It’s important to keep them engaged and actively participating in trying to make your company the best it can be. But how do you go about that?
There are many factors to consider when it comes to driving your employees to excel. These cover every aspect of their working lives, and are all used in conjunction with one another to keep engagement (and, hopefully, achievement) as high as it can be. Relationships, diversity, well-being, communication, career development – each has its role to play.
Let’s take a look at some of the top drivers of employee engagement, and see what you can do to help keep your teams performing at their best.
Mental and Physical Health
We are not machines. We can’t keep running forever without breaks or with very little maintenance. It’s important that we take the time to prioritize both our mental and physical health, as this will help us in the long-term.
A big part of engagement is motivation. Burnout affects three quarters of employees at some point during their careers, which can have a host of unpleasant side effects. Stress, depression, and exhaustion are common afflictions, with many issues going on to cause physical issues as well. The effects of prolonged stress are well documented, and something you as an employer need to watch out for.
Burnout is also very bad for business. It can lead to:
- High levels of absenteeism
- Low employee retention
- Decreased productivity
- A hostile or unfriendly working environment
- Lower quality of work
All of this incurs additional costs for your business, as well as a reputation amongst employees as not being a healthy or supportive place to work. So it’s best to get ahead of burnout before it can become a problem.
How to improve workplace wellbeing
As ever, communication is key. Right from the get-go, make sure that you build a culture of open communication where your employees can go to someone if they have concerns. You need to know when people are starting to feel burnt out before it becomes a major problem, so consider doing semi-regular check-ups, or incorporate them into your performance reviews.
One of the leading causes of stress in the workplace comes from workloads. 76% of employees state that it is one of the largest problems they face. Comparatively, the next highest issue is lack of control (35%).
Data taken from Champion Health
So, encourage positive management of workloads. Where possible, assign work to teams of people rather than individuals. This will lessen the strain, as employees will have an immediate support network of coworkers to turn to, and people to share the effort with.
And be reasonable with your workloads. This falls on your shoulders as a manager to correctly plan ahead and set a schedule for when things need to be done. Check in with employees to make sure they’re not leaving everything to the last minute, too
Sure, dealing with clients who take forever to get back to you can be immensely frustrating. But you should try to lessen the impact this has on your employees as much as possible, or give them advanced warning that there is a spanner in the works. This helps them keep a healthy work-life balance.
If you want your employees to stay engaged, you need to make sure they know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Clarity in the workplace will help give them a sense of direction, and offer more chances for autonomy and expression.
Clarity of communication means:
- Regular updates
- A strong chain of command (everyone knows who to report to)
- A clear calendar that is accessible to everyone
- A good email service with concise, clear newsletters for wider news
Communication is always key. Without it, everything falls apart. Your workers have a right to know what’s going on, and keeping them informed keeps them engaged.
A sense of purpose doesn’t only refer to what an employee’s job is within the company, but, moreso, what the purpose of the company itself is.
- What does your business hope to achieve?
- Why are they there?
- What does it mean to work for them?
By making this clear you give your employees direction – something to work towards. Of course, you want to make a profit, but why did you choose this business direction in the first place?
A simple purpose statement that you can include in any onboarding materials will make this explicitly obvious. Get your employees on board with the original intention of your brand, why it is the way it is, to give them a deeper understanding and appreciation.
Role and Expectations
Before you hire an employee you should make it clear what their role will be within your company. On the job listing you advertise, you should include as much relevant information as possible so people know what they are getting themselves into.
This prevents issues such as when an employee steps into their role and realizes the job isn’t what they were expecting.
You should have a contract, portal, or knowledge base that allows your employees to refer back to their role and the expectations that come with it. It also means that employees can manage these expectations so they don’t end up taking on unnecessary workloads or fall behind in their current tasks.
Another thing to consider is how well-suited a person is for their role. Of course, interviews and screenings are done to assess this, but situations can change even after a person has been employed for a while. Having real passion for their job will help rocket employee engagement levels to new heights, so be sure to hire employees for where they’re best suited and won’t feel out of place.
Recognition and Feedback
Good recognition and frequent feedback about an employee’s work are some of the most important factors relating to engagement. Without acknowledgement, efforts can seem meaningless. The bare minimum becomes the norm in terms of output.
Constructive feedback keeps your employees motivated. Being shown where they are doing well and where things may be lapsing allows them to amend mistakes and prevent it from happening again. This works doubly as well if you or your HR department are there to support them when they need help.
When asked what the most important thing their manager/company did to encourage great work, employees from O. C. Tanner voted overwhelmingly (37%) that recognition was the driving motivator. The next highest option, at only 13%, was ‘Nothing. I am self-motivated’.
This gives some idea of just how necessary recognition is to drive engagement. And it’s not just O. C. Tanner employees that agree. SHRM found that 82% of human resources professionals reported increased levels of employee happiness when their companies incorporated recognition programs. 87% agreed that recognition has a very positive effect on a workplace in general, meaning higher retention rates of employees.
Recognition and reward for a job well done is huge for employee happiness and morale. But it doesn’t just have to come from upper management. Your employees will be working alongside one another, and may want to commend someone in particular for either their performance, or how they improve the atmosphere of the office.
An employee recognition form is a fantastic way for a workforce to nominate teams or individual employees who they think deserve praise for what they’ve done. Things like “employee of the month” add a sense of fulfillment, as it’s a challenge to work towards which therefore keeps people engaged.
Finally, remember to give your workers a voice as well! Employee feedback forms can let you see where you may also be falling behind, which can have a significant impact the overall engagement of your workforce.
