Improving Employee Engagement with a Fool-Proof Plan
In 2021, millions of people quit their jobs in a mass resignation phenomenon, leaving managers scratching their heads trying to figure out what went wrong.
It turns out that during the pandemic, people mustered enough courage to set out and find better career opportunities that will allow them to live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Still, the “Great Resignation” phenomenon posed many questions than answers: How did it start? What was the tipping point? How come employees that said they were happy left as well?
Experts have varying opinions, but the one common thing they agree with is the fact that the businesses that lost their people failed to cultivate employee engagement.
According to a Harvard Business Review research, employee engagement goes beyond “happiness,” as has four crucial aspects: commitment, identity, satisfaction, and enthusiasm.
The study said managers will know their people are engaged if the staff feels committed to the organization’s vision and they can identify or relate with the company’s values.
Actively engaged employees are also visibly satisfied with their work, showing enthusiasm or eagerness to get involved in company events and milestones.
High employee engagement means better productivity and even higher retention rates, which could have saved many businesses from 2021’s mass resignation phenomenon.
Improving employee engagement little by little
Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20, and businesses have learned a great deal about the importance of improving employee engagement in the past year.
Despite all the learnings, some organizations are still having a hard time thinking of specific action points to improve employee engagement.
Most of these companies think that employee engagement, a huge deal that it is, requires big moves that need to be executed all at once.
In reality, however, businesses can always begin by focusing on the little things that they can easily act upon, small tweaks and upgrades that can actually have a lasting impact on the staff.
Listen to the staff
It may sound like a no-brainer but hearing out the employees is a good starting point when you want to improve employee engagement.
Listening to the employees, however, can be challenging, especially when most of the people, though they have much to say, are reluctant to speak for various reasons.
To encourage people to speak, there must be a program or avenue where they can safely air grievances, make suggestions, or just have some conversation with colleagues and managers.
When listening, you must listen intently and act as swiftly as you can for feedback that need resolutions. Listening would amount to nothing if no solutions would follow.
Understand your people
Listening to the employees is one thing, understanding them is an entirely different effort that needs the full support of the management.
There must be a proactive effort through various programs to know what the people actually value, what they care about, what they believe in, and what their aspirations are.
A traditional way to know more about the employees is through surveys and focused group discussions, which can be initiated by the human resource division.
Another way to do this is to encourage the creation of employee clubs and groups where the staff can fully express their other side and make them feel they belong.
Re-align your values
If listening to the staff is the first step and understanding them is the second, then the next logical move is re-aligning your goals and values to connect with your people.
A company’s vision, mission, and values are more than just ornaments peppered across the office. Studies show employees become more committed to a company with relatable values.
There are many ways to make your vision and values become more relatable. Instead of saying you want to become an industry leader, say you want to create a better world with your service.
Instead of saying you value “teamwork,” say you value working with family if your people place high value on the concept of family.
Equip your people well
Allow your people to do their work with their best efforts by providing the best equipment and infrastructure.
A 2016 study lists an “enabling infrastructure,” which includes tools and processes, as a top driver of engagement across the globe.
There are many instances that poor infrastructure gets in the way of employees who want to do an excellent job with their tasks.
Equipping your staff with the right tools and processes will make them feel that you want them to grow and reach their full potential.
Keep everyone healthy
The adage “health is wealth” has taken on a new meaning after the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we live.
Health and well-being have become a top priority for people who joined the “Great Resignation” bandwagon in search for better opportunities.
Show your people you care about their health by improving your healthcare plan and making it more accessible.
Take on a proactive approach by making a workplace that supports healthy choices, and crafting health-oriented policies, like discouraging after-hour emails.
Recognize and reward
Recognizing your employees for exceptional performance and rewarding them with something they can keep have been a core strategy for employee engagement.
The key, however, to make recognitions and rewards effective in engaging the staff is to do it loud and proud.
Celebrate with them. Create recognitions that align to your shared values and mount a short program where everyone can see the awardees.
At the end of the day, people will always take these kinds of appreciation to heart and will make them feel that they are a valuable part of the organization.
Create avenues for connection
Work can be bland, especially when people are confined to their cliques and cubicles during most of their time at the office.
A simple rearrangement of the workspace where people can have a lounge or lobby where they can spend their break times meeting people from other divisions.
Mount events and programs where people from different departments can meet, interact and express their creativity.
