For most organizations, their employees are the heartbeat, the backbone of success.
Thus, whether these employees are performing at their most optimal level—or not–-will directly affect the company’s chance of thriving and growing.
Here comes employee engagement.
Employee engagement is the level of an employee’s motivation and commitment towards their work, as well as the company they work in. When an employee is adequately engaged, they are likely to be more efficient and more productive in delivering higher-quality work. Not only that, but they are also more likely to stay with the company longer.
However, improving employee engagement levels in one organization can be easier said than done. Even worse, one strategy that can help one company may not work for another, and vice versa.
Are you currently looking to boost your company’s employee engagement, but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about how to improve employee engagement in your company, and we’ll cover
- What is employee engagement?
- Benefits of improving employee engagement
- Understanding the key drivers of employee engagement
- Key challenges hindering the improvement of employee engagement
- Effective strategies for improving employee engagement
Let’s start this article by discussing the basics: what is employee engagement?
What is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement, simply put, is how engaged the employee of an organization is in performing their work.
A perfectly engaged employee is motivated, committed to making a real impact, and genuinely excited about the company they work in, the people they work with, and the work they’re assigned to.
Employee engagement is not a mere buzzword, but it’s actually a big deal if a company thrives to achieve success.
Here’s the lowdown on why employee engagement is so important:
- Improved productivity: Engaged employees are always motivated to perform their work day by day. This results in higher productivity and superior work output.
- Higher attendance: Engaged employees will happily show up for work. Not to mention, they tend to be healthier (both physically and mentally), resulting in reduced absenteeism.
- Reduced turnover rate: Engaged employees are more likely to stay in the company they work in, resulting in lower turnover rates. This can also save the company’s time and resources otherwise used for hiring and training new employees.
- Innovation and creativity: When employees are engaged, they tend to be more creative and more motivated to try innovative ideas.
- Customer satisfaction: Motivated and passionate employees will provide better customer service and deliver better products, resulting in satisfied and loyal customers.
In short, high employee engagement creates a win-win situation where employees are not mere parts of the company but rather the main driving force.
The Key Drivers of Employee Management
Now that we’ve understood the concept of employee engagement and its benefits, what actually influences the level of employee engagement and commitment?
Here are the common drivers of employee engagement in most industries:
- Effective leadership
To be properly motivated, employees need to respect and trust their leaders and, at the same time, feel that their leaders do care about them. Employees tend to be more motivated by supportive leaders who lead by example and can provide clear directions.
- Clear communication
Whether the employee perceives there is clear communication in the organization—or not, is one of the most important drivers when it comes to employee engagement.
Both leadership/management and the employees must maintain open and transparent communication, so the employees can understand the organization’s goals, their role in the organization, and how the work they are performing will contribute to the company’s objectives.
Employees who understand all these are more likely to trust the leadership and stay aligned on the company’s short and long-term goals.
- Recognition and appreciation
Employees who feel that their work is appreciated and valued are more likely to be motivated.
Companies should properly recognize and reward employees for their work and accomplishments, preferably with a comprehensive employee recognition program in place.
- Opportunities for growth
No one likes to feel stuck in their careers, so it’s critical for companies to provide equal and transparent opportunities for career advancements in the company. Employees who see opportunities to get promoted are more likely to be engaged in their work.
Also, consider offering training skill development programs (i.e., training, seminars, workshops), as well as giving them new changes and responsibilities to keep them motivated.
- Work-life balance
Employees who believe they are in control of balancing their professional and personal lives tend to be less stressed, which often leads to higher engagement levels. For example, employees in a company with more flexible work arrangements tend to be more engaged and committed.
- Autonomy and empowerment
Employees who feel they have control over how they should work and have more (supervised) freedom in their day-to-day tasks tend to feel more invested in their work.
- Fair compensation and benefits
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Employees need to feel that they are fairly rewarded and compensated by the company they work in. Employers should offer fair pay, appropriate rewards for performance, and competitive benefits to maximize engagement.
- Alignment with organizational values
Employees are more likely to be engaged when working in a company with values they can identify with and believe in.
