What Is Employee Engagement?
Most business leaders and managers are familiar with the term ‘employee engagement’, but seldom know the conditions to achieve it, or even define it - let alone implementing it into their management strategy. Simply put, employee engagement is the art of creating a climate where employees feel like a valued and integral part of the success of an entire operation. In turn, putting their best effort forward and actively looking to increase their potential and reach within the company. It is an essential aspect of driving performance, motivation, and successful team-building.
Why Is It Important?
Without dedicated and invested employees, innovation and development stagnates. You can have the best product or business blueprint imaginable, but without team members who take an active interest in the efforts of their jobs, you’ll be dealing with people who are both less satisfied and less productive - both vital ingredients for retaining long-term employees with a textured concept of your organization’s goals and direction.
In research conducted by Harvard Business Review, highly engaged organizations tend to have double the rate of success when compared to companies that fall behind in employee success. The simple but brushed aside fact is that when employees feel connected with the fruits of their labor, they perform on a higher level. This drives a supportive, positive atmosphere and increases the motivation of those around them.
Engagement vs. Satisfaction
Although both of these terms are used to measure employee experience, employee engagement is not just a facet of employee satisfaction. Engagement has the ability to create the conditions of what satisfaction is in a workplace, but can develop employees who are not only satisfied -- but thriving.
To put this into perspective, imagine two employees. The first is someone that shows up on time and does the work required of them. Their demeanor is friendly and welcoming but ultimately their relationship with the organization is financial - they’re there for the paycheck. The second employee consistently shows up already activated and with time to spare. They’re enthusiastic about their projects, and consistently bring new ideas on how to execute them to the table. They too like that they’re getting paid, but are motivated and willing to go the extra mile for the company and their team due to the level of shared success.
Both employees would be considered to have a high level of job satisfaction. Due to the low amount of conscious effort involved, the first employee is likely “very satisfied” with their career. However, they haven’t been given the awareness necessary to add purpose and higher value to their work. Nothing is done to align their own growth with that of their company.
The second employee would answer a satisfaction survey very similarly, however the level of enthusiasm, motivation and involvement are intrinsically linked to their company’s success and their own. They are without a doubt the ideal person to have on your team for the simple reason that the terms of their satisfaction are on a higher plane.
As a manager, the question ultimately becomes how do exhibit leadership that keeps employees motivated and driven? How do my efforts work to create and retain those exemplary employees?
Allow Autonomy and Flexibility
No one likes to be micromanaged. It may seem like a decent way to quickly finish a day's work, but has detrimental impacts on the creativity and morale of employees. Autonomy in the workplace allows employees to make decisions about the planning and execution of their projects that suit their own work style. It shows trust in their process and that they’ll get it done without constant check-ins. It inspires creativity and motivation to take their work to the next level.
This especially reigns true in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, businesses are transitioning to work-from-home options. Whether we like it or not, this extends to the work dynamic beyond the traditional 9-5. It requires adaptability from both leaders and employees alike to find a compromisable solution. One of the most important things about allowing for flexibility within the office is making sure everyone understands what is expected of them.
To keep everyone accountable, it’s a good idea to review weekly/monthly tasks in 1-on-1 meetings and hold space for questions afterward. This way everyone is on the same page and there’s nothing left to be questioned. Likewise, keeping notes accessible for both parties to view helps to eliminate any communication issues.
Encourage Learning and Development
When applying for a job, it’s a given that prospective hires take into consideration the salary and benefits. However, many workers search for that perfect company that allows them to develop new skills and provides ample opportunities to grow their career.
Providing said opportunities is one thing, but encouraging each individual’s own strengths is an important part of supporting development. Focusing on what someone does well and building off of that is arguably the most important aspect to fostering professional growth. In fact, the Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report found that 39% of employee’s believe career development opportunities are necessary to their overall job satisfaction and engagement. Without it, employees feel there is nothing to strive towards and lose interest quickly once their work begins to feel mundane.
It's good practice to identify strengths and individual career goals early on in the employee relationship. A great way to do this is to take advantage of 1-on-1 meetings. They provide a unique setting for private discussion to touch base on all important talking points, like each other’s values, wants, needs, and goals. It can also be a great catalyst for brainstorming, or suggestions if roadblocks arise that are hindering employee’s progress.
Acknowledging a Job Well Done
Recognizing an achievement by one of your team members doesn’t always have to be as extravagant as a gift card or employee of the month. Although a nice sentiment, a simple acknowledgement letting them know their work is valued is usually all one needs to feel seen. While making the person feel good about their efforts, it also promotes employee retention and fosters a sense of belonging within the company collective.
One of the biggest motivators at work is to be held in high esteem by a supervisor or a colleague. Celebrating even little accomplishments is a direct impact on engagement dynamics between management and employees. There's no doubt that when a person feels excited about their work, it drives results and overall creativity. Everyone is rewarded by reinforcing these successful practices and behaviors.
Meaningful Relationships Matter
As management is not a one-size-fits-all operation, there are enormous advantages for businesses who share or implement their employee’s voice. Only the best leaders approach their employee relationships holistically - treating each person as an individual, instead of just another person on the team.
We spend the majority of our waking hours at work. It’s not hard to see why quality relationships in the workplace matter a great deal to employee engagement. The National Business Research Institute even found that satisfaction explodes nearly 50% when a close relationship is developed on the job. These relationships not only impact their mood at work, but also their commitment to their career. This profoundly affects productivity and performance.
A Culture of Honest and Consistent Feedback
It’s imperative that management understands the needs and expectations of their team members. This includes awareness about the health of their company culture and how employees perceive it. Consistent feedback is a way to assess what your team needs and values. It offers an opportunity to mitigate obstacles before they become problems, and initiate change where it is needed for success.
There are multiple ways to engage in feedback from your team. One way is to ask for employee suggestions in 1-on-1 meetings. The back and forth discussion can facilitate more depth in the level of feedback given, allowing for questions and prompts. An alternative strategy for collecting information would be through surveys. Particularly when anonymous, they provide insight into the honest opinions and perceptions of employees. With this information, you can track the levels of employee engagement on a regular basis and use the results to inform your leadership strategies.
Each individual has their own strengths and learning styles. When you encourage your team to engage with their work, you can identify and use these unique characteristics to bring new ideas to the table, or improve on processes. This challenges each individual to be successful by their own definition, creating a culture of trust and reliability essential to employee engagement.
Employee engagement is more than just being happy at work. It requires leaders to be on top of their game to show up and have meaningful interactions with their employees. It requires trust, acknowledgement and plentiful learning opportunities that can seem time consuming. However tedious, this work directly translates into increased productivity, motivation and cooperation that drive company success.
An adaptable team management software like simplteam offers a way to streamline the day to day feedback and meetings of your team, especially if you find yourself struggling with employee motivation or productivity. Click here to start your free 3 week trial (no credit card required).