Making the workplace socially conducive will encourage people to be more involved and invested in the other ventures of the organization.
READ MORE: Bridging Cultures in the Workplace
A purpose beyond work
Work is not the end goal of working. People have personal aspirations and are constantly seeking purpose and fulfillment outside the four corners of the workplace.
People identify with their organizations better if they know their company is doing something beyond just taking profits.
Show your people that they can have a big impact in society with your organization by providing avenues for advocacies and volunteer work.
Beyond just corporate social responsibility, this will give a semblance of meaning to the lives of people who, at the end of the day, would always want to contribute to the community.
Long-term strategies for employee engagement
Small things matter when it comes to employee engagement, but it is equally important to craft long-term strategies to make sure you sustain the initial success you have achieved.
By strategizing and looking at your goals through a macro level lens, you institutionalize the best practices for employee engagement.
Build a distinct company culture
Branding is not only for your customers. It is also something that can have a deep impact on employee engagement.
From all the visual aspects of the brand, such as colors and fonts, to the more practical things, like communication and processes, make it feel as distinct and relatable as possible.
Capitalize on your shared values and from there cultivate your distinct company culture where all your people feel they belong.
More importantly, walk the talk. Your culture must also reflect in the policies and how management treats the people.
Make the best first impression
The adage “first impressions last” also applies to businesses when they onboard new hires into the organization.
Institutionalizing an effective onboarding process immediately lets the new hires know what it is like to be with your company.
During this phase, take all the time to show them a bit of your company culture and explain the varying dynamics of the teams.
Onboarding is also the perfect time to discuss the organization’s values and how they fit and contribute to the larger scheme of business.
Provide training opportunities
Craft structured training opportunities for your staff that can help them hone their skills or learn new ones as part of their growth.
Data from Gallup show that career growth is one of the top drivers of employee engagement and allowing people to boost their skills is a big plus.
Aside from trainings, allow your people to learn entirely new skillsets that may unlock a new potential in them.
You may want to leverage online courses offered by the likes of LinkedIn and Coursera to complement your in-house trainings.
Map out career paths and opportunities
Organizations that survived the Great Resignation with minimal losses have one common thing: They all offer clear career paths to their employees.
Businesses must understand that people do not only work for money; they also work to achieve a certain level of personal success that is tied to their careers.
Make a clear career path for each of your staff and show them how they can grow within the organization.
Imagine some of your low-ranking staff members becoming one of the best assets or managers of your company – it’s a powerful message to your other employees.
Seek out the help of experts
Many companies have a hard time improving employee engagement because of their lack of expertise.
Employee engagement, after all, is a task best left to experienced human resource practitioners, whose main job is looking after the people.
Outsourcing HR services to reputable providers may help you craft short- and long-term strategies to improve employee engagement.
Aside from having experts deal with this tedious task, you can also get huge savings by tapping an outsourcing partner in building HR teams.
Read More: Outsourcing in the Philippines
Measuring employee engagement
There are various methods to measure employee engagement, but the most effective ones require tested scientific models.
Analytics company Gallup has devised an employee engagement model that has been used by many companies globally.
Gallup’s model, which is a result of decades worth of study, breaks down employee engagement into 12 employee needs based on 4 levels of hierarchy and puts them in a survey.
To have a clear picture of the employee engagement you have within the company, the staff must be able to rate their experience according to these 12 needs-based statements.
Have your employees rate the above-mentioned statements from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, and get the average, which will give you a fairly accurate picture of your employee engagement status.
Empathy in the new normal of work
In the end, improving employee engagement is not just about the numbers or how high the employees rate your company.
Employee engagement is about looking at the things we can do to better treat the employees, who are in essence our partners in achieving our goals.
A key takeaway from the “Great Resignation” phenomenon is that people left their roles because they felt that the management never took the time to understand their personal situation.
The lack of empathy from management during the pandemic pushed them to make the crucial decision of quitting during a time of uncertainty.
Moving forward, companies must realize that empathy or the ability of managers to put their feet into shoes of the employee is a big element of employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.
It’s about having the ability to understand what your employees need, value, and care about, and providing solutions as quickly as possible.
So, take advantage of this time and make the necessary steps to improve employee engagement within your company.
The amount of time and investment you put into the employee’s well-being will never go to waste and will someday protect you from any mass resignation phenomenon.