There's an old axiom that continues to ring true: Engaged employees lead to satisfied customers. Unfortunately, research continues to point to rising levels of employee disengagement. In fact, only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report.
Unsurprisingly, companies need dedicated employees who are willing to go the extra mile, work with enthusiasm, and feel a strong connection to the company. These are the people who will propel your business forward. Of course, the challenge is to drive those desired performances.
Here are key approaches for stoking employee engagement that can lead to happier workers, greater productivity, and improved customer experiences.
1. Start Gathering Sentiment Insights
Employee surveys are very helpful for guiding the direction of an engagement program, but only if employers ask meaningful questions. One major challenge is, like customers, employees are being over-surveyed. Instead of deploying another employee survey, find another way to gather their sentiment, thoughts and feelings. This could be as simple as creating a ‘war room’ where employees can enter and write their thoughts on a wall. Employers may be surprised with the thoughtfulness and creativity employees come up with.
Alternatively, employers can scrape their intranets and internal communities to get the thoughts and feelings of their employees via digital sentiment. Companies already use this technology externally to gather social sentiment from customers – now it’s about applying that same practice internally.
According to experts, critical areas that should be measured include the employees' level of trust in leadership, their level of job satisfaction, their likelihood to remain with the company and their satisfaction with things like benefits, recognition, education, and advancement opportunities.
2. Focus on Engagement at Both the Front-line and Executive Levels
Employees at the front-line as well as senior levels must be invested in creating change within the organization. It is not an either-or scenario—it’s both. Senior leadership should support and set the tone of the engagement efforts while managers execute the initiatives at the ground level. Furthermore, managers should collaborate with employees to identify specific barriers to engagement and opportunities to implement positive changes. It is only when an organization works in concert from top to bottom that it can create meaningful change.
3. Personalize the Experience
Not surprising, engagement efforts are more successful when they’re aligned with an individual’s needs and preferences. For example, when creating a training program, leaders should take into account various learning preferences. Not everyone learns the same way. Remember to give employees the choice to complete the training or task in an alternate way, such as reading an article, listening to a podcast, watching a video, or personalizing the program through various activities that interest the individual participants.
It is also important to reward employees for meaningful behavior. To motivate employees, focus on the behaviors you want to influence most. Don’t reward everything, otherwise employees will get confused and you won’t be able to motivate anyone. It’s a basic management principle: Reward the behavior you want repeated. Doing so drives employee satisfaction and operational, performance, and/or behavior. Additionally, not everyone is motivated by the same rewards. A more effective approach is to incorporate employee feedback on the rewards they would most appreciate or give employees several options to choose from.
4. Empower Employees to Empower Themselves
Formal engagement programs are effective, but employees also need the freedom to determine the best way to stay motivated and deliver excellent customer experiences. Although gamification programs can help boost engagement, not everyone may want to participate. That’s fine, as long as employees are productive and satisfied with their roles. Indeed, monitoring an employee’s every move and making an engagement program mandatory could have the opposite effect. If it feels like someone is always watching, it could actually lower performance rates while increasing attrition.
5. Stay Nimble
Corporate cultures are in constant flux as employees come and go and outside forces like the economy and competitors change. Therefore it’s important to ensure that a company’s engagement efforts are reflective of the company's values and purpose. It’s a mistake to assume that the motivations that drive employees today will remain the same. Employee engagement is not a ‘one-and-done’ type of task. Regular check-ins are critical. Leaders have to make sure they’re in touch with employee sentiment and be willing to make changes when it's necessary.
Employers who truly consider their employees to be a company's best asset make caring for them a priority. That includes taking the time to understand the barriers to engagement, addressing those issues, and reinforcing engagement efforts and sharing best practices throughout the year. Savvy companies use every opportunity to emphasize and strengthen a commitment to employee engagement. And while there’s more than one way to help employees stay engaged, companies that create a culture that employees want to be part of and can thrive in are on the right track.