We think it’s important for employees to have fun . . . . it drives employee engagement.Tony Hsieh, Founder, Zappo’s
In 2021, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. declined for the first year in more than a decade according to Gallup’s recent survey. Lasty year, only 34% of employees surveyed reported feeling engaged at work, while 16% said they were actively disengaged, not to mention the fact that workers reported a 21% increase in burnout and 17% increase in physical symptoms of stress-like fatigue according to another survey.
These statistics aren’t surprising given that we’re still in the middle of the “Great Resignation” with companies finding it difficult to hire and retain top talent. What is staggering is that Gallup uncovered that managers (along with health care professionals) reported the most disengagement in 2021. This statistic is significant because managers are often the key to ensuring their employees’ needs are met.
Clearly it’s time to bring organizational change to the forefront. So, whether you’re a manager looking for inspiration or an individual contributor struggling to stay motivated, here are five powerful ways to improve employee engagement.
Get Back to Basics
Unfortunately, companies have lost sight of the fundamentals. Employees want to feel like they are part of a larger mission. That’s why a company that incorporates its values into everyday work helps foster a more meaningful work environment. But it’s not just about posting your mission statement on the company website. To get employee buy-in and boost employee engagement, you need to integrate the company’s long-term vision and values into your business functions. When employees have a strong understanding of the firm’s core values and how they impact the organization, they are likely to feel engaged and motivated.
Recognize and Reward Employees
Recognizing and rewarding employees is key to making them feel valued. Yet, one report showed that only one-third of workers received recognition the last time they went the extra mile. To increase employee engagement, try expressing a thank you in public or even taking a few minutes to handwrite a thank you card. If a worker is putting in extra hours, consider offering them an extra day off or letting them take off early on a Friday. You can even make a charitable donation on your employee’s behalf or take your team on a group outing as a reward.
Make Mental Health a Priority
Many workers cite mental health concerns as a reason why they’re quitting. In a study by Talkspace, two in three people planning to quite their job say their company hasn’t followed through on promises to focus more on employee mental health. To combat this, encourage employees to take regular breaks from their desks. Feeling connected is also important to boost physical and mental health. While managers can support connection through regular check-ins or team activities, employees can also make an effort to foster a sense of community. Training leaders on having difficult conversations and creating support workplaces is also essential, as is providing mental health coverage in your company’s health plan. In addition, make it a point to encourage flexibility and healthy boundaries. For example, company policies that include ‘no email after hours’ expectations or a four-day workweek can go a long way in increasing employee engagement.
Communicate consistently and authentically
Keep employees up-to-date with information like the company’s direction and the challenges the leadership team is facing. Tim Hackett, President at HRU Technical Resources, explains it this way: “The one true fact in all workplaces is your people want to be in the know, they want to be in the circle of trust. HR and leadership, in general, do a crappy job at this, and it has a huge impact on engagement. Find ways to make this happen and let your people know that it’s ‘inside’ information. Trusting your employees can handle it raises engagement.”
Additionally, managers owe it to their associates, lateral staff and others throughout the organization to have an open door policy. I recently worked for an organization where I was told I “couldn’t ask any questions” of the managers to whom I reported. What? How does one do one’s work with their hands tied behind their back? And how does one stay engaged and provide the best support and work possible without being able to learn and grow through the ability to ask questions and engage with their supervisors?
Another secret to boost employee engagement in the workplace is asking for feedback. Managers are often the ones giving feedback to employees. In addition, try asking for employee input. When you ask your employees for feedback, they feel that their opinion matters. Beyond listening, it’s crucial to engage in conversations with confidence and curiosity. Ask your employees to cite specific examples so you can understand what needs to change. And don’t get defensive. Instead focus on what you can glean from the information to make a positive difference in the workplace.
Ultimately, organizations succeed when they create highly engaged employees. By creating a work culture where everyone can thrive, you’ll win not only employee trust but their loyalty as well.