Develop Ideal Employee Engagement Strategies for Your Business
Disengaged, uninterested employees can drag a business down. It’s easy to see why this would be the case: When workers don’t feel connected to the tasks they perform every day, how can leaders expect them to give a committed effort?
When a business starts to take on the issue of employee engagement, it’s important to think about the company’s role in getting people involved and interested, rather than blaming staff members for not automatically feeling engaged. There are plenty of things about a company, from its leadership’s actions to its corporate mission statement, that can actively promote a feeling of engagement.
As part of such a morale-building effort, organizational leaders can build a formalized employee engagement strategy. This is central to defining what the business’s goals are, as well as the kinds of tactics in place to bring those objectives to fruition.
The ideal result of implementing an employee engagement strategy is the creation of a more highly motivated workplace, where each team member feels a connection to the company and so is willing to contribute a high level of effort and focus. How can you build this type of company culture at your organization? First, you start from the beginning, by reminding yourself what employee engagement means.
What Is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement as a term describes the way workers feel about their employer. As Investopedia explains, engagement is tied in with the concepts of “enthusiasm and dedication.” Do workers care about what they’re doing? Do they feel like they have a stake in the company? Do they know that their work is having an impact on those big-picture results? If so, they are engaged.
While a disengaged employee may still perform good work to earn their pay, an engaged employee takes a more committed and emotional approach to getting things done. The professional is personal for them, and this can lead to positive results from productivity and employee retention perspectives.
Every business that employs people can benefit from employee engagement, making it one of the truly universal concepts in human resources. No matter what kind of products an organization makes or the services it provides, it’s a good thing when the people behind the business care about the company and its customers.
Investopedia adds that organizations of all kinds have been taking employee engagement seriously since the turn of the millennium, after it became part of mainstream management thinking in the 1990s. While some business leaders are skeptical about their ability to measure employees’ true engagement levels, companies have found success by paying close attention to focusing on raising levels of commitment.
Good engagement may prove especially vital in eras of employee empowerment, when candidates wield more power in the hiring market. The “great resignation” provides a perfect example — considering how hard it is to hire and retain highly skilled employees amid high employee turnover, companies need to prove they can do more than just pay their workers. If they can get their employees engaged with the corporate mission, that’s a way to hold onto top performers and potentially attract new hires.
How Do You Measure Employee Engagement?
The process of measuring employee engagement is straightforward. In short, management should poll their workers directly. With a well-designed employee engagement survey, leaders can determine which issues are most important to their particular workers, as well as how they’re doing at inspiring these workers.
HR Cloud’s Workmates blog notes not only should companies use employee engagement surveys, but they should also send out these questionnaires often. Polling workers on their current levels of engagement can have a few different positive effects. First, the responses, taken over time, can tell leaders what to focus on in their strategies, and whether the plans are working. Second, the very act of asking employees for feedback shows them they are valued and heard — a good first step for engagement.
Understanding how employees feel about the work environment and what they think could improve is an essential early step in promoting engagement. Since every group of workers is unique, strategies should be tailored to a specific group of employees, rather than being based on general principles.
How Does Strong Employee Engagement Impact Companies?
Employee engagement is, at its core, a personal connection between an individual and an employer. That said, the positive impact of having an engaged workforce can expand to help the whole organization thrive.
Engaged employees simply care more. This may sound like a vague statement, but its impact can be highly significant. The core of great business performance comes from problem-solving. Will an employee be able to resolve an issue effectively? When a worker is highly engaged in their work, they’re likely to apply more ingenuity to dealing with everyday tasks.
The advantages of employee engagement take a few forms. Some stem directly from employees going above and beyond when completing their duties. Others involve the structural benefits that come from running a business filled with committed workers who want to remain in their roles.
Getting Results in Business
The Society for Human Resource Management makes a multifaceted business case for committing to employee engagement. Leaders across industries have decided to pursue formalized employee engagement strategies because they want to burnish their corporate reputations, build customer satisfaction, retain their top performers and simply get more productivity from their teams.
The advantages of employees becoming deeply engaged in their work can lead to a clear bottom-line impact. SHRM cited two major case studies demonstrating this fact. First, Molson Coors managed to save over $1.7 million in a year on safety expenses because its engaged employees are seven times less likely than non-engaged employees to lose time to a workplace accident. The price tag actually understates the impact of this effort, as the human cost of a safety incident is higher than any dollar value.
Another example of employee engagement delivering financial results comes from heavy equipment company Caterpillar, which saved $8.8 million from a single plant. When the business improved employee engagement at that facility, workers were less likely to be absent from work, less likely to leave the company and less likely to require overtime to get their work done. Those cumulative changes yielded those millions in savings.
Saving Money on Talent Searches
The direct impact of employee engagement is even more impressive when leaders also consider the other ways in which having a stable, committed and engaged workforce is saving them money. For instance, there is the impact of not having to spend money on searching for, recruiting and onboarding new hires.
