One of the key factors to running a successful business is knowing how to engage employees. If the leaders of a business or organization understand the level of passion their workforce has for the job, they are a step ahead of the competition.
As a manager, you want your employees to have pride in what they do and in the company they work for. Those who work with purpose put forth their best efforts; a practice that can only benefit the goal of your organization. It’s important to look at every aspect of why people do the work they do and what drives them to do it.
If you are operating in a managerial position, getting to know your employees will be a key part to a successful evaluation of how engaged your staff is. From their backgrounds to their hobbies, skill sets, family life, all the aspects of your employees will end up becoming part of your workplace environment. Arming yourself with the knowledge on how to blend that into a productive, positive environment is an important skill to have as a manager.
Ask yourself, just how much do my employees genuinely care what happens to the company’s future? Are they dedicated to helping it expand and be successful? If you aren’t sure of the answers yet, it’s okay. There are ways to determine the level of employee engagement among your staff, as well as learn how to engage employees.
What Is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is more than just knowing whether someone likes their job or not. Measuring employee engagement lets you know how committed they are to the business and its success. It tells you how motivated they are and how emotionally invested they are in the work they are doing.
For an employee to be engaged, they are motivated to work hard towards a common goal that is in line with the company’s vision. They will be committed to the values their organization represents. Engaged employees will have a clear view and understanding of the objectives of the work they are doing.
Understanding the level of engagement is the first step in utilizing this knowledge to your benefit. The next step is working on improving employee engagement within the organization or business. As a manager, creating a workforce that is not just happy, but engaged and motivated to produce, will clear one hurdle on the path to success.
Going beyond the basic employee engagement definition, managers should know that there are two primary focuses of this practice. Not only should you understand their level of engagement with the company, but also with the managers. The latter is a look at how these employees feel about their direct superiors and whether they feel they are treated fairly.
Employees with higher levels of engagement with their managers tend to feel they are getting direction on the work they do, and feedback on their performance. These employees will have a mutual feeling of respect with their managers, which also lends to the sense of being a valued part of the company.
Organizations that implement an employee engagement strategy can most likely say that their workforce has faith in their leadership and they believe the company acts in a fair and respectful manner. When high levels of employee engagement with the business itself are partnered with observant and caring managers, all facets of your business increase. It allows for an increase in production, elevated customer satisfaction, and worker competency to be at an all-time high.
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What Do Employees Need to Feel Engaged?
A few factors to consider in this area are the company and its leadership. You can’t expect your staff to become engaged if there is no clear and decisive message for them to embrace. Before you can start to measure their level of engagement ask yourself the following:
- Are your company’s goals and visions clear and concise?
- Do the employees understand these goals?
- Is there a clear link between the employee’s work and the company’s goals?
- Can the employees see how their work ultimately contributes to the success of the business?
- Is the leadership of the organization present and able to motivate the workforce?
- Are the managers equipped with the skills needed to lead a team to success?
When all these components are in place, you can begin to look closer at how well engaged your employees are. Taking a close look at the business and its leadership first can also help you further develop employee engagement strategies and practices.
Why Is Employee Engagement Important?
The idea of just having satisfied employees may be enough for some managers, but maintaining high levels of employee engagement is important for many reasons. When your employees are engaged, the workplace environment becomes a place of positive attitudes.
When employees are engaged, the office atmosphere improves, their actions are dependable and internal disputes are minimal, if not non-existent. Workers who are engaged feel like part of the team and in turn, work together to help lead your business to successful outcomes.
Several research studies have data that proves employee engagement is more than just liking a job and wanting to do well. These studies provide a more intricate look at why employee engagement is a vital part of your business model. They show the importance of this practice and how its results go beyond just increased productivity. For example:
- Per the Conference Board study of 2006, engaged employees have been known to outperform disengaged employees by nearly 28%.
- A Towers Watson survey in 2009 showed that companies with a higher level of employee engagement had a 9% higher shareholder return.
- A report from the Center for Creative Leadership conducted in 2009 shows that 80% of employees with a higher level of trust in their management are more committed to the business, compared to the 25% who have a lower degree of trust in management.
- The Gallup poll conducted in Germany in 2011 reported that, on average, people more engaged with their job are absent 3.5 fewer days than those who are disengaged.
- A study performed in a psychological paper written by J.K. Harter and colleagues show that companies with more engaged employees have a 51% higher productivity rate when compared to those with a lower number of engaged employees.
