How to improve employee engagement

Natalie Toniotti
AUTHOR
Natalie Toniotti
    8 minute read

Jump straight to the statistics summary

"A happy employee is a productive employee" said Erin Davis at the American Library Association Conference in 2010. To expand on her point, if your employees don’t feel motivated, valued or engaged they are unlikely to be productive.

This idea was tested at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom by their Department of Economics. The results found that happier and more engaged employees worked harder and were found to be 12% more productive than their counterparts.

In this blog, we explore why employee engagement is important and how by implementing the right employee engagement strategies, your business can improve employee productivity and foster a healthy working environment.

What is employee engagement and why is it important?

Employee engagement is defined as “the level of an employee's commitment and connection to an organisation.” So understanding why it is important is common sense; the higher the level of employee engagement, the happier the employees. This translates to higher staff retention rates, improved customer service and overall, better business performance.

Ask yourself this question: how do you feel about what you do and the place you go to work? Motivated? Excited? Anxious? Supported? These one-word feelings or emotions are a great way to summarise whether your level of employee engagement resonates with more positive or negative connotations.

Best case scenario, your answers are more positive; words like inclusive, diverse, valued, heard and so on. Those answers indicate that your business might be on the right track to sustaining a positive employment engagement ranking. But remember, you are just one cog in the wheel; how does everyone else in the business feel? The same or are there wildly differentiating opinions? All of this ties into employee engagement and if a large majority are not happy, there’s a high likelihood that your bottom line won’t be either.

These statistics and facts paint a pretty good picture as to why investing in employee engagement tactics are worthwhile:

In their Global Human Capital Trends survey, Deloitte found a ‘sense of belonging’ to be the top driver for positive business performance with 93% of their respondents agreeing.

Think of the journey to a better employee engagement score as setting up for a domino effect. A happy employee creates happy customers. Happy customers create happy customer experiences. Happy customer experiences create healthier bottom lines. Disengaged employees damage businesses; it’s as simple as that.

Employee engagement programs: what are they?

Employee engagement programs are used by businesses as a tool to define and action initiatives that are focused on improving employee engagement. They usually start by identifying areas of opportunity within their current employee engagement score, highlight pain points and then create a plan to address these issues. A human resource representative or department is usually responsible for managing this process.

How to enhance employee engagement in five simple steps

Every business is different. The employee engagement feedback and scores for one organisation could be entirely different for another. For example, a business run on shift work may not be able to coordinate a monthly employee get-together to socialise versus an in-office setup with employees working 9-5, Monday to Friday.

Here are five ideas that can be implemented in the majority of businesses to improve employee engagement, no matter the industry.

  1. Create a training and professional development platform

    Does your business have a platform jampacked with courses to improve your employees' skills or help them develop skillsets in an area that they may be interested in? Do you know if they are interested in pursuing further education opportunities that, if successfully completed, could benefit your business down the track? Why not offer to financially support them in that aspect?

    You should always want to keep further developing your employees' knowledge and skillset to keep up with the demands of your industry. With Industry 4.0 breathing down our necks, there is no time to have employees that are one, unengaged and unhappy, and two, not upskilling to stay competitive.

  2. Re-assess internal communication processes

    When an important update happens within the business and it affects multiple departments, how do you communicate this information to your employees? Have you asked if they feel up-to-date with business changes, events and news? Why not consider the implementation of an internal employee newsletter or private Facebook social media groups to keep everyone abreast of weekly, fortnightly or monthly updates.

    Got a new product or service launching? Update the feed or include it in the next newsletter. Are there professional development opportunities or new positions being advertised in the near future? Why not let your internal employees know first to give them the chance to further develop before looking to fill vacancies externally.

  3. Invest in employee engagement surveys

    An employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) tool is a simple way to measure how engaged your employees are. Similar to customer NPS, an eNPS asks your employees to answer a simple question: “how likely as you to recommend our business as a preferred place of work to a friend or past colleague?” Why not consider implementing an eNPS into your business’s Engagement Index while you’re at it.

    Once you have the results, you can break them down with your employees and department leads to figure out what you are doing right and what needs to be improved.

  4. Get to know your employees individually

    Sit down with your employees or get your team leads to have a coffee with their direct reports away from work and in an environment that fosters open communication. Make it a point to let them know that you genuinely want to know how the business can help improve their employee experience.

    Is there anything that is preventing them from feeling engaged at work? Maybe give them some time ahead of the conversation to write down questions and key points. Or, if you are worried your employees may find this to be a too headstrong approach, create an ‘anonymous tip line’. Could be a box or an email account that employees can send concerns or ideas to without their identity being compromised and then address these in weekly meetings. The important part here is to actually show that their concerns are being heard. Take them through what action plans are in place in response to fostering a more engaged employee workplace.

  5. Embrace a flexible working environment

    Deloitte surveyed around 50 clients in various industries with varying company sizes and found that over 50% of their employees didn’t want to return to the office and would prefer remote work. Another study found that only 9% of the global workforce ever really expected to return full-time to the office, with 53% of large businesses now anticipating a reduction in their in-office footprint.

    Consider the work requirements of your teams. Do they really need to be in office? Do they even want to work in the office or would their work-life balance be better served by a hybrid or even fully remote work model?

How to keep your team engaged at work

Apart from the major points above, here are a few smaller and easier-to-implement concepts for improving employee engagement:

  • Have an ‘employee of the month’ initiative
  • Host TGIF meetings and potlucks 
  • Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and personal milestones
  • Get your teams to volunteer for a great cause together
  • Implement ‘nap time’ or ‘meditation time’
  • Entertain office excursions 
  • If logistically possible, 'bring your pets to work' day
  • Review onboarding processes for new hires.

The effects of negative employee engagement scores

If you woke up every day not feeling motivated to work and dreading logging on or getting ready to go into the office, what would you do to escape that feeling? Look elsewhere for work? Potentially bad mouth your boss or business to a friend or someone on the way to work? The repercussions of poor employee engagement are like throwing a stone into the water. Once the splash is made, the ripples become bigger and bigger and affect a much wider area than just the place the stone was thrown.

These ripples can be considered to be your employee's family and close friends, through to someone just walking by them on the street and hearing your business’s name come up in conversation; and not in a good way. The impact of poor employee experiences over time can lead to workplace phenomena like ‘The Great Resignation’ and ‘The Great Re-evaluation’. To avoid the fallout of these events, consider reading our blog on facilitating a healthy hybrid workplace.

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