It’s no secret that HR departments have their hands full managing employees, ushering in new recruits, and dealing with compliance issues. Juggling all of these responsibilities, it’s no surprise that employee engagement can sometimes slip between the cracks. But ensuring your current workforce is engaged is crucial to your bottom line. Research from Gallup shows that companies with engaged workforces outperform others in multiple aspects of your business like customer ratings, productivity, and profitability.
However, building an engaged workforce isn’t an easy feat. Study by Gallup shows that only 32 percent of the American workforce is considered engaged. While you may realize the importance of employee engagement, addressing an apathetic staff can be daunting. Wondering how to start? Consider these 8 tips for engaging with your employees.
Start With Recruiting
What better place to start than at the very beginning of your relationship with potential employees? We all know that candidates appreciate honesty during the hiring process. Transparency around the company’s mission, internal growth and promotion paths, and compensation package are all excellent places to start. But this openness goes two ways. Is your star candidate responsive and inquisitive? Or do they take a few days to get back to you? Do they also keep you abreast of their schedule and plans? It’s reasonable to assume that a candidate’s engagement style with you during the hiring process will reflect their behavior as an employee.
Clarify Your Values and Purpose
While many factors play into employee engagement, the alignment of a company’s values and purpose with those of the employee is particularly powerful. A Dale Carnegie study showed that 54 percent of employees who were proud of their company’s contribution to society were engaged. Employees are better able to engage when they feel a connection to something larger than themselves, and reflects their personal beliefs and values. Help your employees get to this point by regularly communicating your company mission statement.
Clearly Define Roles
Once employees understand the mission of the company, ensure they feel that what they do is an integral part of the company’s success. Especially for lower level roles, connect the dots between your employee’s day-to-day tasks and the larger picture. And don’t forget to continue having this conversation as someone’s role changes, or when a new project arises. Engagement can ebb and flow, so keeping it top-of-mind during transition stages can be especially important. Recruit team leads and managers to help you keep these conversations going throughout the year.
Encourage Open Lines of Communication
As with any relationship, employees want to feel like their voices are heard. Promote timely and constructive communication starting with your corporate communications, and letting it permeate downward. Be sure to set up feedback loops that encourage employees to give their input, whether it be through suggestion boxes, Q&A sessions at company meetings, or asking for reviews on public forums like Glassdoor. Let employees know that you received their feedback, and what, if any, actionable steps will happen as a result. Sometimes it’s enough to simply acknowledge your employees’ points of view, while at others, you may need to adjust company practices to better serve your workforce.
Support Strong Coworker Relationships
No one works in a vacuum, so it’s important to foster strong coworker relationships. In fact, research shows that friendships at work increase employee satisfaction by 50 percent, and that people who have a best friend at work are 7 times more likely to be completely engaged. What can your company do to encourage these kinds of relationships? Try a company happy hour, a lunchtime running group, or a team outing. Whatever it is, invest in getting employees together in a way that doesn’t necessarily revolve around work. Once these relationships develop, they can flourish in the office with noticeable benefits to the overall work environment.
Offer Opportunities for Development and Advancement
Boredom is a powerful reason employees disengage from their work. This can be especially detrimental to your top performers who may start feeling undervalued or taken for granted. You can curb this dangerous tendency by offering opportunities for career development and advancement. Consider offering mentorship programs, clear paths to promotions, professional development programs, and networking opportunities. Some companies go so far as to offer continuing education credits or financial assistance to help employees grow their skill sets.
Emphasize Health and Wellness
Employee health and wellness greatly affect productivity and performance, but it can affect engagement as well. Are you most engaged when tired or sick?
Investing in employee health and wellness goes far beyond benefits of increased engagement. In fact, research by Harvard Business Review shows that employers who invest in health and wellness see significant savings. This is because it helps decrease healthcare costs and absenteeism. Whether you choose to start investing in HSA accounts for employees, giving employees the option to choose between a PPO or an HMO plan, reducing employee premium costs, or offering to subsidize gym costs, you will see it pay off in more ways than one.
Measure and Track Outcomes
Data is necessary to make most business decisions. Why should employee engagement be any different? Ensure you know what is and isn’t working by tracking your initiatives from start to finish. A simple way to analyze your efforts without having to invest much time is to examine standard data that HR already has – think performance, retention, absenteeism – before you begin your efforts and at three month intervals moving forward. This can help quantify your efforts and either gain support with your executive team or help you learn where your efforts can improve. You might also consider conducting employee engagement surveys to identify pain points and where you are seeing success. Use these results to capitalize on opportunities.
Finally, remember that fostering an engaged workforce takes time and effort. Give yourself the time and flexibility to take things slow. And focus on only one or two strategies at a given time. And who knows? You may find yourself becoming a more engaged employee in the process!