- Job satisfaction
Employees who find their work is aligned with their skills, interests, and experience will find it more fulfilling, and are more likely to be engaged. Task variety in day-to-day work also often plays a role in job satisfaction.
- Fair and equitable treatment
Employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel they get fair and equitable treatment from employers, for example, whether there are clear and consistent policies in place and whether employee complaints are resolved fairly and swiftly.
This is not an exhaustive list. Different key drivers may fit each organization differently, each with unique concerns to be taken into consideration.
However, these ten are among the most common drivers you should pay attention to when developing an employee engagement strategy.
Challenges in Getting a Higher Level of Employee Engagement
Despite its obvious benefits, and even after we’ve understood the key drivers of employee engagement above, improving the level of employee engagement can still be challenging.
Here are some common challenges to tackle when planning your employee engagement initiative:
- Diverse workforce needs
Organizations today are rarely homogenous. Employees may come from different backgrounds and have different needs, priorities, and motivations. Thus, it’s difficult to create a one-size-fits-all employee engagement strategy, while, on the other hand, creating a personalized strategy for each need may not be cost-effective.
- Communication challenges
As discussed, maintaining organization-wide clear and effective communication can be easier said than done. Misunderstanding and miscommunications may demoralize employees in the long run.
- Leadership gaps
Incapable leaders or inadequate management skills may cause employees to feel undervalued or unsupported, which may lead to disengagement.
- Limited resources
Unfortunately, increasing employee engagement requires time, money, and other resources. Resource constraints (i.e., tight budget) may limit an organization’s ability to implement employee engagement initiatives.
- Personal issues
It’s possible that your company has planned and executed an ideal employee engagement strategy, only to be hindered by the individual employee’s personal challenges. For example, if an employee is currently facing a health crisis or in the middle of a divorce, keeping them engaged will be more challenging.
- Inadequate tools and technology
Obsolete and/or inefficient technology (software, hardware, equipment, etc.) may disrupt the employee’s workflow, which may lead to frustration, stress, and disengagement.
- Lack of autonomy
When leaders micromanage, employees may be frustrated due to the lack of autonomy, which can lower engagement.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, and there are certainly many more challenges you may face during your journey of improving employee engagement.
In the next section, we will discuss how to improve engagement in your company in a step-by-step guide, considering these challenges as the strategic foundation.
Step-By-Step Guide to Improving Employee Engagement
Step 1: Assess Current Engagement Levels
Before taking the first step of improving your company’s employee engagement, it’s best to first assess where your company currently stands.
The goal of this step is to identify areas you can improve and set a baseline you can use to measure the initiative’s progress in the future.
While there are many different approaches you can use to assess your company’s current engagement levels, one of the easiest and most effective methods you can use is to conduct employee surveys.
Here are some tips:
- Choose the right survey platform: There are a wide variety of survey platforms available, so it’s important to choose one that is suitable to your company’s needs. Comprehensive employee engagement software by iTacit provides you with a reliable way to conduct employee surveys that is easy to use for both the manager and the employees.
- Carefully design your questions: To maximize participation and prevent disengagement, it’s important to craft well-crafted surveys with clear, concise, and easy-to-understand questions. Avoid using overly complicated language or jargon.
- Mix question types: There are a variety of question types you can use in your survey in order to get a more holistic understanding of your employees’ feedback. It’s best to use a mix of open-ended, Likert scale, and multiple-choice questions, so you can gather both quantitative and qualitative data.
- Anonymity matters: It’s recommended to make your surveys anonymized to encourage honest answers from your employees. It’s common for employees to fear repercussions when voicing their honest concerns, suggestions, or ideas. So, make sure to ensure anonymity and properly communicate it to participants.
- Pilot test: Always pilot test each survey with a small group of employees before launching it to the public. Ask their feedback about the questions and the survey in general, so you can adjust them when needed.
- Regular surveys: To make it more effective, conduct surveys quarterly, semi-annually, or annually as you see fit, so you can track progress and changes in engagement levels over time.
