As a business leader, if someone asks you the “why” of your business, you need to have an aspirational answer or they’ll quickly lose interest. The same goes if you’re chatting up a potential investor or talking to your team members.
A clear vision and mission are the bedrock of employee engagement. Think about the number of volunteers worldwide who contribute their energy to causes they care about and expect nothing in return.
When it comes to employee engagement, start with the why and build from there. In this article I’ll take you through how to increase employee engagement in your organization.
- Champion the “Why”
- Put the right people in the right seats
- Provide growth and development opportunities
- Gather feedback
- Provide regular feedback
- Show appreciation
- Prioritize wellness and wellbeing
- Onboarding—the crucial first impression
8 Ways To Increase Employee Engagement
1. Champion the “Why”
As we discussed, having a sense of purpose is a huge driver of employee engagement.
When you know and communicate your “why,” you're more passionate about your work and you’re more able to push through hard times because you know the importance of what you do.
Don’t buy it? Check out this video I regularly show to fellow leaders and team members that demonstrates the awesome power of “why” (warning, tingles coming up):
Pretty powerful, right? And it doesn’t have to be a grandiose purpose either, as long as people understand why their work matters to the overall success of the organization (bonus if it is also tied to their career progression too!).
Further reading: Putting Organizations On The Path To Success Using The Cascading Goals Method
2. Put the right people in the right seats
To maximize employee engagement, it’s important to make sure the right people are in the right positions and they’re empowered to perform to the best of their ability. This could mean making accommodations for special needs someone might have, for example providing quiet areas in the office.
In my workplace, we realize not everyone excels in the same areas. This is seen within day-to-day operations and conversations with staff about their strengths and areas of improvement—and it’s often reflected within performance evaluations.
It's up to managers to understand individual employees enough to know the areas in which they excel and then put them there whenever possible.
3. Provide growth and development opportunities
Engaged employees are those that are clear about their job expectations and know how to meet those expectations.
Help employees get a strong start with clear and accurate training related to their job roles, then ensure management is present for continued coaching after the initial probationary period has ended.
Professional development and growth are important for the vast majority of people, especially your top talent.
While it’s true that people are responsible for their own development, if you want it to be at your organization then you should at least meet them halfway and provide opportunities to help them develop.
This can be setting out and publishing clear job roles so folks know what’s needed to progress to the next stage, coaching, mentorship programs, paying for courses and accreditations, providing company time to work on personal development, temporary assignments, stretch projects, job rotations—the list goes on!
- 5 Methods To Help Put Employees In The Driver’s Seat Of Their Career Development
- How To Create A Professional Development Plan With Your Team Member
4. Gather feedback
If you’re not willing to listen, it means your staff don’t feel respected or heard—a significant contributing factor to disengagement.
Also, how are you supposed to know if there are any issues that might be causing people to feel disengaged?
So, be willing to gather and listen to employee feedback, even if you don’t have the same perspective. And trust me, your staff are likely to have better employee engagement ideas than you do. Be open to this possibility and listen to your team members.
Ways you can gather feedback to assess employee engagement include:
- Formal employee engagement surveys
- Conducting interviews such as stay interviews
- Regular check-ins between managers and team members.
My advice here is to be transparent when you’re collecting feedback—tell your team members why you’re collecting it and the goals you hope to achieve from it.
Consider asking questions like:
- What motivates you to wake up and come to work every day?
- What’s your favorite part of your job?
- What’s something you’ve done with our company you're most proud of?
- Can you think of one new thing you’d like to work on or do differently?
- Is there something about your job that you really don’t like?
- After ___ months/years with our company, how do you feel overall?
An open and honest conversation will likely yield more information and also help build rapport and trust.
I’ve had to become comfortable being uncomfortable in my role as a leader. This means putting yourself out there to hear honest perspectives that might not match your own.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make changes—and sometimes as leaders we can’t—but at minimum your team members will feel valued and heard. If no action can be taken, commnicate why.
Further resource: 8 Effective Ways To Get Employee Feedback (+ Pros and Cons)
5. Provide regular feedback
I don’t know about you but I crave regular feedback, and research shows that this the case for most people.
As mentioned, team members should always have a good idea of how they’re performing and how their work is contributing to organizational success.
