It’s not something you can ever really measure: that moment when you feel that your employees aren’t as engaged as they could be. It might be the sight of everyone leaving on the dot at 5pm when you know there’s a lot of work that needs doing, it could be the reluctance shown by some to take the initiative on a new project.
Whatever it is, it is cause for concern and something that any good business leader will want to get on top of.
Why is employee engagement important?
Put simply, a fully engaged team will work better. They will apply themselves more and care about the work they deliver. Company output will reflect the input of engaged employees.
Employee engagement also increases the information flow around the office. The more interested a team-member is, the more questions they will ask. If given honest answers, then they will be able to better perform their role because they will be better informed.
Though not necessarily down to individual concerns, humans are social animals and motivating a mind-set change in just one or two employees will often provoke a snow-ball effect on the rest of their colleagues. People are generally quite tribal, so all it takes for a whole team to up their productivity is for one employee to feel more engaged with the work they are doing.
Here are five key ways of rectifying an employee engagement problem or to ensure that you never have one in the first place:
Ensure that your company has a culture where every employee feels that they have someone they can voice their concerns too. Typically this will be a line manager, but in an ideal situation people should even feel comfortable asking their CEO for a chat.
Your employees will want and need both an avenue to vent, to complain about something that is bothering without necessarily asking for any changes, as well as a way of feeling they can be part of any decision-making process related to their concern.
Quite simply, if an employee feels valued, then they will put more value into their work.
If you’ve heard a complaint from an employee, then just listening to it is insufficient. Any good employment engagement strategy should also involve changes in how the company leadership operates.
If there is a concern that should be acted upon, then take that action. There is nothing worse for an employee’s motivation than for them to feel like their taking the initiative is futile. It’s great that you’ve fostered a culture where people can talk to you, but you’ll undercut all that could work if you don’t act on their worries.
No one in the workplace is a finished product. Like employees, managers and business leaders are always looking for new ways to improve their performance. The best way to encourage anyone’s personal growth is to encourage learning.
If employee’s goals align with business goals, then give them all the tools they need to improve and they will likely contribute more to the business, either as a direct result of what they have learned or just through feeling more appreciated and encouraged.
Learning can and should be accelerated by the company and IQ, EQ (emotional intelligence) and contextual learning (how to act in a professional setting, while hiring, etc) can all be improved. Encouraging professional development is one of the most supportive ways of engaging your team.
Motivate for tomorrow
The easiest way of encouraging employees to be more proactive about their work and to take real ownership of their tasks is by painting a picture of the future. Even if you, yourself are unsure about the exact direction that the company is likely to take over the coming years, your employees need that pie in the sky to aim towards.
The day to day grind can easily become mundane if there isn’t a higher goal or sense of purpose to work towards. Having a clear set of goals will not only make your team more engaged, but will allow your employees to work with more autonomy. There’s no reason to expect someone to work harder today if tomorrow isn’t going to be any different.
Being a good leader is all about motivating your team, and while the above suggestions will go a long way to improving employee engagement, there are other more basic changes that can be made. This is where hygiene factors come in.
Make sure the office is a pleasant working environment. Make it somewhere people want to be for large chunks of their day. If there are obvious reasons why work might feel drab, weed them out.
Check that all employees have taken a holiday in recent months, see if any usually good workers haven’t had their salary raised in a long time. Organise a social if there hasn’t been one for a while. These are all small but easy things that will almost always guaranteed to have a positive impact on employee engagement.