Once you’ve collected the employee surveys, the next thing you should do is analyze the survey data. Here are a few tips:
- Use spreadsheet software, a dedicated survey analysis tool, or an employee engagement solution like iTacit to organize the collected data systematically.
- There are many different statistical methods you can use to analyze the quantitative aspect of the data, such as inferential statistics, but don’t forget to look beyond the numbers and analyze the qualitative elements.
- If you are collecting surveys from multiple teams or departments (or multiple stores/locations), make sure to perform a comparative analysis between the different groups to identify patterns and find insights.
- Benchmark the survey result against the industry standards, so you can gain a broader perspective of the result, especially the engagement levels of your employees.
Based on the data analysis of the survey results, you should be able to identify areas you can improve. If there are multiple identified issues, prioritize them accordingly.
Try to improve employees when identifying these areas where engagement is lacking, as they can provide valuable firsthand insights.
Identify the root causes of engagement challenges based on this data analysis, then define realistic, specific, and measurable objectives for improving employee engagement levels, as we’ll cover in the next step.
Step 2: Defining Specific, Measurable Objectives
Once you’ve assessed your company’s current levels of employee engagement, in this step you should be able to set clear engagement objectives.
It’s best to use the S.M.A.R.T goals framework, and your objectives should be:
- Specific: narrow-focused instead of trying to achieve too many things at once.
- Measurable: you should be able to keep track of specific engagement metrics to measure progress against this goal
- Achievable: realistic and attainable. If necessary, break down a bigger goal into smaller, more achievable milestones
- Relevant: your engagement goal should be aligned with your business’s overall objectives
- Time-bound: you should be able to set a clear deadline for achieving this objective.
For example, instead of an abstract objective like “improving employee engagement,” you could set a S.M.A.R.T. goals like “improving employee job satisfaction by 15% within the year.”
Other key considerations:
- If required, consider setting different engagement objectives for different employee groups (i.e., one for office workers and one for frontline workers.)
- Make sure your engagement goals seamlessly align with the overall strategy of your organization. This means, your engagement objectives should contribute to achieving the company’s strategic goals.
- Involve and get input from your employees, so you can ensure that these objectives are relevant. Also, get them feedback on whether the objectives are achievable.
- Once you’ve decided on the goals, make sure to communicate with your employees from various departments, including HR, finance, and operations, to get them on the same page.
- Create a clear timeline for each engagement objective. For bigger (long-term) objectives that may take a year or more to accomplish, break them down into smaller milestones. However, keep timelines flexible and be prepared to adjust them when necessary.
- When you achieve an objective or milestone, celebrate the success with your employees. This can help keep them engaged and on track to working towards the other objectives.
Step 3: Build a Strong Leadership
Leadership is a very important driver of employee engagement: leaders shape the company culture, which will influence the employees’ level of engagement. So, building strong leadership is a critical step in improving employee engagement.
When building leadership to improve engagement, we should focus on several key areas:
- Leading by example: One of the important roles of leaders in improving employee engagement is to serve as role models. Leaders should demonstrate engagement, motivation, a strong work ethic, and commitment to inspire employees to do the same.
- Creating a positive work culture: Leaders should foster a culture of clear communication, trust, and mutual respect that is focused on collaboration.
- Supporting employee development: Leaders should show a genuine interest in employees’ success; and always be supportive and committed to investing in employees’ development. Leaders should recognize the area in which each individual employee is able to grow further, and provide opportunities for both developing their skills and advancing their careers.
- Recognition and feedback: Effective leaders must recognize employees’ contributions and achievements and, at the same time, provide constructive feedback on how to improve further.
Building a strong leadership for engagement, however, can be challenging and requires an ongoing commitment. Here are a few tips:
- Invest in leadership training and development programs to improve the competencies of your leaders.
- Implement a 360-degree feedback approach where leaders can receive input from their employees (team members), supervisors, and peers. This can provide them with invaluable holistic feedback on their leadership effectiveness.
- Pair leaders with mentors who can provide guidance to help them develop their leadership skills further.
- Create channels for open and transparent communication between leaders and employees, and encourage leaders to actively listen to their team members’ feedback, concerns, and thoughts about their leadership.