McKinsey & Company noted the number of employees who considered leaving their jobs held steady between 2021 and 2022 at a worrisome 40%. Some of the commonly cited factors for leaving jobs included a lack of engagement. For instance, 31% of workers cited a dearth of meaningful tasks as a reason to quit, while 26% named unsupportive colleagues.
When leaders don’t put effort into keeping their employees engaged, committed and on board with the company’s mission, they may find themselves losing top performers more quickly than they can replace them. As they spend on the hiring process and suffer revenue deficits caused by understaffing, these businesses may realize how much they could have saved with a more engaged workforce.
What Goes Into an Employee Engagement Strategy?
Once business leaders internalize the benefits of greater employee engagement, the next question is obvious: What kind of strategy can they create to engage their workers?
The simple answer is an employee engagement strategy should be a simple road map from Point A (the company as it exists today) to Point B (an idealized version where employees are more deeply engaged in their work). To make sure the plan is realistic and actionable, the plan should take the company’s current level of engagement as a starting point, include actionable process changes that affect the company’s culture, and then leave room to evolve based on results.
A template created by Fond sketched out the elements of an ideal engagement strategy. Even before polling workers to determine their current engagement, this planning framework encourages leaders to state the values the company stands for. These concepts have a major role to play in building employee engagement, because they provide something for workers to align with and rally around.
Then, with the business’s core values stated, it’s time for employee engagement surveys, designed to answer questions such as:
- Is the business offering the types of programs that tend to cause employee loyalty, for instance, generous benefits packages, self-improvement opportunities or programs that encourage healthy work-life balance?
- Do employees know about these offerings and appreciate them?
- Do they feel engaged, or is there something missing?
Turning ideas into action
Next, it’s time for leaders to come up with the initiatives to bring it all together. This could mean expanding existing amenities so they agree with employees’ wants and priorities. It could also involve better promoting existing programs that are flying under the radar. These offerings work best when they align with the business’s values, drawing a connection between what the company stands for and how it treats its people.
Investopedia gave some examples of concrete employee engagement efforts businesses can implement, noting, company cultures are at their best when management makes workers feel appreciated. Businesses can implement:
- More frequent internal communication about the company, so workers know what they’ve been contributing to, and won’t feel like they’re being isolated from the results of their labor.
- Clear statements of expectations for all employees, to prevent employees from feeling confused or blindsided in their daily duties.
- Official employee recognition programs consisting of rewards and promotions, ensuring there are explicit pathways for advancement and progression, and that these are fair and equitable.
- Open forums for employee feedback, which allows workers to voice their ideas and give feedback, including them in the decision-making process.
A culture of openness is the cumulative result of these programs, and one worth prioritizing.
Assessing and iterating
Engagement isn’t a one-and-done process. Companies serious about engaging their teams should be prepared to send out surveys, gauge the results of their programs and iterate based on the results.
Gradually improving over time is a worthwhile aim for businesses, as they can experience ever-greater productivity and employee retention benefits as they improve their strategies. Getting the plan perfect on the first try isn’t likely, but it also isn’t necessary.
How Do You Implement an Employee Engagement Strategy?
Implementing an effective employee engagement strategy means getting buy-in from many levels of human resources and leadership teams. If managers in positions of power don’t seem to be taking the new efforts seriously or abiding by them, it can be difficult to convince employees the programs are truly going to deliver results.
As SHRM explains, the HR team is the group actually tasked with designing the new employee engagement strategy, as well as periodically polling employees to measure their level of commitment. Since HR is already responsible for retention, employee engagement fits in with the team’s duties.
While HR professionals are the ones creating the nuts and bolts of the engagement strategy, middle managers are the ones who take the new policies to the employee base and make sure they’re followed.
As SHRM adds, employees’ problems staying engaged with their work often come from negative experiences with managers. It stands to reason managers are also the ones who can also create a positive and engaging company culture with their actions.
As part of an effective employee engagement strategy, managers need to have the power to be part of the strategic brain trust. With more autonomy and trust placed in them, these leaders feel empowered and engaged themselves, helping them engage their team members and keep new initiatives on track.
What Is Training’s Role in Employee Engagement Strategy Development?
Training courses specifically designed to promote employee engagement strategies can be an important part of any company’s efforts to build a more dialed-in and committed workforce. These can include courses aimed at managers which introduce key concepts such as Maslow’s theories on needs, goal-setting approaches and ways to track engagement metrics.
Rather than leaving HR departments and team managers to figure out employee engagement strategy creation on their own, organizations can invest in training to encourage best practices. This infusion of knowledge can put the business on the right track, and help leaders avoid situations where they are technically investing in engagement, but not getting results.
Today’s online, video-based training materials are especially flexible, allowing businesses to train their whole management team consistently and affordably, even when those employees are spread around the world. In a business world increasingly dominated by remote work, this is far more efficient than purchasing in-person, instructor-led sessions.
If your organization is ready to commit to improved employee engagement, training can be a pillar of your new approach.