Understanding how to promote employee engagement starts with a simple question…what does employee engagement really mean?
At its most basic level, it is a set of strategies that creates a working environment and atmosphere where employees feel they are empowered to do their jobs effectively, work towards personal and common goals, and have a general sense of satisfaction and happiness.
There is never a one-size-fits-all approach to employee engagement, as each organisation and their employer branding stands for very different things. However, these strategies do tend to achieve many of the same objectives.
These objectives can be broadly categorised as follows:
- Unification – Creating a ‘one team’ spirit, ensuring teams are aligned and making employees feel part of something bigger
- Embracing purpose – Instilling the same values, standards and expectations in employees across every level of seniority
- Driving the brand vision – Ensure that teams are motivated to work towards long-term goals, growing professionally and personally in the process
- Promoting a positive culture – A working environment that is enjoyable, inspiring and encourages development, trust and autonomy
- Creating strong leadership – Respectful, knowledgeable and supportive leadership encourages feedback and channels of open communication
- Building the ideal workforce – Engaged employees are happier and more productive, likely to form an emotional connection with your brand/their workplace and are less likely to leave
The importance of employee engagement
While employee engagement can be hard to measure, the short and long-term benefits are very tangible. If an individual feels nurtured and supported, while being surrounded by a like-minded team, they are likely to thrive in their working environment.
When they feel trusted, they are more likely to bring ideas to the table, and this is where innovation within the business can stem from.
It’s no longer enough for employees to just feel satisfied in their workplace – they want to excel. When people are proud of the work they do, they will shout about it. When they are proud of the brand they work for and the way they are treated, they will become advocates. This creates a positive cycle within the business, as this encourages and drives successful recruitment.
While high employee retention is sometimes a result of high employee engagement, just because an employee has been retained a long time doesn’t always mean they are actively engaged. There are plenty of businesses and brands out there who have had employees with them since their inception, but they have become stagnant or comfortable in their positions.
All of these benefits will have a direct impact on the day-to-day of your business. Here are the topline benefits of employee engagement, and how they can be loosely categorised when putting together your business case…
- Increase the productivity of your employees
- Higher quality of output
- A positive workplace atmosphere
- Greater client satisfaction
- Increased profitability
The list goes on. No matter how intangible employee engagement may feel at the beginning, investing the time and effort will positively affect your bottom line.
4 employee engagement strategy examples
In Daniel H. Pink’s book ‘Drive’, he combines research from MIT and other universities to lay out what really motivates us as humans and professionals. While we will explore 4 proven employee engagement strategies in more detail, we wanted to touch upon some of his core findings as they really help to give the strategies context.
The conclusion that the book reaches is that employees need 3 things outside of pay progression and benefits to be fulfilled in their roles: purpose, mastery and autonomy.
These 3 short words hold a lot of power in the workplace – if you can enable every employee to feel as though these have been achieved, you will be in a good position.
Now you understand some of the underlying desires of the individual, let’s discuss how we can make these a reality…
#1 Open communication and feedback
While the benefits of open communication and feedback are far-reaching, one of the main benefits is that psychologically employees feel they can speak openly and feel comfortable enough to offer input without fear or dread of ridicule.
There are a number of great ways to foster this level of communication:
- Encourage questions, feedback and insight from employees at all levels of seniority
- Provide feedback in a constructive way and avoid overly critical language
- When negative feedback is given, ensure there is clear support to help the individual address the issue
- Give employees a platform for anonymous commentary, such as through a suggestion box or employee engagement survey
- When a decision about the company is made, or there is big news to announce, make sure an effective communication strategy is put in place to avoid hearsay, gossip and confusion
#2 Professional development
Part of nurturing good employees means bringing them into your brand’s growth mindset. If you want an individual to invest their time and effort into making your brand more successful, you need to invest in them, and the skills they will need in order to make this possible.
Here are some of the different ways you can promote CPD within your organisation…
- Create a training bursary so that employees can ‘apply’ for course funding that will help them in their job role
- Create an in-office library space or set an annual personal book/kindle allowance
- Find industry-relevant webinars (paid for or free) and create an employee newsletter to inform them of upcoming courses and lectures
- Introduce a ‘lunch and learn’ or give employees a shot at a ‘Whiteboard Friday’ style CPD session. Encourage different individuals to come forward and share their skills and what they do with other team members or departments.
- Bring in industry experts a couple of times a year to give tailored sessions on subjects employees are keen to learn about. You could put together a list of desired individuals and put it out to a vote on who comes in.
#3 Set out clear expectations and progression
There’s not much worse than the first day at a job and not understanding what you’re supposed to be doing. Too often people are left to their own devices, so having proper training and support in place is crucial to getting off on the right foot.
At the very minimum, each recruit should have:
- A job description of their expected duties
- A handbook or welcome pack that tells them everything they need to know about the company
- Who they should go to if they have a problem related to the work they are delivering
- Goals they should work towards in the next quarter or within another specified timeframe
- Regular one-to-ones and conversations about progression
#4 Social events
Many companies plan lots of wonderful days and nights out, without implementing the 3 prior strategies first. While social events and team bonding is very important, communication, development and clarity are the critical foundations for strong employee engagement.
Social events play their part too, but only work to support everything else. Here are some ideas to ensure your team gets to enjoy some fun outside of the office:
- Introduce Friday drinks with a weekly debrief and chat
- Plan summer and Christmas socials well in advance
- See if any willing employees are up for creating their own initiatives, such as a book club or team lunches
- While not a social event, having social areas within an office for breaks can provide a welcome space to unwind and mingle with colleagues during lunch
Barriers to employee engagement
While budget, time and lack of know-how will affect the level of commitment you can provide, there really is no just reason to avoid implementing some kind of employee engagement strategy.
Lack of budget?
Look for free courses online. Encourage a book sharing club internally. Get employees to skillshare on dedicated days. Instead of fancy nights out, have a takeaway and boardgames night in the office. Likewise, communication doesn’t need to cost the earth. A quick weekly standup on a Friday to share what’s going on is a great starting point.
Lack of time?
First you need to identify what you need to do and see if there are people already in the business who would have the skill-sets to drive initiative forward. This in itself could act as motivation. Alternatively, if what you need to do is an administrative nightmare, it could be worth exploring digital employee engagement tools that take care of a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff, keep you updated and send out calendar reminders on your behalf.
Lack of know-how?
If you haven’t gleaned enough from this article, there are lots of useful resources online. Or why not consider a brainstorming session with some of your team members? Conduct a survey and see how people are feeling, and hear their ideas first-hand.
Is an employee engagement strategy worth it?
While measuring employee engagement can be difficult, the results will speak from themselves in terms of employee satisfaction, happiness, retention and the new and improved way your business operates.
If you have highly-skilled employees and you want them to stay put, your team will need to put in the effort to keep them engaged. It’s not about providing ‘fluffy’ benefits, it’s giving individuals and teams the tools and support they need to grow. As a result, your business and brand will benefit.
Discover more about our employer branding marketing solution and how it can support your employee engagement strategies.