No matter how great a company is at fulfilling market demand for a product or service or how efficient its processes are, it will struggle to get far without a great team behind it. And we’re not just talking about talent or skills, because even these attributes only go so far without one crucial element: Employee engagement.
Some estimates suggest that one disengaged employee can result in a loss of $16,000 a year. Yet while employee engagement is now on the radar of most businesses, there’s still plenty of misunderstanding about what it is and how to improve it. We’re here to clear that up.
What is employee engagement?
Defining employee engagement might sound simple enough, but many people get it confused with employee satisfaction or happiness. Employee engagement isn’t about how much your team enjoys their job (never mind how much they’re willing to tolerate it) — it’s more specific than that and focuses on how much an employee feels involved in their company and role.
Here’s the distinction: Someone could enjoy their job purely because they’re best friends with their coworkers or very well-paid, but that doesn't mean they’ll automatically feel engaged with their work, find it meaningful, or be invested in the company’s success. Although employee satisfaction also matters (and it’s hard to be engaged without being satisfied), it’s not the primary focus here.
Employee engagement is affected by three crucial aspects:
We’ll be looking at solutions that combine all of these aspects.
How to improve employee engagement
It’s simple enough to understand what employee engagement is, but figuring out how to improve it is a little more complex. Since we’ve established it’s about ensuring your workers are connected to their roles rather than simply feeling comfortable in the workplace, you can’t just set up a lunchtime yoga session and hope it will fix everything. Instead, here are some ideas.
Align your values with theirs
According to research from Blue Beyond Consulting, 52% of knowledge workers would leave a job if their company’s values weren’t aligned with theirs — leading to what’s called an “expectation gap” between companies and their employees.
Make your employees feel like they’re working toward something bigger than themselves by reminding themselves of your overall mission. What problem are you trying to solve as a company? Whose lives are you striving to change?
Everyone has different values, so you can’t simultaneously align your values with those of every potential employee. However, you can choose new hires carefully and tap into values most people share, such as having a positive impact on the world.
Work on your corporate culture
How can someone feel engaged in their work if your corporate culture is making them feel stressed, confused about what they’re supposed to be doing, or stifling them? Create guidelines for your workplace to create a better environment, and most importantly, follow through on them.
For instance, you could make it clear that you value transparency by sharing the business’s key metrics with everyone in a monthly update, or demonstrate that you want to remove hierarchy by giving everyone a turn in interviews.
Let your employees take ownership
Micromanaging is a common problem for many organizations, with 79% of employees saying they’ve experienced it. Not only is it an inefficient way of managing, but it makes workers feel disheartened, frustrated, or unmotivated — depending on how the individual responds.
It can be challenging for some managers to detach themselves if they know or suspect an employee could make a mistake, but in the long run, it’s usually best for employees to learn from their errors. Over time, they’ll become more competent and accountable — and far more engaged with their work.
Offering your employees more opportunities can be part of fostering a great workplace culture, and it provides them an incentive to stick around. Even if your workforce feels engaged or thinks their work is worthwhile, they’re probably not going to stick around if they don’t think their role will ultimately help them progress in their career or land a better salary.
Let’s pull it all together
There’s no straightforward hack to make your employees more engaged — the right approach depends on your company, and you certainly won’t achieve a 100% workforce overnight. But get things right, and you’ll eventually end up with an inspiring work environment and (most likely) improved productivity and revenue. What else could you want?
At Cornerstone Paradigm Consulting, we understand the importance of human capital, which is why people are one of our four pillars to successful business continuity planning. If you’re interested in enlisting a little help to improve your people management through refining your processes, book a consultation today.
About the author:
Cornerstone Paradigm Consulting, LLC is an industry-agnostic global business operations consulting firm going beyond the symptoms to get to the root cause of your business issues.