Employee engagement is a hot topic these days.
Companies are becoming acutely aware of the benefits it brings, as well as the destructive effects that disenfranchised employees can create, such as productivity loss and higher staff turnover, which result in higher costs in recruiting and training new replacements.
Organisations are channelling lots of resources into such programmes but true engagement — the sort where workers literally jump out of bed and can’t wait to get to work — still largely remains as elusive as hard evidence of the Loch Ness Monster’s existence.
Employee engagement is both an art and science. Many elements need to be in place, working in tandem to keep the plates spinning in the air.
Here are 10 tips to up the level of employee engagement in your workplace:
1. Train the managers first
This is a no-brainer. Simply put, inspirational leaders and effective managers create stronger teams, which lead to higher engagement.
2. Create a culture of education
Over and beyond “fun” perks like massage chairs or an unlimited supply of soda in the office, the most important motivational factor is the ability of employees to expand their knowledge base.
Companies thus need to build a culture of learning, where employees leave work more enriched at the end of each day.
In its simplest, low-cost form, this could entail organising informal book clubs focused on leadership, management or personal development.
3. Acknowledge good work publicly
In a 2009 survey by McKinsey Quarterly, employees were polled on which incentives were most effective in motivating them.
The top two responses were: “praise and commendation from immediate manager” and “attention from leaders”.
Indeed, being commended for a strong performance goes a long way in making employees feel noticed, valued, supported and respected.
And its effect is multiplied when done publicly. So create a platform for “social recognition” as it will encourage a culture of appreciation throughout your organisation.
Share with employees about where the company is headed, how they fit into these plans and what is expected of them — regularly and often.
This will give them a clear sense of direction as well as make them feel that they are important enough to be kept in the loop.
5. Meet them one-on-one
Supervisors should initiate one-on-one meetings with staff at regular intervals to discuss anything and everything from upcoming projects and client updates to their professional goals and career progress.
Over time, this will improve the supervisor-subordinate relationship and create more synergy among the team.
It will also make it easier for either party to raise issues and nip them in the bud before they fester into something destructive.
These meetings are also great opportunities to share feedback with employees periodically and not just during the annual performance review.
6. Listen to and implement their ideas
Don’t make the mistake of simply asking for ideas but not implementing them. Employees may grow to resent the company if such soliciting of ideas comes across as lip service.
So execute them from time to time — even if they are just small ideas.
Great managers hold the belief that all employees desire to succeed. Mentoring then becomes a natural progression.
Managers should work towards being an inspiration while playing the role of a confidant to staff. Your organisation will thrive when you take a personal interest in everyone.
8. Keep their work interesting
Employees get bored if they have to do the same repetitive tasks day in, day out. So make it a point to keep their work interesting by involving staff in different aspects of the company that may fall outside their scope.
It could be something as simple as inviting them to sit in for a meeting in another department, or one that gives them some insight into the decision-making process within the company.
Where appropriate, you may also want to provide staff opportunities to take ownership of certain tasks or special projects because people grow when entrusted with more responsibilities.
9. Encourage work-life balance
Many bosses may baulk at this suggestion but do remember that overstressed workers are not able to function optimally and this hurts productivity.
Work-life balance initiatives can include something as simple as being flexible.
Have your employees been taking on more responsibilities, working longer hours or burning weekends rushing to complete a project?
How about giving truly deserving staff a couple of hours off one afternoon to tend to some personal business?
But this should be offered as a privilege to those who turn in a good performance and not perceived as an entitlement across the board.
10. Be creative in your rewards
Don’t be stingy. Keep employees happy with small but regular rewards that let them know you care and took note of a job well done.
Rewards do not have to be elaborate but do take the time to personalise them according to employees’ likes and interests.
For instance, give the office “caffeine queen” a $10 gift card to a coffee joint. Or tickets for a Gold Class cinema experience for movie buffs.
For those with young kids, a half-day off incentive may prove extremely useful, while family package tickets to a theme park will help your worker de-stress while enjoying fun time with the family.