The numbers are in, and they clearly point to the benefits of implementing engagement practices among employees. However, if you need a little more information on why employee engagement is critical, let’s take a closer look at what’s accomplished when employees are doing work they feel good doing for a company they enjoy working for.
Engaged Employees Are Likely To:
The idea behind maintaining or improving the number of engaged employees is based on research and studies that have been created to show just how beneficial it can be. Before discussing how you can achieve these results, look at some of the benefits.
Engaged employees are likely to help increase profit revenues every year. A study by the Workplace Research Foundation has found that by investing in your employee engagement by merely 10%, profits can increase by more than $2000 per employee. The same study also found that employees who are highly engaged are more likely to increase their productivity, often as much as almost 40%.
The benefits of engaged employees have a trickle-down effect throughout the entire company. Those who are showing up with feelings of pride and motivation to work provide a higher quality service to your customers. When customer satisfaction is high, profits tend to rise. In turn, shareholders received a better return on their investments.
Fostering a workplace environment where the employees feel supported and conduct their responsibilities within a team-focused atmosphere is good for the entire company. A business that has employee engagement strategies tends to have less sick days to account for. Companies with engaged employees can expect to see a reduction in the number of days of work missed by an average of four days per employee per year.
Those who come to work every day, do so because they believe in what they are doing. They feel as though they have the backing of the company they are doing it for and want to show up and work hard. They don’t arrive every day just to collect a paycheck. They have an emotional commitment to the work, which drives them to help the company reach its goals.
How Does One Go About Measuring Employee Engagement?
This concept measures engagement through an employee survey that works a lot like a personality assessment in that they both rely on benchmark data to interpret scores. Questions or statements such as, “I feel my needs are a priority in this company” or “my workplace is safe” will be rated by the employee on a scale of 1-5 on how strongly they agree or disagree with the statement. When the answers are received, they are compared to the benchmark data.
If you are unsure exactly how to measure employee engagement, start with a survey backed with benchmark data to receive an accurate assessment. An extensive style questionnaire with around 50-80 questions will allow you to have a well-rounded understand of many different areas related to employee engagement.
Now you have your survey and the results, what do you do with them? Interpreting the results is another matter entirely. Results will come to you in raw scores and T-Scores. The raw scores will give you the average of all the responses to the survey. Unfortunately, these results don’t allow you to draw any conclusions or tell you if employees are engaged or not. In times like this, having the benchmark data comes in handy.
If you can compare your data to that of other companies who have completed the same survey, it gives you a better determination whether the scores are low or high. T-Scores are one method of representing benchmark scores and tell you how your scores compare to other places. Upon evaluation of the survey and results using the above methods, employers can find out which percentile their employees fall when considering the different areas where engagement is measured.
How to Engage Employees
Now that you have completed your survey and interpreted your data, you need to know how to increase employee engagement. Once you have determined the areas that need reinforcement, there are many strategies you can implement to help drive your team to success.
- Get to know them. Sounds simple, and it is! Spending time with your employees and getting to know them is an easy and effective way to engage employees. Learning about their families, backgrounds and personal goals enables you as a manager to develop a stronger rapport with them. Find time in the day to say hello, ask them how their families are doing or inquire about their hobbies. This is a quick and straightforward practice that can make your employee feel like their presence is known and that you care about them as an individual. Research shows that employees who feel valued tend to be much more engaged in their work and performance.
- Provide them with the tools for success. As a manager, you not only have to oversee different facets of business, but you should be sure your employees understand what they are doing. Training within their specific job descriptions can offer them more confidence in what they’re doing. When one of your team members is unsure of what to do, or how to handle a situation, productivity can come to a grinding halt while they try to troubleshoot the situation. If it becomes too overwhelming, there is a possibility of a small hitch becoming a much larger problem. Even if additional coaching or training is needed, providing your employees with a strong foundation for the tasks ahead is a good step towards raising their level of engagement.
- Let them know how the company is doing. They are the backbone of the enterprise, and many times its success or failure will depend on them. For them to have a vested interest in the whether the business does well, they should be made aware of its successes, concerns, and struggles. Provide employees with a briefing of not only the company’s fruitful ventures but also the ones that didn’t work out so well. Allowing your team to know what works and what doesn’t grants them the opportunity to develop new ideas for the weaker areas, and continue to be proactive in the sectors that are working.