This will help 1) further motivate employees by reinforcing impactful behaviors and opening up conversations about advancement and career progression and 2) nip any deviation from priorities or performance issues in the bud.
Regular check-ins between managers and direct reports are crucial here and, to increase the usefulness of feedback, I’d also advise experimenting with other methods such as 360 reviews that gathers feedback from peers, customers and other stakeholders.
Be willing to have any uncomfortable conversations and address issues you see early on, rather than waiting for them to become bigger problems down the line.
For example, if you see an employee not meeting deadlines, ask them questions about it constructively.
Here’s an example:
“Hey Sarah, I see this deadline was missed. Are you having trouble getting it completed? Do you need help?”
You’d be amazed at the doors these simple questions will open, and it’s much more effective than assuming you know the issue and best solution.
6. Show appreciation
Employee recognition is paramount to a strong workplace culture and increased engagement. So, be sure you’re recognizing wins of all sizes on a regular basis.
There are many effective ways to recognize staff milestones and they don’t have to be extravagant. Consider things like:
- Stopping by their door to let them know you saw the win, and you appreciate their work
- Sending them recognition through email and including their direct supervisor
- Sending an office-wide email or Slack message to make others aware of their good work
- Recognition within a staff-meeting
- A phone call or text to the employee to express your appreciation.
These little acts go a long way in keeping employees feeling appreciated and engaged.
I remember when I was just a few years into my current job, my office underwent major renovations. My boss back then asked the construction team if he could keep these big, concrete chunks of the floor they’d removed (I’m sure they thought it was a strange request).
My boss then gave out those chunks of our building to staff as awards to show his appreciation, and to remind us that we were an integral part of the office and the work. He showed us we were valued, and we were needed.
It’s been about fifteen years since then, but that piece of concrete floor still sits by my desk and reminds me every day what I do matters.
Showing appreciation doesn’t have to cost money (but people maybe appreciate raises and promotions the most!), and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.
A formal recognition program can help you to fine-tune this process and make recognition part of your company culture.
Related read: 30 Creative Employee Recognition And Appreciation Ideas
7. Prioritize Wellness and Wellbeing
People are people at the end of the day, not machines, and a surefire way to create a disengaged employee is to work them to the bone and make their life a misery.
Looking after employees' well-being can take a number of forms, but it starts with letting them take needed time off and letting them know they can make their families and their mental health a priority. Consider options like increased telework or a flexible work schedule to help meet the needs of staff and encourage a healthy work-life balance.
Remember, being busy, overworked, and stressed isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a sign of health issues, such as burnout, to come, and leaders need to encourage employees to slow down and rest when needed.
Yes, too much engagement can be a bad thing!
8. Onboarding—the right first impression
Making a good first impression counts, and this requires a well-organized onboarding process.
Your onboarding process should reiterate your vision, mission, values and codes of conduct, set clear responsibilities, provide any training necessary, make employees feel part of the team, and start conversations around progression and growth.
The aim is to give new hires the as personalized experience as possible and engage them right from the get-go.
Related read: How To Write A 30 60 90 Day Plan For Your Org’s Onboarding + Template
What Is Employee Engagement and Why Does It Matter?
Who’s Responsible for Employee Engagement?
What does employee engagement look like?
Employee engagement, retention, and the employee experience
Regular readers of this publication will have noticed a lot of what’s covered in this article also corresponds to ways to increase employe retention and creating a great employee experience.
Well that’s because the three are closely intertwined, which makes sense when you think about it.
When you look at the drivers of retention and the drivers of engagement they’re two sides of the same coin, which is good news!
HR and business leaders are responsible for crafting the best possible employee experience that makes team members into advocates for the organization and promotes inclusion, productivity, and innovation.
There are a number of ways to approach this, but we’re fans of treating the employee experience in a similar way to the customer experience, with HR teams acting like product managers and taking an iterative, experimental approach.
Some further resources:
- People Ops As A Product
- How To Run Agile HR Projects Like A World-Class Product Team
- How To Choose The Right Performance Management System For You
- How To Build A Culture Of Innovation (with John Carter from TCGen Inc.)
- 10 Best Employee Engagement Software
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