Hiring and retaining engaged employees at your business is critical. Engaged employees are likely to stay longer, provide better service, and be more enthusiastic about their work. The process of engaging employees starts with job interviews and new-hire training, where they can learn more about company culture and career development.
Defining 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 one's commitment to the success of the organization and individual performance. Engaged employees want to do well and they want the company to succeed.
What do engaged employees look like?
According to the Paychex 2018 Pulse of HR Survey, engagement levels are on the rise. Thirty-five percent of HR leaders from small and medium-sized businesses surveyed believed that over half to three-quarters of employees are engaged, an increase from twenty percent in 2017. Employees may express their level of engagement through different behaviors and actions, but they share some similarities across industries. Many engaged employees:
- Provide feedback and suggestions for how to improve your business;
- Seek new opportunities instead of complaining about lack of work;
- Inspire clients, partners, and coworkers to feel passionate about the company’s mission; and
- Refer others to the organization.
Linda Lucarelli, Paychex HR consultant, says that engaged employees often feel like "they're a part of the organization, part of the mission, part of what the company believes in, and what they're doing for their clients or customers."
Employees may express their level of engagement through different behaviors and actions, but they share some similarities across industries.
The importance of engaging your workforce
Engaged employees help businesses succeed because they are more likely to contribute to the organization at a higher level. According to Sanders, engagement "is just one of three specific areas of strategic focus when developing a talent management process, the others being performance and development." By keeping employees enthusiastically involved, organizations can reap the benefits of higher productivity.
Hiring engaged employees
In the Pulse of HR Survey, 83 percent of HR leaders said they use company culture to drive engagement during the hiring/onboarding process. From the start, new employees should understand what makes your company tick and how success is achieved. To hire employees who will fit in well, allow your company culture to shape your hiring process. Take some time to think about your organization. How would you describe the culture and company mission? What is the energy and pace of the typical work day? Do you have flexible hours or telecommuting options? Perhaps attention to detail is a key to your business. It's important to take stock of not only what employees need to do in your office, but how they conduct themselves.
With a better knowledge of your culture, hiring teams can be better equipped to “sell” the organization to top candidates, and attract employees who can make the greatest contributions.
How to improve employee engagement
Once the hiring process is complete, don't let engagement initiatives fall by the wayside. Implement strategies that aim for continuous engagement by recognizing and celebrating achievements, encouraging goal-setting and career advancement, and practicing corporate social responsibility. At the onset, new employees should be welcomed and feel engaged from their first day on the job. On an ongoing basis, engagement can be reinforced in a variety of ways, including:
- Communicating the mission or company vision clearly to employees. Be clear about what your company does as well as your values, and why you do what you do.
- Offering training to help learn and grow their skills. This strategy was cited as a top tactic for increasing engagement in the Pulse of HR Survey. Millennial employees, for example, are highly focused on longer-term career development.
- Providing desirable benefits.
- Allowing employees to suggest new work methods or projects.
Teambuilding exercises and social events like company-wide picnics are examples of other activities used to build employee engagement, notes Monique Jennings, HR generalist at Paychex. Jennings also suggests meeting with employees to determine if they feel engaged at work. This valuable feedback can help employees understand that management is concerned about engagement at every level of the organization.
You can use HR analytics to look for engagement flags: increased rates of absenteeism, declining productivity, poor performance reviews, etc.
Measuring employee engagement
Your current and former employees are a great source of data when analyzing engagement. 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.
To further increase engagement, use employee satisfaction surveys to identify opportunities. 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.
You can also use HR analytics to look for engagement problems. Signs to look for might include increased rates of absenteeism, declining productivity, or poor performance reviews. Whether you're looking for overall trends indicating poor engagement or identifying individuals and departments that need more support, workforce analytics can provide insight into what's happening in your business.
Employee engagement is a holistic process. It can affect hiring as well as managing employees in order to mitigate turnover. Just as every company is unique, engagement practices tend to vary, and it may take a period of trial and error to find the methods that work best. Still, a well-rounded view can help businesses retain productive, satisfied employees.
To dive deeper into this topic, download our whitepaper on deepening employee engagement.