Employee engagement has become a key driver of success in the modern workforce, but some business leaders remain skeptical about its strategic value. A 2019 report by WeSpire, a developer of enterprise employee engagement technologies, found that more than 60% of surveyed employees and 40% of HR professionals said their company does not have any engagement policies in place. The survey also revealed that many organizations still do not view work culture as a strategic asset, which places a lot of pressure on HR staff and managers to solve the engagement problem without C-suite support.
While this lack of institutional reinforcement does not necessarily lead to negative outcomes, it does ignore the clear performance differences between engaged and disengaged workers. According to a recent Gallup research study and meta-analysis, employee engagement is directly correlated to several important key performance benchmarks, including:
- Customer ratings
Engaged employees are nearly twice as likely to excel in their professional roles and generate the sort of actionable intelligence that can fuel a business' continued growth. This is substantiated by Gallup's research of over 82,248 work units and 1.9 million employees, which found that the top quartile in employee engagement significantly outperformed the bottom quartile in almost every category. Employees who scored as "high engagement" surpassed their peers by 21% in profitability, 20% in sales, 17% in productivity and 10% in customer ratings. What's more, the top quartile had lower rates of turnover (24%) and absenteeism (41%), along with fewer safety incidents (70%) and quality defects (40%). It's quite clear that employee engagement is an essential part of workforce management, but how can companies keep pace with the evolving wants and needs of their workers?
How to improve employee engagement
Improving engagement can be a difficult process, especially for large organizations that employ a substantial workforce. Each employee has their own unique personality and perspective, which do not always align with that of their peers. That said, most workers want to be respected as individuals and feel their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Tapping into the full potential of your employees starts with acknowledging their beliefs, talents, goals and life experiences as valuable to the company as a whole. This personalized recognition can drive performance, promote accountability and support long-term success, but it also takes time and effort.
A single interaction with an employee, whether good or bad, can have a massive impact on short-term performance and engagement, but lasting results require consistency. Deploying a comprehensive employee engagement program can help organizations build a communication and support infrastructure that can keep management and HR professional active on the issue. Here are three strategies for developing effective employee engagement practices:
1. Survey your employees: The best way to understand the engagement needs of your employees is to ask them directly. However, it's crucial to collect specific, relevant and actionable data that directly influences your key performance metrics. While the general opinions of your workers are important, they tend to be impossible to act on.
2. Focus your efforts on the local level: Business leaders can have a meaningful impact by setting the right tone at the top, but real engagement is driven at the local workgroup level. Positive changes must be reflected in your employees' immediate environments, otherwise your efforts could be seen as superficial. Managers should identify local barriers to long-term engagement and seek out improvement opportunities that will benefit your workers' day-to-day experiences.
3. Define your goals in realistic terms: Clear and concise communication is essential to the success of any HR initiative, especially those that seek to change employee behaviors. Managers should use everyday language to describe the goals of your employee engagement program, its benefits and the challenges that lie ahead.