employee engagement

How to Improve Employee Engagement

How to Improve Employee Engagement
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Employee engagement has not just become one of the top searches on Google, but a spotlight topic in management conferences and thought leaders’ online discussion. Company leaders and employees are now exploring what job satisfaction truly means beyond compensation and corporate perks.

If happiness in the workplace sounds like a utopia, well you are probably right. 24/7 happiness is not possible in any area of our lives. And promoting that unsustainable notion in the workplace would certainly be counterproductive. However, it is possible to increase the feelings of enjoyment and engagement at work through various changes within the company culture.

Why is employee engagement important?

Besides the fact that it sounds really good, keeping your team connected and engaged has a series of positive outcomes for them and the entire company.

  1. Employee retention: With The Great Resignation still making waves today, companies have turned up their focus on reducing turnover rates and found that disengaged employees are likely to explore new opportunities elsewhere.
  2. Nurturing top talent: High performers are not as easy to come by. Employee engagement strategies are important to both keep them onboard and away from burning out.
  3. Domino effect: Team success is company success. Making sure that employee recognition and support are in place will have a direct impact on performance and productivity.
  4. Cost of a new hire: The cost of a new hire averages around $4,129 and could take about 42 days to fill an open position. And that’s just the financial price for not keeping one employee engaged.

5 ways to improve employee engagement

Here’s some advice, for both leaders and employees, on strategic and cultural changes that can increase employee engagement beyond a benefits package.

1. Get priorities straight

Work can become overwhelming when faced with an endless list of pending tasks. Many self-driven employees will simply go ahead and take on that list based on their own prioritization strategies. However, not all employees have developed that skill and sometimes team or company politics don’t allow for that. That’s why it’s so important for team leaders and members to work together when it comes to setting clear priorities. 

It’s also about discussing how things are valued and classified as priorities. For example, a company with a work-life balance culture can also promote priorities related to personal health and responsibilities, such as a wellness appointment. 

 2. Realistic performance goals

Now, understanding priorities is only the first step. The next one is setting goals based on a realistic scope of work. Let’s say someone on your team has a list of four responsibilities that count as priorities. Still, three of those might take up most of their day, but they will try squeezing the last one in to meet the goal. Over time, this habit can turn into unsustainable pressure for the sake of high performance.

Gallup’s research shows that employees who say their manager includes them in goal setting are 2.3 times more likely to say their performance goals are realistic than employees whose manager does not.

So just as leaders should guide their teams through prioritization, they must ask their team to chime in and discuss what is reasonably achievable. It’s not about working less or not reaching each person’s full potential, instead, the goal of this group mindset is to give everyone a sense of autonomy, ownership, and balance.

3. Encourage vulnerability

“Any team that’s trying to better support people needs to normalize struggle, to make it acceptable to face emotional challenges and talk about it.”

Adam Grant

Speaking of ways to lower pressure for better engagement, let’s bring up mental and emotional health. And by that, we mean actually talking about our state of mind in the workplace. Having a mental breakdown in the middle of a meeting can be prevented if the culture allows for vulnerability and openness before things boil up. 

In a results-first and “always on” environment, admitting that one is getting overwhelmed can lead to a sense of failure. However, by changing the narrative at work and countering employees’ 24/7 “pedal to the metal” with wellness checks, they’ll have the opportunity to decompress, recharge, and be their best selves.

4. Breaks are welcome

Ah! The precious work-life balance. Another thing everyone keeps talking about. Though the previous points also cover some of what balance within work means, it’s hard not to think about schedules, flexibility, and time off.

Taking breaks in many forms can help your team reach breakthroughs rather than breakdowns. That can be done by promoting daily pauses between tasks, as well as personal days off.  In one of the latest episodes of his Work Life podcast, Adam Grant talks about the importance of taking mental health days. Or the way he says it “allowing sad days, not just sick days”.

You can even set in motion perks like volunteering time off or policies like “no work after hours” for hourly employees. The goal is to support your employees in feeling refreshed and motivated to give their best during work hours.

5. Unglamourous/genuine self-care 

As you might have guessed by now, feeling engaged at work is not exclusively up to leadership practices, but personal culture. Taking care of oneself is also a big part of finding fulfillment at work. Good nutrition, healthy sleeping patterns, exercise, and enjoying your time off will in turn help you better your performance, creativity, and results at work.

One method of self-care many have dropped along with remote work has been the habit of grooming and getting ready to go to work. According to a recent Forbes article “nearly half of remote workers are showering less than they were before, with 27% saying they only shower twice per week or less.”

“Grooming for your day sends a signal to yourself that it’s time to get to work, helping you adopt that mindset by creating a distinction that will be evident not only on camera but also when you’re plowing through a project all by yourself, alone in your home office. If you know you’re disheveled, your state of mind can lead to disheveled performance too.”

– William Arruda, Why Personal Grooming Still Matters When You Work From Home

It’s ok to ask

These were merely a few examples of mindset and cultural tweaks that can improve employee engagement. However, the best way to start making changes that make sense in your workspace is to ask questions. As a leader, ask your people how they feel the work environment could improve through open panels or secret surveys. As an employee, try developing some ideas and bring them up to your boss or the HR department and work together to find the best fit. 

There you go! Get started on these changes for an engaging work environment.

Contributed by Mary Dominguez

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