Without engaged employees, workplace productivity would be a pipe dream. If you truly want your employees to not only get more done but to get more important work done, you must first seek to understand and engage them.
Defining employee engagement
First, what does it mean to be an engaged employee? Unlike the average employee, engaged employees tend to be more immersed and invested in their work. They may feel a personal connection to the company’s core values and vision or feel supported by the benefits they are provided. As a result, they tend to put forth a high level of discretionary effort, that is, the effort that is above and beyond what is typically required of them in their role.
In discussing engaged employees, it is also important to discern healthy engagement from unhealthy engagement. Although it can be admirable to see an employee hard at work, it can also be detrimental to their health if they allow it to consume their life. Learn more about the dangers of burnout syndrome and how to prevent it.
What are the benefits of engaged employees?
When employees care about their work and feel as if their voice carries weight in an organization, naturally, they will feel happier and more enthusiastic. With so much of our lives centered on work, it’s crucial that our time feels well spent. This is the benefit of flow combined with a well-balanced workload in the workplace: Happy employees mean healthy employees, which in turn leads to quality products and service.
It’s no secret that engaged employees are more productive. Gallup even discovered that engaged employees are roughly 17% more productive within the workplace. If you care about your work and the people you work for, you’ll naturally want to put your best effort into what you do. To truly measure the impact of engaged work, calculate your team’s productivity after doing something to boost engagement, such as a new benefits package.
Give your employees everything they need so that they’ll never want to leave. There’s a big reason why big companies like Google and Apple spend fortunes on creating lively workspaces. According to the Work Institute’s 2017 Retention Report, it can cost a company up to 33% of the employee’s salary to replace them. So for a worker earning the median salary of $45,000, a replacement would end up costing roughly $15,000. When you keep your employees wanting to come in each day, you’re helping them grow and avoiding a costly process at the same time.
Engaged employees create higher quality products and provide exceptional service. As a result, customers walk away happier and more willing to recommend the brand to someone. The end result— more referrals and more business, just from making employees more engaged. A Gallup Workplace Report on culture found that engaged employees result in up to 21% greater profitability for the rest of the company. Besides producing higher quality products, engaged employees will also have lower absenteeism and even voluntarily work longer hours.
When family and friends support us in our journey, we feel indebted and grateful. Similarly, when a company pays its employees well and cultivate a culture of engagement, employees want to reciprocate by putting forth their best effort. It’s in a company’s best interests to reward and recognize its most senior employees— whether it’s through a raise, a company award, or a promotion. These gestures incentivize other employees to stay with the company for the long haul.
Drivers of engagement
Now you know why to create a culture of engagement, let’s explore how. Below are a few examples of motivations and drivers that influence employee engagement.
1. Purpose and direction
One of the most common questions asked by any employee, before and during their employment, is “why?” Why should they work for that specific company? What separates them from any other company? Without a proper understanding of employee motivation, your company may find itself scrambling to keep employees focused and engaged.
Based on a report by IBM, 80% of employees felt more engaged when their work was congruent with the company’s core values. Instead of appealing to everyone, define what makes your company and team unique, whether it’s reputation, beliefs, values, or something else entirely.
No one likes pretending to be someone they’re not. Even in the workplace, where people are required to dress and behave professionally, employees should have the chance to be themselves. Forcing someone to behave in a way that does not resonate with them can only lead to severe detachment and a sense of isolation.
People should have the freedom to voice their thoughts and opinions, even if they may conflict with others. We tend to shy away from awkward situations and moments of potential conflict, but the truth is that a little bit of honesty is going to lead to some trouble. As long as they come from a place of respect, honest feedback can be healthy and productive. As author Patrick Lencioni puts it, “When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.”
3. Proper tools and resources
Last week, we covered the importance of tools and technology in your team’s workflow. Without them, work can seem like running a marathon on a mountain. Can you imagine doing accounting work without some form of a spreadsheet? Or conducting sales calls without a modern phone? Forcing dated tools on your team can only lead to wasted time and frustrating experiences.
The simple act of providing laptops, officially software licenses, and professional support demonstrates to your team that you care about their work and their experiences. You don’t need to spend a fortune on the latest models, but you shouldn’t cheap out either.
4. Workplace wellness
Long hours and pressure to perform can put a strain on just about anybody. If you truly expect the best from someone, you have to make sure they’re at their best. That means ensuring they have ample time away from work to focus on their families, hobbies, and personal chores.
The available research backs up the positive influence of wellness on engagement. Human resources consulting firm Mercer found that large employers that implemented 5 or more well-being best practices saw an 11% decrease in turnover rates.
5. Recognition and appreciation
Admit it, deep down there’s a part of you that desires, maybe even craves for recognition. Asking for a little appreciation nothing to be ashamed of; in fact, it’s completely human. While intrinsic motivation (personal connection to the brand, core values, etc.) cannot be replaced, never underestimate the value of extrinsic motivation either, which can be anything from money to a prestigious company-wide award.
At the end of the day, people want to feel accepted and valued. Whether you show it intrinsically or extrinsically, take the time to thank your team for their hard work. They’ll return the gesture with even more hard work.
Though we only listed 5 drivers, others have come up with as many as 17 different drivers of engagement. Among them are fairness, rest, competency, trust, psychological safety, and much more.
Tips on creating a culture of engaged employees
- Work on providing gainful employment – Give your employees a manageable workload and consistent pay, and they’ll reward you with hard work.
- Focus on progress and continuous learning – Monthly or quarterly reviews will help your team know where they stand and how they can improve.
- Create useful feedback loops – Employees should receive regular feedback, not only from their managers and leaders but from the end customer as well.
- Recognize your top-performing employees – Whether it’s based on sales, improvement, or the completion of a project, acknowledge your team whenever they perform exceptionally can go a long way.
- Foster ownership and responsibility – Minimize confusion and bottlenecks by creating a clear chain of command, not based on titles, but based on tasks and projects.
- Hire cultural experts to shape your organization – Never forget the role of HR in engagement— they will help keep your team engaged from training to promotion.
Leaders continue to treat employee engagement as a secondary objective, something to get around to after turning a profit. In reality, everything starts with your employee (not your customer). They are the ones that will keep your business operations running while you’re away; they are the ones that speak with customers and clients. Show your support and appreciation for your employees, and they’ll show you a lifetime of loyalty.