Even in remote positions, we all have to interact with people at some point in our careers. Therefore, it’s a good idea to build up a strong relationship with your peers so that you can work effectively together as a team, have each others’ backs, and be a source of encouragement and support.
Employee relationships built in the day-to-day work environment can make or break a team. A sense of camaraderie and shared experience can create strong connections and “support psychological resilience” which can greatly benefit all parties involved.
Mutual trust, respect, and a sense of equality all helps to create a positive workplace. It’s always more fun to go to work with friends. That’s the type of culture you, as an employer, want to foster.
Also be sure to consider how diverse your employees are. Are you making an effort to strive for inclusion? How good are your DEIB practices? A range of people from various backgrounds and walks of life leads for new insights and ideas to circulate. And did you know a diverse workforce is more likely to perform better, be a more positive workplace, and reduce employee turnover rates? What’s not to love?
As a leader, you need to be an example for your employees and be there for them when you are needed. An absent employer, one who sets tasks and then abandons their workforce, can be a major source of stress and low motivation.
Then you get the managers who belittle, who micromanage, who don’t respect your boundaries outside of work. The organizational analytical firm, Gallup, reported that “managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores” – an enormous proportion.
Positive relationships between employees and their senior leadership will lead to improved engagement, as workers will feel valued and supported. Remember that respect is a two-way street. Take the time to appropriately train your managers on how to be good leaders who can bolster their team, not drag them down.
There’s a lot to be said for a pleasant work environment, both in terms of its physical attributes and the people in it. No one wants to work in cramped, stuffy little cubicles, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. So do what you can to make the area people will be spending a lot of their time as comfortable – and as accessible – as possible.
Think about where people commune, where they like to go when not at their desks or on-call on the shop floor. These areas should be open, where people can relax together on their breaks or at lunch. Facilities such as a break room or cafeteria with nice decor and comfortable seats do well in this regard. Just little things that make the workplace a more enjoyable space to be in.
Always keep your DEIB principles in mind. Is your area accessible for people with disabilities? If not, what can you do to change it? This also includes those who are neurodivergent. Is your environment welcoming for them so that they can perform at their best?
And in online, remote environments, these principles still apply. Chat rooms and team group areas combined with easy-to-use knowledge bases keep people connected and help them be more productive.
There are many types of company culture, so it’s useful to know which one you fall into, first and foremost. Then, you can take a look at how you can improve your culture, and watch out for any warning signs that might lead to lessened engagement with your employees.
An engaged workforce will feel connected to what they do and where they are. It’s an important challenge, but once you get the ball rolling you’ll find yourself attracting more people who are naturally suited to your culture already.
When people are happy and feel welcome in their workplace, they’re more motivated to do their best and stay where they are. Their overall employee experience is better, so they’ll be in the right mindset to stay engaged.
This is one of those nifty points that underpins everything else your company does. As with your purpose, highlight exactly what you wish to uphold. These will be relevant to the internal workings of your company, but may also be relevant externally as a part of your branding. It’s important that your employees believe in what you’re saying, otherwise you open yourself up to issues.
The values of your employees need to align with your company values. If there is a disconnect in objective then it can feel alienating and discouraging.
By advertising your most attractive values, you’re more likely to attract the top talent available. It helps to pre-emptively filter out people who may not work well with you.
Source: In Great Company, by Louis Carter
A stagnant job leads to a stagnant mind. Employees won’t be engaged if they’re stuck in a dead-end cycle with no prospects and no upwards trajectory.
We have a desire to make meaningful work – something that makes a direct impact, and not just to the bottom line. The opportunity for professional development helps us to achieve that. And it’s a self-sustaining cycle. Generally, engaged employees will want to develop anyway. By giving them the routes to do so, you help yourself in the long run.
Career growth plays an important role in an employee’s life. Clear, consistent progress leads to higher levels of job satisfaction as people can look back and see how much they’ve progressed.
The opportunity for learning development is also a great promoter of engagement, since you’re providing access to knowledge that will help employees outside of the workplace as well. This can build a sense of empowerment and increase feelings of support. Online programs that cover a wide range of skills, or company-specific ones that team members can enroll in make for a more versatile, well-rounded person.
It’s always beneficial to have the right tools for the job. If something’s missing, everything can grind to a halt.
When budgeting and planning, make sure that you include everything an employee might need, including software, physical resources, and personal assistance such as training programs or tutorials. There is always a time and a place for initiative and creativity when it comes to tackling problems. But don’t force your workers to rely on these assets if you have neglected to provide the tools necessary for effectively completing their workload.
You’ll also need some tools to keep track of and measure how well these strategies are performing. Employee engagement surveys can give you some sort of indication, but they are not always reliable as they require analyzing metrics over a longer period of time. Instead, consider Gallup’s employee engagement model which looks at the most important areas to focus on as an employer.
If you’re still feeling a little unsure about how best to motivate and drive your employees to be more engaged, don’t worry. There are lots of resources available to help. And, trust us, your employees will thank you for it.
Becoming a most loved workplace isn’t as hard as it may sound. You just need to be willing to listen to what your team has to say, and always keep in mind that you’re all working towards the same goal. Your responsibility is something to be proud of. Your employees are something to be proud of. Don’t shy away from either.
Embrace the passion you have for your work, and your employees are sure to feel it, too.
Louis Carter is the founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute, Most Loved Workplace, and Results-Based Culture. Author of In Great Company, Change Champions Field Guide, and Best Practices in Talent Management, as well as a series of Leadership Development books. He is a trusted strategic advisor and coach to CEOs, CHROs, and leaders of mid-sized to F500 companies – enabling change and steering employer brand development together with highly effective teams, leaders, and organizations as a whole.