Employee engagement is often a top goal of organizations, as it holds the keys to stronger organizational performance. When employees are motivated to do their best work, the company realizes a range of benefits that help it innovate and grow. However, according to Gallup, only 33 percent of US employees are engaged at work, suggesting there is work to do to achieve and maintain employee engagement. While there are many challenges associated with improving employee engagement, companies that overcome those challenges realize the many benefits of a highly engaged workforce. Here are some of the challenges associated with maintaining employee engagement and ways to address those challenges:
The key to improving employee engagement is to first understand it, which requires measuring existing engagement levels among employees as well as the engagement factors most important to employees. Annual engagement surveys, pulse surveys, and employee focus groups are examples of tools that can help to assess employee engagement and provide the foundation for a plan to improve it.
Employee engagement doesn’t happen all on its own. It requires an environment that allows engagement to grow. Some of the tools that can help to increase employee engagement include:
Team-building activities that help individuals and teams get to know each other and build community in the workplace.
Learning and development opportunities like training or stretch assignments that show employees the company is interested in their career growth.
Rewards like spot bonuses or awards that recognize employees with high engagement and performance.
Collaboration tools like live org charts that help employees understand team accountabilities and where their roles and teams fit into the organization.
There’s an old saying that employees don’t leave companies; they leave their managers. Research shows that the engagement of leaders affects that of their direct reports. One study found that engaged leaders were more likely to have engaged direct reports. A way to help leaders act as catalysts for employee engagement is to offer leadership development training that teaches leaders techniques for connecting with employees and leading by example.
Despite the challenges, engaged employees provide a range of benefits:
When employees are disengaged at work, companies experience 18 percent less productivity than if employees were more engaged. Alternatively, when employees are connected to their work and feel engaged, they may be more willing to go the extra mile to achieve goals and complete work.
Employee engagement creates a ripple effect within the organization, whereby more engaged, productive employees help the company grow in profitability. Workgroups with highly engaged employees outperform less engaged workgroups by 22 percent in overall profitability.
Given the number of hours employees spend at work, most prefer to feel connected to their job, coworkers, and boss. When employees feel connected to their work, they may be less likely to want to leave it. According to Gallup, only 37 percent of engaged employees are looking for a new job, compared to 73 percent of disengaged employees.
Employee engagement can be contagious. Just as one disengaged employee on the team can influence other employees with their negativity or low energy, the attitudes and behaviors of engaged employees can “rub off” on others, helping to raise the engagement level of a team or department. Employees who are highly collaborative and productive and have a positive attitude toward their work can support a high-performance work culture by leading by example and showing other employees what engagement looks like. When this happens, a culture of high engagement has a chance to grow throughout the organization.
Employee engagement requires an environment where employees can develop and maintain a sense of commitment and motivation to give their best at work. There are some challenges associated with building an environment ripe for improved employee engagement. However, once those challenges are overcome, companies can realize the true value of engaged employees.