Step 4: Improve Communication
Effective communication, once again, is a very important pillar of employee engagement.
Yet, engagement-driving communication is not just about ensuring employees and leadership can talk to each other but is about creating a culture where employees can always feel informed but also heard and valued at the same time.
- Have a reliable communication platform: Implement a reliable employee communication platform to facilitate ongoing communication.
- Open-door policy: Encourage leaders to implement a policy where their team members or employees can freely approach them with questions, ideas, and can voice their concerns without fear.
- Regular meetings: Hold regular town hall meetings and department/team meetings to facilitate information sharing and open discussion.
- Regular updates: Establish channels to keep employees informed about important news and updates, for example, via company-wide emails or via tools like iTacit.
- Performance feedback: Leaders should provide regular constructive feedback on each employee’s performance, while also recognizing accomplishments and contributions.
Improving communication is critical for improving employee engagement. Besides clarity and open channels, it’s also important to maintain respect throughout all communications. Foster a culture where everyone can freely voice their concerns or ask questions, but always be respectful. All this will significantly improve engagement and create a more collaborative workforce.
Step 5: Establishing a Culture of Recognition
Recognition, appreciation, and rewards are the fuel that keeps employees motivated and engaged.
In this step, we will discuss how to implement an effective recognition program and how to foster a positive culture of appreciation.
- Define recognition criteria: An effective recognition program is one that is consistent. Employees should know exactly what kinds of behaviors, values, or achievements will be recognized and rewarded. Clearly define your recognition policies and make them known to all employees.
- Personalization: Different employees have different preferences when it comes to recognition. Some prefer public rewards, while others may prefer a more private recognition. Consider these individual preferences when developing the recognition program.
- Regular and timely: Recognition and rewards should be handed timely, ideally not too long after the accomplishment or exceptional work has been done. Don’t be afraid to hand rewards frequently.
- Tangible and intangible rewards: Mix and match tangible rewards (monetary bonuses, gift cards, etc.) with intangible rewards (certificates, public praise, parking spots, etc.) to cater to different employee personalities.
- Peer recognition: Don’t only focus on manager-to-employee recognitions, but encourage peer-to-peer recognitions. Some people may find recognition from colleagues more valuable.
A well-crafted employee recognition program can significantly improve engagement and foster a culture where employees feel valued. Remember that recognition shouldn’t always be about bonuses and monetary rewards, but rather should focus on appreciating the contributions and efforts of your employees.
Step 6: Invest in Training and Development
In this step, we will discuss how to create an environment where your employees feel they have opportunities to develop their skills, grow as a professional, and advance their careers.
The first thing you should do is to identify skill gaps in your organization and for individual employees:
- Conduct a company-wide skill assessment across all levels and departments. Identify areas where employees may need additional training.
- Use feedback from one-on-one discussions and performance reviews to identify the needs of individual employees.
- Compare your employees’ current skills with the industry standards.
- Take into account the future needs of your business and industry trends, so you can plan ahead to ensure a future-proof workforce.
Based on this assessment, you can start planning opportunities for skill development accordingly, including:
- Training programs that address the identified skill gaps. This can include courses (online and offline), workshops, webinars, and on-the-job training.
- Mentorship and coaching. Have experienced or skillful employees/leaders to mentor those in need.
- Cross-training. Encourage cross-training between employees, including those in different teams/departments, to diversify knowledge and skills.
- Certifications and credentials. Support employees (financially) to obtain relevant courses, certifications, and credentials, which may improve their marketability besides their skills.
Investing in training and development programs won’t be effective if your employees are too busy, they don’t have time to train. Allow employees to have their dedicated time for learning/training. For example, you may accommodate a more flexible schedule, work arrangement or even allocate designated training days.
Step 7: Facilitating Work-Life Balance
Without adequate levels of work-life balance, even an engaged employee would lose motivation quickly.
On the other hand, when employees feel supported in managing their work-life balance, they are more likely to be engaged and loyal.
