6 Employee Engagement Strategies and Why You Need Them
Employee engagement doesn’t measure happiness or satisfaction. Instead, it’s a concept that encompasses an employee’s commitment to an organization and its goals.
Engaged employees aren’t just at work for a paycheck, though competitive pay and benefits certainly help. Instead, they want to put in effort and emotional dedication because they believe in what the company is doing and their role within it.
Engaged employees are those who answer “yes” to questions like:
- Do you find your work meaningful and rewarding?
- Do you think your life is going well?
- Do you feel hopeful about the future?
This engagement comes with a lot business benefit, too. Companies with engaged workers see 23% higher profits than those with unengaged workers, according to a 2022 Gallup report. Engaged workers also have significantly lower absenteeism, turnover and accidents — all while driving higher customer loyalty.
Disengagement: A Deeper Business Issue
Only 21% of the global workforce is engaged, the Gallup report revealed. On the flip side, 60% of employees say they are emotionally detached, meaning they show up to work and clock in, but they’re not bringing with them any energy or passion.
Perhaps even worse is that 19% of employees are actively disengaged — meaning they’re miserable. These workers, resentful that their needs are not being met, are more likely to act out due to unhappiness and look for ways to undermine their co-workers’ accomplishments.
Most employees don’t start off disengaged. They’re hopeful, with an optimistic career outlook. So, what happens to make that change? Gallup outlined five of the top causes of workplace disengagement:
- Unfair treatment at work
- Unmanageable workload
- Unclear communication from management
- Lack of manager support
- Unreasonable time pressure
One thing these causes have in common? Leadership.
Leaders have a significant influence over employee engagement — they’re the ones sculpting the workplace experience, whether good or bad. Because of this, strategies to improve employee engagement should focus on a top-down approach, ensuring leadership has the tools and resources they need to empower their teams.
Overall, Gallup estimates that low employee engagement, which is linked to performance outcomes such as productivity, safety, retention and profitability, is costing the global economy $7.9 trillion. Adding factors such as absenteeism, complacency and diminished output, a single disengaged employee can cost you $15,000 to $30,000 per year, depending on their salary, according to Forbes.
Related Article: What Is Employee Experience and Why Does It Matter?
How to Identify Disengaged Workers
Engaged workers aren’t happy 100% of the time, so it’s important to distinguish between someone having a bad day and someone who’s detached — or, worse, actively disengaged.
To identify disengaged workers, look at performance over time, such as three to six months, or even a year. This information will offer a fuller picture of the person’s performance and eliminate any short-term factors that could impact work performance, like stress at home.
Some common signs of disengagement to look out for include:
- Low productivity
- Lower quality work
- A negative attitude
- Careless mistakes
- Lack of initiative
- Increase in absenteeism
- Withdrawal or isolation from colleagues
- Conflict with other employees
- No desire to learn new skills
- Difficulty persevering through challenges
6 Strategies to Increase Employee Engagement
Ensuring employees stay engaged — meaning they’re involved and enthusiastic about their job and workplace — takes effort and planning. These employee engagement strategies start with a top-down approach and focus on what employees seek most in employment.
1. Establish Management Training
Poor management is a bag factor in employee disengagement, and that poor management often comes down to inadequate training and direction.
A survey from West Monroe revealed that, on average, 34% of managers receive no managerial training at all. And the smaller the team, the less training is provided, according to the study: 41% percent of managers who oversee three to five people received no managerial training, and that number jumps to 59% for those who oversee only one to two people.
To avoid having managers that de-motivate employees, even unintentionally, companies should create programs that hone leader communication skills (the best platforms to communicate with, assigning tasks, how to set expectations, ways to offer support and feedback, etc.). They should also establish training that covers diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), conflict resolution, delegation and accountability, collaboration and other leadership areas.
2. Solicit Employee Feedback (and Act on It)
The best way to learn how employees feel about the company and their roles is to ask them.
