The expectations of jobs have shifted towards a more personal approach. In the past, high pay and health benefits were the motivating factors for workers –as long as they were paid well, it didn’t matter what kind of job they were doing. However, the needs of employees have changed, and workers are now looking at engagement and fulfillment as significant factors when considering job opportunities.
So, what is engagement? Simply put, engagement in the workplace comes from having the right conditions that allow employees to maximize their potential.
The difference between an engaged employee and an unengaged one is quite visible. An unengaged employee is not invested in the company; they do the bare minimum and work just enough to get paid. However, an engaged employee goes above and beyond for the company because they are invested. They see potential in their work and the impact it can have on the company. In other words, an engaged employee sees value in the company and is willing to invest their effort and time beyond what is expected of them.
Having engaged employees could mean the difference between being an average company and an exceptional company. According to Forbes, companies with high engagement outperform those without by 202%.((Forbes: Reversing Low Employee Engagement In Manufacturing)) Knowing this, it’s no wonder why employers have suddenly started paying attention to employee engagement.
Like diversity, engagement can be challenging to include in the workplace, despite the consensus agreeing on its benefits. For those looking to increase engagement in the workplace, consider these 10 ideas:
- 1. Set Expectations and Provide Orientation for New Hires
- 2. Constantly Communicate with Employees
- 3. Highlight Employee Achievements
- 4. Incorporate On the Job Training
- 5. Provide Support for Out of Office Learning
- 6. Be Open-Minded with Experimentation
- 7. Venture Out of the Office
- 8. Offer Flexible Working Conditions
- 9. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
- 10. Make a Positive Impact
- Final Thoughts
- More About Team Management
1. Set Expectations and Provide Orientation for New Hires
A study done by Jobvite stated that 33 percent of new employees quit in the first 90 days of working.((Psychology Today: Why 33 Percent of New Employees Quit in 90 Days)) Of those employees, 43 percent left because the role wasn’t what they expected or led to believe. Having an engaged workforce requires actual workers; and if your new hires keep leaving, you won’t have a workforce.
Here is how Alden Tseng from Wayfindr, a software company focused on streamlining the job application process, describes this issue in his latest article on how to remedy it:((wayfindr: Jobs Market Failure & Jellyfish))
"Sometimes, job descriptions fail to convey key information or are unable to describe the full scope of certain job openings. Before posting a job listing, make sure you are describing the position in detail. Include essential information like what an average day looks like, key skills that are required, and what you expect your employees to learn while on the job. Offer a new hire orientation that enables individuals to acclimate to the company culture and their peers."
It is vital to ensure that an employee’s first impression of the company is favorable. A study done by the Wynhurst Group reported that employees were 58 percent more likely to be with an organization after three years if there were on-boarding (orientation) programs.((Fast Company: You’re Hired. Now Figure Things Out (With The Help Of This Whimsical Handbook))
2. Constantly Communicate with Employees
Feedback is crucial in encouraging worker engagement. Employees want their opinions to be heard, especially when it is directly impacting how they work. Opening channels for employees to provide feedback creates chances for management to re-evaluate their decisions and allows them to improve the workplace.
However, it isn’t just about receiving feedback from employees. Feedback goes both ways, and it is important for managers to provide feedback to employees.15Five’s research into employee engagement yielded these staggering statistics:(((15Five's Research: Employee Engagement: The Key to Unlocking Your Team’s Potential (Infographic)))
- 98% of employees who received little to no feedback are disengaged
- Employees who received feedback on their weaknesses were 20x more likely to be engaged
- Employees who received feedback on their strengths were 30x more likely to be engaged
Feedback between the two parties is a sign that each party is invested in the other’s success. For employees, giving and receiving feedback means they are part of the team –not just another invisible worker that has no voice in the company. For employers, it shows that employees are invested in the company’s wellbeing and want to share their opinions on how to better the workplace.
The other part is of course the type of language you use with your employees. The funny part is that the way you communicate with your customers often translates into how you communicate with your employees.
Jeremy Boudinet, a Marketing Manager at Nextiva, a VOIP phone system, CRM, chat and all inclusive communication suite for businesses puts it the following way:
"We see a TON of overlap in how a company communicates with its' employees and how it communicates with their team. The language that you use, the frequency of communication, the type of communication – a ton similarities here. I'll say even more – an influx of new angry customers usually correlate with employees leaving from a company."
3. Highlight Employee Achievements
Workers now want to work for a place where they matter. Research done by Penna concluded that 43% of workers cited having an opportunity to contribute to the success of the company created a positive work environment.((Penna: Meaning at Work Research Report))
Employees want to know their work is impactful to the company. One of the factors causing disengagement comes from when a worker feels like their work is meaningless. They may see their job as more of a chore than a chance to improve the company. Employee recognition can be anything from a simple thank you letter to a feature on the company website.
Adam Legas, founder of Nanohydr8, a fitness drinks company, spends 1-2 hours per week making sure his employees are properly recognized, here is how he describes it:
"Recognizing an employee’s achievements shows them that their work is crucial towards company success –it gives their work meaning."
