7 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement, Happiness, and Motivation
It is a Thursday afternoon and you are walking through the office to your weekly leadership team meeting. You purposefully take the long way to say hello to employees, most of whom you do not have the opportunity to interact with on a regular basis. You notice the normal ebb and flow – some rushing to meetings, others at the printing machine, cube mates talking about their upcoming weekend plans. But you also notice the select group of people buried in their personal phones, perusing social media sites, doing the bare minimum. Behold, the disengaged employee: something every executive should fear. We have all worked with and seen these employees – they are physically in the office, but exerting minimal effort.
With only an estimated 35% of the global workforce highly engaged, businesses are failing at creating an engaging culture. Two weeks ago, I shared how building a strong workplace culture increases your bottom line (if you missed it, take a look here). When your employees are actively engaged, they are easy to recognize. They are confident, exude positivity, feel valued, and are able to focus on the task at hand. There is a direct correlation with engagement and business performance – including better financial outcomes. In a day and age where the workforce is competitive, consider that a culture of engagement could perhaps be a deciding factor for a prospective employee, as well as a means to retaining high performers. Do not let engagement be another buzzword or theoretical concept in your organization. Here are seven ways you can actively take steps to increase employee engagement.
1. Survey What Employees Want
Unfortunately for executives, running a successful business and keeping your ear to the ground about organizational happenings is not always feasible. Engagement surveys have increasingly become a popular option to solicit feedback and give employees a voice. We value hearing feedback from our clients and customers to refine our services, why wouldn’t we do the same with our employees who are contributing to the company’s bottom line?
Make the survey appealing. Before administering a survey, be sure to communicate with employees to give them a heads-up. Explain the purpose of the survey, that it is okay to be honest, and you want them to be part of the process. Be sure to make the survey anonymous, short in length, and consider conducting more than one per year.
Do something with the results. Ignoring employee’s feedback could perhaps be the easiest way to disengage them. Instead, share the results with your organization – or minimally, your management team. Do not administer a survey as a reaction to something, or to simply check a box. Make organizational changes to reflect the feedback provided in order for your employees to feel they are being heard and cared for.
2. Give Feedback Consistently
Keep your finger on the pulse. Do not implement a project or program and walk away – figure out what is working and what is not working on the team. Many executives schedule sporadic check-ins with their management team, only leaving time to be reactive to issues that have arisen as opposed to being proactive. In a Gallup study, employees that received helpful and continuous feedback from managers performed better and were more engaged. But not all feedback has to be positive; only 22% of those that received negative feedback were disengaged. However, those that received no feedback and felt ignored by management were twice as likely to be actively disengaged.
Look for opportunities to provide feedback. Do not assume you give enough feedback or that employees know they are doing a good job. Seek moments to prescribe personalized direction, recognition, and constructive criticism. Ongoing feedback keeps the communication line open, and prevents projects from getting off track.
Be thoughtful. Not all feedback has to be positive, nor does it need to be extensive. Be clear and honest in providing direction. Show employees that you value their feedback by actively soliciting it during meetings.
3. Let Employees Lead
Make employees feel like business partners to help them be more invested and engaged. When your employees have a sense of ownership on a project, chances are they will perform at a higher level. Google is a great case example of allowing employees to discover their potential. As part of their “20 percent” project, the organization encourages staff to talk about ideas that interest them across teams and various channels, tapping into hidden talents among staff.
Encourage employees to submit ideas. What better way to discover a new market or product than talking to front line staff? Create an online portal for them to submit ideas, or consider asking them during staff meetings.
Foster cross-departmental collaboration. Break the silo and encourage staff to interact across your company. You may be surprised of the magnitude of the innovative ideas that can be produced across disciplines – not to mention, workplace camaraderie.
4. Build Workplace Camaraderie
If done thoughtfully, team building can help employees get to know one another on a personal level, fostering friendship at work. Studies show that having friends at work is directly related to employee engagement. Workplace camaraderie can go a long way; when you care about the people you work with, you also care about helping one another succeed.
Create opportunities for connections. While friendships cannot be forced in the workplace, you can certainly provide a conducive environment. Take employees out of the work setting and allow them to get to know each other better. Consider a sports team, a happy hour, or even trying local lunch spots.
Participate in team building. Workplace camaraderie and meaningful friendships are closely linked to trust. Support an environment that fosters these relationships and get to know staff on a personal level.
5. Show Why Your Employees and Their Work Matter
In today’s fast-paced and competitive market, employees want to feel validated in the work they do and have a sense of purpose. Amongst the various strategies to create a culture of engagement, organizations often overlook one of the easiest ways: employee recognition. In a recent Gallup analysis, only one in three workers indicated receiving praise for doing good work in the past week, and those who did not feel adequately recognized were twice as likely to quit within the year. Instead of recognizing them solely during annual performance reviews, it is imperative to appreciate employees year-round. Recognition results in pride in their work, higher satisfaction with their job, commitment to the company, and being more engaged.
Be timely in giving thanks. Showing gratitude and appreciation for a job well done boosts morale, encourages success, and provides an example of what value-driven behaviors serve as a catalyst for recognition.
Show how their job contributes to the big picture. Help employees understand that the work they are doing is valuable and contributes to the bottom line. If you think your work is meaningless, what is the motivating factor to be engaged? Show them how their work contributes to the mission and goals of your organization.
6. Celebrate Personal Milestones
You do not need to throw an elaborate party or disrupt the workday, but small gestures go a long way. While recognizing work achievements is important, celebrating personal milestones is a great way to show your team that you value them and their special day. Is someone getting married? Celebrating a birthday? Expecting their first child? Boost employee morale and create a positive work environment that celebrates them.
Set expectations through a process. If your company is relatively small, it may not be difficult to keep track of personal milestones. Larger organizations, however, may require more leg work; develop a system to keep track of employees’ birthdays and other important accomplishments.
Get personal. Write a personalized note on a greeting card – or stop by that employee’s desk. Show that you are actively acknowledging their celebratory milestone.
7. Create Meaning
“Meaning” constitutes a variety of definitions, likely different for every employee. However, executives have the unique opportunity to facilitate a sense of purpose for their employees and help to find clarity about what has meaning for them. Congruency in values is increasingly becoming a deciding factor in attracting new talent for organizations, especially among millennials. In a 2016 survey, 56% of respondents (including 7,700 millennials across 29 countries) ruled out a prospective company due to lack of fit with values or standards of conduct.
Discuss the meaning of the organization. It is important for employees to understand the big picture mission – why does your organization exist? Be sure to touch on the goals, visions for the future, and values. Walk your talk: avoid the feeling of disconnect from your staff and be authentic in both discussing and practicing these topics.
Give back locally. Have a purpose beyond the bottom line. Choose a charity in the community that employees can give back to. Encourage office camaraderie by letting your staff choose the charity, create a fundraising competition across teams, and then match their donations.
Employee engagement begins with leadership. While it is easy to cast blame on unengaged employees alone, team failure is a failure of leadership. You have a unique opportunity to cultivate an environment and culture that can spur engagement, therefore eliciting empowered employees to perform better. After all, what executive would not want peace of mind knowing that their organization is filled with fully immersed and engaged employees?