One of the best ways you can use to facilitate work/life balance is by encouraging more flexible work arrangements, for example:
- Flexible schedule: allow flexible work hours (supervised and within reason) so they can manage their personal commitments better.
- Remote work options: when feasible, allow remote work arrangements, which may also help reduce commuting stress.
- Job sharing: allow two or more part-time employees to share the responsibilities for a single full-time position, so they’ll have more flexibility.
- Compressed workweeks: allow employees to work longer hours, so they can get extended weekends.
- Family-friendly policies: implement policies that can support employees with familial commitment (flexible childcare options, parental leave, etc.)
Another important aspect of facilitating work-life balance is to provide resources for managing work-related stress. Consider:
- Stress-management programs: offer stress-management workshops, courses, or training programs to equip your employees with stress-management techniques.
- Mental health support: for employees with emotional challenges or high-stress levels, provide access to mental health professionals and resources. Consider providing Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to help employees (and their families) tackle various stress-related issues.
- Wellness initiatives: provide comprehensive health and wellness benefits covering physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, offer gym memberships, healthy eating options, therapy sessions, etc.
Sometimes, however, the best thing you can give to employees seeking to improve their work-life balance is a well-earned break. Encourage regular breaks during workdays, and allow paid time off when needed.
Step 8: Measure and Analyze Progress
It’s critical to always remember that improving employee engagement isn’t a one-off initiative but rather an ongoing, long-term process. Thus, regular measurement of your progress and the effectiveness of your engagement strategy are important.
Monitoring key engagement metrics
Choose and measure the most relevant engagement metrics based on your organization’s goals and initiatives. Common engagement metrics include:
- Employee satisfaction scores: satisfaction scores from employee engagement surveys can be a reliable metric for measuring the level of employee satisfaction with their company and their job.
- Turnover rate: employees who are not engaged are more likely to leave the company. So, a high employee turnover rate can signify a low engagement rate.
- Productivity metrics: you can measure various productivity metrics to also measure engagement.
- Customer satisfaction: the level of customer satisfaction can be used as a measure of employee engagement, especially for employees who directly interact with customers.
Conduct regular employee surveys
Continue conducting regular employee surveys along with the implementation of your employee engagement initiatives. This way, you can continuously gather feedback on engagement levels and see whether there’s any gradual improvement. You can track the gradual changes over time by asking consistent survey questions.
Consider implementing pulse surveys—shorter but more frequent surveys—to keep track of important engagement metrics.
Also, encourage employees to voice their concerns and provide feedback (on the company or the employee engagement programs.) Provide various feedback channel options such as anonymous reporting mechanisms, suggestion boxes, and one-on-one meetings with leaders.
Tracking improvements and adjusting strategies as needed
To measure your progress accurately, there are several techniques you can use:
- Baseline comparison: go back to the baseline data you’ve collected in the initial assessment, and compare your current engagement metrics with it.
- Trend analysis: over several survey/metric-tracking cycles, analyze the trends.] to identify patterns. Use this analysis to identify areas where improvements are most needed.
- Segmented data: segment and analyze data individually by department, team, demographic, or other segmentation. This approach is useful for identifying specific areas that may require more attention.
- Feedback loop: continuously collect feedback from employees. Ask them what they think about the engagement initiatives, and adjust accordingly.
Use the insights gained from monitoring and analysis to continuously refine your engagement initiatives. Don’t forget to involve employees in the process of adjusting strategies, as they may have valuable firsthand insights.
When you see improvements in any engagement metric, celebrate this success with employees. This will motivate them further and show them the importance of their feedback.
Improving employee engagement, as we can see, is not a one-time effort but rather an ongoing process to transform the whole company as a whole. As we conclude this guide, it will help to remind ourselves of the sustainable benefit of employee engagement and the potential it holds for creating a more motivated, committed, and productive workforce.
The insights and step-by-step guide we’ve covered in this article should provide you with a roadmap for improving your company’s employee engagement levels. You can customize the step-by-step guide according to your company’s unique culture, needs, and goals!
Improving employee engagement is definitely a journey worth embarking on, leading to a sustainably more productive workforce, which will contribute to a better future for the business as a whole.