee engagement
If improvement is needed, engagement efforts should be reviewed and analyzed to determine what's working and what is not particularly effective. While new employees should be welcomed and feel engaged from their first day on the job, engagement is a continuous initiative that should never be allowed to fall to the wayside. On an ongoing basis, engagement can be reinforced in a variety of ways, including:
Hiring the right people
Hire employees who will fit in well by allowing your company culture to shape your hiring process. With a better knowledge of your culture, hiring teams can be better equipped to "sell" the organization to top candidates, and attract the employees who can make the greatest contributions.
Communicating the company's mission
Be clear about what your company does as well as your core values. Managers should understand the company's vision and be able to communicate to their teams, customers, job candidates, and others why you do what you do. Employees should also understand how their particular role within the company relates to the overall mission.
Offering opportunities for training
According to the latest Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, HR leaders identified training opportunities as one of the top ways to encourage employee engagement. Businesses looking to introduce this benefit to their workers can leverage learning tools and technologies, suggest relevant industry conferences, or recommend other training resources to help employees hone their skills and industry knowledge.
Empowering workers and encouraging them to suggest new methods or products was another top tactic cited by HR leaders to help improve engagement with employees. If employees feel they are making a difference and contributing to the company's success, they may feel more confident in their work and find ways to become productive on their own.
Competitive salaries are often no longer enough to attract and retain top workers. A solid benefits program can contribute toward improving employee engagement by alleviating some of the stress employees may feel outside of work when securing quality health care, saving for retirement, or handling their finances, for example.
Monitor engagement throughout the year
Employee engagement can shift based on what's going on at work. Monitoring engagement through employee surveys or other types of feedback can signal when you need to step up your efforts. Ask respondents about job satisfaction and specifically include questions about current strategies associated with engagement to identify areas for concern and improvement. You might also find that you're doing well in certain areas and can further develop your base strategies.
Practice corporate social responsibility
Employees want to feel like they're working for a company with strong values and a sense of corporate responsibility. Committing to a corporate social responsibility plan and communicating this to employees can translate into a higher level of engagement and increased collaboration efforts throughout the company.
Employee engagement strategies
Once areas of potential improvement are identified within a company, the next step is to craft specific strategies for engagement. Recognizing that even small changes can make a difference, companies should prioritize what they believe would work best and monitor the resulting outcomes. Some examples of employee engagement ideas to consider implementing at your company can include the following:
Professional development and/or career paths
Defining career tracks within the company and allowing employees to express an interest in following a certain path can help to shape goals needed for improved engagement. For example, establish a management training program for those interested in preparing to take on a more senior role within the company.
Professional development opportunities are an important part of employee engagement. Employees need to be challenged, interested, and connected with the work they're doing. This engagement can look different depending on the individual employees and positions involved. While certain staff may crave the challenge of solving complex problems, others may focus on using their skills and abilities to contribute to the team's goals. Help your employees see how they can grow professionally over time to help keep them focused and committed.
Engaged management teams
Encouraging managers and supervisors to model engaged behaviors can set a positive tone for other workers. Upper-level employees should be communicating with employees on a formal and informal basis. They should take part in employee recognition programs and corporate social events. They should also solicit employee feedback and demonstrate their commitment to make improvements in the company when needed.
Employees often feel engaged when their contributions, ideas, and efforts are recognized and respected. With this in mind, consider finding ways to solicit and incorporate ideas from staff throughout the company, from the C-suite to the front desk. Any employee recognition program should fit in with corporate culture. For example, some companies may want to implement a formal process with annual recognition gatherings. Alternatively, informal recognition can also work well in more flexible, fast-paced environments. Taking an employee aside to thank them for going the extra mile or to tell them they're doing a good job can have a positive, lasting impact. Managers should also be tasked with creating an effective feedback loop through employee performance reviews and ongoing feedback throughout the year. When your team feels appreciated, they are more likely to contribute at a higher level while wanting to remain with the company.
Improve the quality of the work environment
Changing the office aesthetics or adding more comfortable office furniture is another consideration for creating a more positive work environment. You may want to use employee surveys to gauge interest in things like a coffee service or new office furniture, for example.
Interpersonal relationships are another important component of the work environment that play a role in how engaged employees are. How does your corporate culture stack up? Evaluate what steps you could take to improve the day-to-day work environment. Are relations between employees and management cordial? Do teams collaborate well and get along? Is there a positive energy that permeates the general work environment? Each of these elements can play a part in establishing the work culture.
Open communication with employees
Town hall meetings and other employee Q&A sessions can help open communication lines. Train your managers on how to establish and maintain a positive relationship with their direct reports. Invest time in team building and helping the workforce forge connections. Stronger teams and positive employer/employee relations may help staff feel connected and engaged with their work. Teach business acumen and suggest listening to your company's earnings calls as a team, which can drive a culture of transparency and openness.
Make work meaningful
Perhaps more important than any other strategy, employees want to feel as though what they're doing is creating an impact and carries meaning. Showing employees how they fit into an organization and how what they do contributes to company success can give them a greater sense of purpose and achievement throughout their career.
Managing and measuring employee engagement
If you're putting effort into a specific employee engagement strategy, you should expect to see clear, measurable results. Increased productivity and improved performance metrics are two of many standards companies can track over time. Whether you're looking for overall trends on engagement or identifying individuals and departments in need of support, workforce analytics can provide insight into what's happening in your business.
Current and former employees are another valuable source of data when analyzing engagement levels. Spend time talking to employees before they leave by conducting an exit interview, preferably in a place where they will feel comfortable speaking honestly about the company. You may want to discuss their experience working at the company, especially interactions with management. Knowing if there is anything that could have made them stay may help your company in the future keep other employees engaged and retain them within your organization.
Just as every company is unique, so are its engagement practices. That's why it may take a period of trial and error to find the methods that work best. Still, a well-rounded view can help businesses as they look to retain productive, engaged employees.