- Allow them to grow. You sat down with them for an interview and saw potential in their abilities to help your business grow. The team you’ve assembled was chosen for a reason. Now, as their manager, you need to give them the opportunity to show off their skills and ability to do their assigned task. Give them the room to branch out to do their jobs the best way they know how. Hovering and micromanaging is only going to result in added stress, and that’s a condition that no one can work well under. If an employee comes to you with a pitch or an idea that may not be what you are looking for, choose to respond in a way that won’t discourage them from continuing to try and develop other concepts. Offering encouragement and appreciation for their work is important, even more so when you may reject their first pitch.
- Support them and the authority you’ve granted. Many companies have various levels of management, all of which requires everyone to answer to someone. One of the important employee engagement practices to remember is supporting employees when faced with a tough situation. Regardless of your business type, employees will face adversity from your customers, as well as other employees. As a manager, you may be required to step in to rectify a situation, and sometimes it may mean choosing a side. A task that isn’t always easy, but supporting your employee and enforcing any authority they’ve laid out is important to the hierarchy of leadership within the company. As well as to their ability to feel supported in the work they are trying to accomplish.
- Recognize your team and their hard work. A manager recognizing and acknowledging a job well done is an essential motivator when developing employee engagement best practices. To be a successful manager, it’s good to understand what form of recognition works best for your staff. Words of encouragement can go a long way in this regard. A ‘good job’ or ‘thank you’ in regards to a task may be just what that employee needed to push forward, or to continue do just as well on the next project. Taking it a step further, consider holding an employee recognition day, or, if the company can, try offering a monetary bonus to those who truly go above and beyond. Recognition helps to foster positive attitudes and healthy behavior in the workplace which is a key factor to elevating the levels of employee engagement.
- Encourage teamwork among employees. There is a reason that people flock to team sports. When a group of people pulls together to win the big game, it often comes an infectious feeling that engulfs everyone around them—from teammates to the fans—the sense of camaraderie and success spreads to the masses. The same can be said for the workplace environment. When a large account or significant client needs your services, developing a strong team of employees gives them a sense of greater purpose. Pulling them together to work towards a big company goal can be incredibly satisfying, and allows them to bounce ideas off each other to ultimately meet the needs of your client. It adds a sense of cooperation, consideration, and confidence in not only each other but in the company, itself.
- Find employees that care about the customer. Research shows that engaged employees are likely to provide exceptional customer service. In today’s world where nearly everything is digital or online, customer service can end up being a secondary concern. However, if you look at the most successful companies, their employees maintain an excellent rate of high service to their customers. Occasionally surveying your client base and to find out what areas need improvement is a good way to keep your motivating your staff to improve their communication skills. If your employees care about the concerns of the customers, they are more willing to go above and beyond to help solve customer issues.
- Listen to and act on employee feedback. Listening to what your customers have to say is important, but so is listening to your employees. Having regular meetings to determine what areas of your workplace environment need improvement is an important part of keeping the employees engaged with the company. By using a company survey, or even a monthly meeting, giving your staff a voice is vital in making them feel like part of the company. If there is a situation within the internal workings of the company that goes unnoticed or unaddressed by management, it sends an unfavorable message to your staff. If they know that management cares, and hears their concerns, they will continue to maintain a high level of engagement instead of becoming despondent and disengaged.
- Create a workplace environment free of fear. So many business and companies tend to operate in a performance-based environment. This sort of atmosphere is a favorable environment for fear and uncertainty to grow in, so keeping employee engagement steady is especially important. Allowing your employees to make choices without having to run everything up to the chain of command, allows them great moments within their career. Coincidentally, these performance-based environments can also lead to the fear of getting reprimanded if their decision falls flat. Managing a business where employees are punished for mistakes or a wrong choice is a sure-fire strategy for staff to become disengaged and unwilling to take the risks sometimes necessary for success. This is another opportunity to choose a kinder, more positive approach with your staff that can still be effective, without diminishing their levels of engagement.