Honest employee feedback, both good and bad, gives businesses a jumping off point for change. Anonymous surveys are one of the best ways to gain this feedback, as employees may feel uncomfortable in a one-on-one meeting or focus group and, as a result, not be forthcoming.
Aim for a mixture of qualitative and quantitative questions, such as:
- What’s your favorite part of your job?
- What’s the most frustrating part of your job?
- On a scale of 1 to 5 (five being the most satisfied), how satisfied are you with your position?
- On a scale of 1 to 5 (five being the most likely), how likely are you to recommend working at this company to a friend?
Once the survey is complete, analyze the data and decide where you can take action and where you can't. Then, communicate the results to employees, including what information you found and what the company plans to do about it.
It's also important to address problems you can't solve. Management should explain why they're unable to take action and brainstorm alternatives with employees.
Related Article: Employee Experience Surveys: Dos and Don’ts
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3. Start an Employee Engagement Committee
Give employees an active role in promoting workplace engagement with an employee engagement committee.
Ask for volunteers and aim for a committee of eight to 10 people. Selecting volunteers will help ensure you’re choosing your most engaged employees — the ones most interested in improving the workplace and experiences within it.
This group should play an active role in solving issues found from employee feedback. They should also collaborate on workplace initiatives focused on ensuring each employee feels valued and heard.
4. Provide Opportunities for Advancement
Employees don’t want to stagnate. They need opportunities to challenge themselves, learn new skills and take on new responsibilities.
One LinkedIn report found 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if the company invested in their learning and development. Another LinkedIn report found employees stick around 41% longer at companies that regularly hire from within.
Businesses can promote advancement with:
- Education stipends
- Peer learning groups
- One-on-one mentorships
- Online learning (courses, videos, games, etc.)
- Promotion opportunities
Related Article: Why Your Organization Needs Employee Training and Development
5. Recognize High-Quality Work
When an employee makes a mistake, misses a deadline or arrives late to work, most managers take notice and say something. Why shouldn’t the same be true when someone consistently turns in quality work or brings a great attitude to the office?
It all comes down to a breakdown in communication. Too many leaders don’t speak up about what employees are doing right. In turn, those employees don’t know if they’re meeting expectations. They might feel unappreciated and undervalued and, as a result, feel less connected to the company and put in less effort.
Remote teams might need to rely on a heartfelt email that acknowledges the excellent work an employee or team has done on a project or initiative. Physical workplaces can host a celebratory lunch. For the company’s top performers, recognition for good work might also include an incentive — a cash prize, a paid day off or a restaurant gift card. Even simple recognition in front of the rest of the company can make the biggest difference.
6. Focus on Corporate Social Responsibility
Today’s engaged employees need to align with a company’s overall values and mission. They want businesses — including the one they work for — to benefit not just shareholders but also the communities in which they exist.
In research from Porter Novelli, 70% of employees said they wouldn’t work for a company without a strong purpose, and 60% said they’d be willing to take a pay cut to work at a purpose-driven company. Of employees who work at companies with a strong sense of purpose, 90% said they’re more inspired, motivated and loyal.
According to Harvard Business Review, corporate social responsibility looks at four areas:
- Environmental responsibility: Does the business regulate energy consumption, eliminate or reduce harmful practices and look for ways to offset negative impacts?
- Ethical responsibility: Is the business operating in a fair and ethical manner? This area includes the sourcing of materials and ingredients as well as the pay and treatment of employees.
- Philanthropic responsibility: How does the business actively work to make the world better? Does it donate a portion of earnings to charities? If so, how do those charities' missions align with the company mission?
- Economic responsibility: Do all of the company's financial decisions line up with its commitment to do good in the areas above? Does the end goal go beyond maximizing profits?
Build Engagement, Boost Growth
Employee engagement has far-reaching impact. Yet, while the benefits of employee engagement are increasingly well-known ant talked about (along with the cons of disengagement), few employees are actively engaged.
By investing in employee engagement, companies can tap into the potential of each employee. The result is not only happier, more talented workers, but also greater business revenue and growth.