4. Incorporate On the Job Training
While the requirements of a job may have many similarities, each company has its own procedure and expectations. New employees need to be trained in order to perform the functions of their jobs correctly and in a way that is in line with the company. Without training, it would be impossible for new hires to produce quality work.
A recent survey found that 40 percent of new hires that receive poor job training leave within the first year.((Guthrie Jensen: Undeniable Statistics that Prove the Value of Employee Training)) It would be counter-productive to replace an employee if all it takes to help them succeed is training. Hiring a replacement is an expensive and time-consuming process –one that could be avoided by merely training the workers at hand.
5. Provide Support for Out of Office Learning
With the rise of automation, the future of the workforce depends on up-skilling and adapting to technology. A report done by McKinsey predicted that automation could destroy up to 73 million jobs in the United States by 2030.(((McKinsey: Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages)) Workers will need new skills and training to be successful in a post-automation world.
Investing in your employees’ learning and up-skilling is essential to keeping engagement up. By supporting their learning initiatives outside of work, it shows them that the company is actively supporting their individual growth.
As an employer, providing learning opportunities for workers also increases brand awareness and favorability among job-seekers. With 42 percent of millennials citing learning and development opportunities as a deciding factor when choosing jobs,((Udemy: 2018 Millennials At Work Research Report)) employers that encourage learning will have bigger talent pools to choose from.
Employees want to work for companies that support their learning and development. It's a widely held misconception that investment in employee training is riskier than it once was. In fact, since the 1980s, median job tenure has increased (from 3.5 to 4.6 years) and we are spending more time at work each year (1,638 to 1,811 hours per year).((Pew Research Center: Changes in the American workplace))
As labor markets tighten and the half-life of skills shrinks, more employer-funded training is a win-win. Employers increase their appeal to new employees, as well as the engagement and productivity of current staff, and individuals enhance their skills, value and future employability.
6. Be Open-Minded with Experimentation
Experimentation allows employees to flex their creative muscles and offers them an opportunity to try something new. Experimentation doesn’t always end in success, but it is an opportunity to consider alternatives and new forms of thinking.
Experimentation builds trust between employers and employees by showing employees it's okay to fail. Employees are more willing to apply new ideas and try new things if they know the company is supporting them –opening the opportunity for innovation.
7. Venture Out of the Office
Workplace engagement, at its core, is about humanizing the workplace. Aside from the brief time during interviews and reviews, management rarely has time to get to know their workers. The workplace environment leaves very little time and room for employees and employers to form relationships. Increasing engagement at work may require an approach that doesn’t include the workplace at all –a company trip.
Company trips are the perfect medium where management and employees can learn more about each other. The more people know each other, the more invested they will be in each other’s success. For employees, this is an opportunity to see managers in a different light –as humans.
Furthermore, company trips reward employees for their service and increase morale. It shows employees that their contributions do matter, resulting in higher engagement.
8. Offer Flexible Working Conditions
Working remotely has long been attached to the stigma of a lazy, unmotivated worker. However, this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Remote workers carry the same responsibilities on-site workers do.
Working at a desk in an office every day isn’t ideal for productivity. Different people prefer different environments, and remote work fills that need. A study done by Stanford concluded that remote workers were 13.5 percent more productive than their peers working in an office and 50 percent more satisfied with their job.((Ideas Ted: Why working from home should be standard practice))
9. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Health is wealth, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the workplace. An engaged workforce must be healthy, both mentally and physically. It is important to encourage a healthier lifestyle because healthy workers are capable workers.
A survey done by Virgin Pulse found that 85% of companies say wellness programs support engagement.((Forbes: Your Employee Engagement Strategy Needs More Wellness)) Unhealthy factors such as the lack of sleep, poor diet, and stress all play a role in determining how successful a worker is in the workplace.
Healthy initiatives can range from providing healthy snacks to providing stress management classes. It is essential to keep these initiatives because high stress is one of the most significant factors in causing disengagement. Promoting healthy initiatives prevents workers from being overworked and overstressed at work, creating a more engaged workforce.
10. Make a Positive Impact
Employees want companies that are positively impacting the world. Volunteer options to better the community not only builds brand awareness but also increases engagement and worker empowerment. Working together as a team to bring good into the world can be a valuable team-building exercise and creates an atmosphere of positivity.
Volunteer initiatives and philanthropic work enable workers to get involved with the community. It makes them feel good knowing that their company is standing for something positive. A recent report stated that participation in corporate social responsibility initiatives increased productivity in the workplace by 13 percent.((Your Cause: 10 Stats Every CSR Professional Should Know (Infographic))) In the same report, the authors also concluded that engaging in volunteer work reduces employee turnover rates by 50 percent.
Employee engagement is a glimpse into a more human side of the workplace. In the past, we saw employees just as workers and companies as faceless entities –and it worked for a long time. However, the new generation of workers and the future of the workplace is more human than that –they want to change the world.
Engaged employees happily go to work knowing they’re positively impacting the world. It isn’t about the money –it is about being human and providing a place where workers can grow and learn.