- Motivate, inspire and coach your employees. Not only should your employees understand the scope of their work, but as their manager, so should you. Creating a positive workplace environment starts with happy employees, but doesn’t end there. The tone is set by the managerial staff from the beginning, and a good way to achieve a positive tone is to be more than their boss; be the best coach they could have. If you see an employee struggling with a task, approach them to see if you can help in any way. Whether it is a pat on the back and words of encouragement urging them to keep trying or offering guidance on policy and procedure, they will see your willingness to help as a concern for their state of mind, as well as the company’s success. Many individuals throughout history who’ve been praised for outstanding accomplishments have had a good coach or mentor standing behind them. Be that coach for your employees.
- Let them show you how well they can lead. At some point, everyone takes off their training wheels and just goes for it. As a manager, there will be times when you are going to have to let your team take the lead and drive home the presentation on their own. For your employees to feel passionate about their work and strive for only the best outcomes, they need to know that the company has faith in them. A good way to show them that is by allowing them to display their leadership and skills without any interference from managers or owners in the company. If they don’t feel confidence, help guide and encourage them until they do. Even if the result isn’t what was desired, show them their effort, and hard work didn’t go unnoticed while providing constructive critique to help them grow.
- Encourage their personal development. Many times, the people who work for any given business only do so out of the necessity of a paycheck. Companies who retain employees with specific skill sets aren’t likely to face this issue. However, it still could ring true to some individuals on the staff. As you get to know your employees, you may learn about their personal hobbies and interests, even as far as learning what it is they eventually want to do with their lives. Think about the company and the different areas it may specialize in. Is there a better place for this employee to apply these additional skills? Does one of the secretaries have a love of graphic design? Maybe a warehouse worker desires to do more by upgrading his education to better serve the company as a distribution manager. Helping these employees reach a place within the company not only helps to encourage their development but allows you to retain them on staff in a capacity in which they could elevate their levels of engagement
“I’ve always believed that actively listening to employee feedback can be as important as delegating tasks and leading teams. When employees feel engaged and their opinions are given serious consideration, your organization is open to growing in a more organic and positive fashion. At 10x Management, we have a weekly call with all of our employees where we discuss weekly wins and learns: things we learned through experiences in the past week and how we can do better. We all take part in this call and it’s a great way to generate new ideas. What I love about startup culture today is that rebels are rewarded, not reviled. New companies do things completely differently. The old rules of how to innovate have been thrown out with the fax machines.”
-Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder
Employee Engagement Strategies
Now that you know why employee engagement is so important to your business, you can begin to look at the strategies to increase these levels. Let’s say you have conducted your survey, gathered the results, and discovered what areas need modification.
Maybe you’ve made a checklist on how to improve employee engagement, but now you’re not sure how to go about implementing these changes. A common mistake those in managerial positions tend to make is believing that these decisions need to come from the highest position of the hierarchy. The best way to carry on these strategies is starting with the employees, right up to the chain of command, to the bosses themselves.
Use and share the information from the employee engagement survey with all the department managers, empower them so they can take that knowledge back to their individual teams. When the employees are made aware of the results, you can then talk to them about their ideas for improvement. When they are part of the solution, they are less likely to be the cause of the problems.
As a manager, it is your responsibility to help lead the employees to be a successful, cohesive team. That starts with the collaboration of ideas to help rectify any issues that crop up through the survey.
Why is employee engagement important? The simple answer: because it motivates your employees to be productive and call in sick less often. A more detailed explanation is that a strong foundation to every business lies within the goals and values of that organization. From the founder of the company, down to the individuals who answer the phones, every single employee wants to feel heard, valued and trusted. They want to believe that the work they are doing has a purpose and that their time is appreciated.
Making your employees feel as though they are part of a team and that their presence in the workplace is necessary is a key factor in maintaining higher levels of engagement. Engaged employees mean productivity will increase, profit and shareholder margins increase and the results in customer satisfaction can skyrocket, leaving your company with a reputation that some only dream of having.
Finding a survey with aptly worded employee engagement questions, that is also backed up with benchmark data will be of utmost importance to begin answering the question of how engaged your employees truly are. If you understand how to measure employee engagement and find a solution to maintain the levels, your business can grow and rise to the top of the list among the competition.
By listening to your employees and hearing their questions and concerns, engaging them in personal conversations, and mentoring and coaching them to put forth their best efforts, you will be helping engagement levels rise. When the company can mirror the best efforts and reliability of their employees, it culminates in a successful business model where everyone is successful, passionate and engaged. In other words, employee engagement is a necessary part of the blueprints that will produce a workplace free of fear, one flush with ideas and a sense of camaraderie among everyone within its walls.