Employee engagement means more than just content employees
True employee engagement goes much deeper than building a program of employee activities designed to help make work a fun and fulfilling place.
What do we mean when we talk about ‘engagement?’
According to research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 88% of U.S. employees are satisfied with their current jobs. Compensation, benefits, and job security all play a role in how content people are at work.
But when it came to fulfillment, that same sampling of employees were only moderately engaged. As described in detail here and here, a satisfied employee isn’t always an engaged employee. And as SHRM’s recent analysis proves, a program focused on pay and perks, while important, doesn’t result in high levels of engagement or lead to lasting results.
For that, an organization needs a comprehensive employee engagement strategy that the executive team can rally around. With 2017 well underway, it’s still not too late to create a documented engagement strategy.
The only employee engagement idea you need
Instead of approaching employee engagement as a series of individual ideas—a seasonal activity here, a new benefit there—it helps to think of it as an overall process. Employee engagement isn’t about discovering new and creative ways to keep employees happy. Sure, your workforce might be delighted to see a freshly stocked break room or new massage chairs in the lounge. But how often will those bursts of contentment from free snacks and relaxation sessions translate into more passion around a big company goal?
The best employee engagement ideas are ones that draw out deep-seated motivations that ultimately lead to employees becoming more invested in the company’s overall success.
The 4-point plan
For starters, think beyond many traditional approaches that require physical office spaces and face-to-face activities.
With the bulk of today’s employees relying heavily on mobile devices (Americans collectively check their smartphones eight billion times a day) an engagement strategy must meet employees on their own turf to be truly meaningful to them. As long as you have a way to interact with employees on smartphones and tablets, the only engagement ideas you’ll ever need are the ones that keep them consistently engaged whether they’re in the office, in the field, or working remotely.
1. Measure employee engagement. In an in-depth, interview-based report involving 550 executives, researchers at Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that 71% of leaders rank employee engagement as critical to achieving business goals.However, fewer than half (24%) of those respondents said their employees are highly engaged. The rest were still struggling to “effectively measure employee engagement against business performance metrics.” When you start by measuring engagement levels, you can get clear insight into specific areas for improvement. Companies with the highest levels of engagement told HBR analysts that they accomplished this by asking clear and pointed survey questions that go beyond measuring satisfaction, then combing the data for “hidden stories” of what’s working and what needs improvement.
2. Give employees a voice. The most impactful programs and initiatives in your industry won’t resonate if your employees don’t have a say in them. This is where the power of employee feedback comes in. There’s still some confusion about what it means to give employees a voice. While promoting an open door policy can positively impact employee engagement when structured properly, they only skim the surface of what it takes to ensure your employees feel heard.
What employees really need are opportunities to ask questions, share ideas, and offer feedback through a system that makes them feel heard and ensures his or her opinions play a role in actual decisions.
3. Create engagement programs that employees want. Snacks and happy hours still have their place in culture development, but only if that’s what employees really want. Giving them a voice is critical, but if they don’t feel like their opinion is considered, they’ll stop giving it. Employers that truly understand employee engagement not only listen to feedback, but ensure there’s a way to be transparent on how it’s being used.
Some examples of this include: creating a public repository listing suggestions and noting those that were implemented; calling out new initiatives derived from employee suggestions; and presenting the company’s engagement survey results and action plan.
4. Foster employee connections. The ability to build connections with coworkers is a key indicator of employee engagement and satisfaction. Contrary to what you might think, it’s possible for an organization to play a big role in enabling those relationships — not just through events, but on a day-to-day basis.
At some progressive companies, employees have instant access to colleagues’ information through a mobile directory that’s built into the company’s branded engagement app. Company-wide notifications are sent on birthdays, work anniversaries and other life events to foster interactions.
These four steps will get you a lot closer to your ideal workplace, but the recommendations above are just the tip of a very large iceberg.