If you manage people or even an entire organization, you may know a thing or two about employee engagement. Here are some stats that will likely get your attention:
88% of employees say they do not have a passion for their work
80% of senior managers are not passionate about their work
Employee disengagement costs companies more than $500 billion per year
86% of businesses and HR leaders believe they don’t have a good leadership development path
79% of companies believe they have a significant retention and engagement problem
75% of companies are struggling to attract and recruit talent
75% of employees feel overwhelmed
These sobering numbers are a little depressing. If these stats are correct, that means only a lucky 12 percent of people love their jobs and look forward to working there each day. Twelve percent is dismal. Gallup measures engagement regularly and puts the number of engaged U.S. employees at 32 percent. They define “employee engagement” as “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” If 32 percent seems low, we’re doing a heck of a lot better than the rest of the world, where worldwide engagement numbers are only at 13 percent.
What’s going on here? Why are so many of us, no matter our countries, unhappy with our jobs and would rather be doing something, anything, else? One thing we know doesn’t work to boost employee engagement are employee surveys. They may give employees the temporary impression that you care what they think, but rarely are they ever used to actually change the culture to improve engagement.
Gallup explains this well, saying, “Technology makes it easy to create an ‘employee survey’ and call it an engagement program, which allows a company to fulfill an apparent organizational need and ‘check a box.’ But metrics on their own don’t drive change or increase performance. Many of these survey-only approaches measure employee perceptions and provide metrics instead of improving workplace and business outcomes.”
What are the best ways to improve employee engagement? We’ve borrowed a few ideas from Gallup, but we know of a few more proven to do more than just measure perceptions. They drive change and with the change, attitudes are transformed from ho-hum to hell-ya. The goal is to not only give employees the appearance that your company cares, but to actually back that up with ongoing actions that consistently deliver on promises, or better yet, over-deliver on promises.
Integrate engagement into leadership strategy: Gallup says high-growth companies have a clear purpose behind their strategy for engaging employees. The leaders are involved and committed to the company, and to regularly communicate with employees. They monitor engagement metrics and hold managers accountable for following up with employees who may need mentoring, encouragement, growth opportunities or other incentives.
Use validated measurement tools: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Yet, not all measurement is accurate. A validated measurement tool, such as Gallup’s Q12 Meta-Analysis, has been subjected to peer review and measures more than employee perception. It measures output, innovation, goal attainment and even sick days to determine employee engagement.
Develop and communicate a vision: It’s hard to get your employees passionate about something they can’t see the value in or how it contributes to the success of the company. Set corporate milestones and goals you aim to achieve in the next year, three years and five years and then let managers break them down into team or individual goals. Communicate the vision to every employee, consistently and deliberately so they understand the connection between their accomplishments and the vision.
Define roles with growth opportunities: While some companies operate with little structure or few hierarchies, everyone in the company should know what they are expected to do and how their role contributes to the overall success of the company. Defining roles and individual growth paths gives people something to aspire to; providing the education and training to get there shows them their professional development matters to you and can only benefit the company, too.
Clarify performance expectations: Anyone can have a job title, but it’s the results of their efforts that move the needle. Set clear expectations for projects and output, with timelines and KPIs that can be measured. Base performance reviews on the employee’s ability to meet or exceed the set expectations and how they contribute to the company vision. Of course, reward any employee who goes above and beyond expectations with growth opportunities and/or monetary bonuses.
Provide regular, constructive feedback: Feedback is meant to help develop employees, not beat them down until they give up. Be sure employees receive regular, constructive feedback from their managers that they can use to improve performance and grow as a professional. Frame the feedback in a way that communicates their contributions are appreciated, “You’re doing a great job in these areas. Let’s look at areas where you could develop so you can continue to grow. And here’s how I can help you get there.”
Promote friendship at work: The better people work with each other, the better they feel about where they work. Using modern org chart software is a great way to help employees learn more about each other than just names and titles. It puts photos with names and personality traits with job titles. Giving people a resource where they can find who they need and learn about their skillsets, interests and personality helps connect people on a personal level so they see the other (more fun) side of coworkers.
Align performance with the company vision: All performance metrics should be tied to the company vision. When employees understand how their performance contributes to the success of the company, they are more motivated to put in the required effort. They feel part of something bigger and that they are more than just an employee number, but a contributing member of a team who cares about them as a person and the work they do. Graham Weston, chairman at Rackspace, said it best when he said, “What we all want is to be valued members of a winning team on an inspiring mission.”
Reward outcomes: Employee engagement starts with feeling your work is valued. Performance is great, but outcomes are even better. Focus on the output, not the input. Sure, effort should be praised, but if boosting productivity is your end goal, you want to foster an environment where people work smarter, not necessarily longer hours. Make it a big deal when employees reach their goals and have something to show for it. Celebrate achievements to not only give praise, but to motivate others.
Provide productivity tools that are fun to use: Technology has come a long way and one of the simplest productivity tools can be something as simple is an interactive employee directory. According to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, “employees spend about 20 percent of their work week — nearly an entire day — searching for details internally and tracking down colleagues for answers.” People need ways to quickly find coworkers they need to help them succeed – without having to ask 10 people or wait for email responses – it saves time, costs and frustrations. Use a modern tool that puts the entire employee directory at their fingertips on their mobile devices so they can access it and update it anytime, anywhere, to find anyone they need.
Start developing engagement from the beginning: Set the tone with new hires from day one by providing them with the technology they need to get things done the day they join their new team. Give them access to interactive org chart software with an employee directory so they can instantly learn about the people they will be working with and where everyone fits into the company structure. Studies show one of the biggest challenges for new hires is learning about their coworkers and who does what. Simplify this process and ease their mind with software they will actually want to use.
Make the office environment a fun place to be: Take a look around your digs and ask yourself if the environment inspires innovation, creativity, energy and productivity. Light-filled rooms, open spaces for collaboration, bright colors and fun-filled break rooms can do a lot to improve mood. Give people breaks and let them enjoy their workspace with personal touches that show a little about their personality. Even something as simple as hanging your own photos, adding your own artwork, or bringing in your own chair can boost employee engagement.