While everyone has off days, there are some offices that seem to have an entire staff or whole departments with nothing but just-okay days (if that). And it’s not “something in the air” or a “time of year,” but instead it all comes down to a lack of employee engagement.
Disengaged employees typically aren’t malicious or intending to hurt your company, but they can negatively impact your team’s productivity, company culture, and even the engagement of other employees. Just imagine going to work at a new company, excited about the job, only to have three team members shrug and say “Oh yeah, we don’t really need to make the meetings or get projects in on hard deadlines. It’s not a big deal, it’s just a job, you know?”
Most leaders, business owners, and managers would kill to have an entire staff full of enthusiastic, highly engaged employees who are excited about the work they’re doing and the role they play in the company. Not all of them, however, are willing to put in the work required to actually get those high engagement rates, and many more just aren’t sure how to drive them.
We’re here to help, and in our Ultimate Guide to Driving Employee Engagement, we’re going to look at detailed, actionable ways that you can maximize engagement amongst your team members, as well as going over some common mistakes that could thwart any progress you’ve made. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
One thing that too many managers forget is that it’s not just about hiring the right staff, it’s about keeping them engaged, too.
Employee engagement should be a major priority for every business, especially since a recent study found that most participants believed that fewer than 70% of their workforce is engaged, and only 14% of businesses said that more than 70% of their staff was engaged.
Keep in mind that employee engagement translates into employees who are willing to do more than the bare minimum. They’re coming in with new ideas, ready to problem solve, and really take pride in the work they do for your company.
They’re significantly more productive which makes them valuable. Engaged employees are around 21% more productive on average than those who aren’t, and result in 28% less internal theft. They also can result in a 22% increase in profitability, and deliver superior customer service to the tune of a 10% increase in client satisfaction.
Engaged employees are typically happy employees, so in addition to higher performance, you’re also looking at lower churn rates. The ability to retain your top talent is always good, and it comes with the added bonus of saving money on costs that come with finding, hiring, and training new staff members.
It’s important to note while reading through this guide that employee engagement really starts at the top. One study found that over 80% of HR professionals directly link engagement to trust in leaders and having leaders who are actively trying to promote engaged cultures.
This means that when you want to improve employee engagement, it’s not just about throwing your employees a metaphorical bone once or twice; major changes and tactics need to be implemented from the top of the company down. This may require restructuring of how you work, the communication channels and styles you use, and even the perks that you offer, but the payoff is almost always worth it.
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways to drive employee engagement throughout your company and how to implement each one successfully.
Think about the last few assignments that you worked on. Were they completely isolated to your department, or were other team members somehow involved, even if it was before or after your project was completed?
If you wanted to roll out an app for your business, for example, you’d obviously need the developers on board, but you’d also need the marketing departments working with you to ensure that they can market it correctly and that it has the functionalities most needed. You may also need to get the sales staff up to date, too.
Too many businesses get stuck encouraging inter-department communication. While this is clearly important, you shouldn’t stop there; it’s also essential to encourage cross-functional communication that spans outside of the immediate team and department.
Everyone’s work impacts each other, so you want your team to be excited to work together instead of having one department complaining sullenly and pointing fingers at another if something doesn’t quite go right.
The first step here will be to facilitate internal communication. Tools like Slack or Chattr focus on instant, chat-based communication so that every employee can reach any team members they need quickly and have organized, easy-to-follow conversations.
It’s also valuable to hold meetings with everyone working on a project instead of just breaking it down by apartment. That way everyone is in the same room getting to know each other, and they know exactly who they’re working with moving forward.
When in doubt, consider an in-office hackathon! We use this strategy internally at Hoppier, breaking our employees up into small teams that are pulled from different departments and asking them to generate new business ideas together. The ideas are all presented later on, and it facilitates team communication and collaboration in addition to potentially giving your business some incredible ideas on new products, marketing strategies, or business development concepts.
When employees feel appreciated, they’re more likely to be productive and are more willing to go the extra mile. Someone who doesn’t feel like their work is appreciated or even noticed won’t be as motivated to give it their all, to stay that extra hour later, or contribute with new ideas that could make a difference for your business.
The data is clear, too: When asked what leaders could do to improve employee engagement in a recent survey, 58% of respondents listed “show recognition” as the most effective way. Another study from Glassdoor also found that businesses can retain half of their employees longer by regularly showing appreciation to them.
Despite this, employee appreciation isn’t really a priority in many company cultures. A recent study found that only one third of all employees surveyed received any appreciation the last time they went above and beyond on a project or task.
It’s important, therefore to prioritize employee appreciation, and this needs to start at the top down and be worked into the fabric of your company culture.
This should start by training your management staff and all leaders on how to incorporate appreciation more consistently, but also creating formal recognition programs both for leader-to-employee recognition and peer-to-peer recognition.
There are a number of different ways that you can consistently work to recognize your employees, and incorporating multiple strategies into your company culture is typically going to be the most effective. Consider the following options to show employee recognition in meaningful ways that will boost engagement:
When choosing how to demonstrate employee recognition, you can opt to implement only a few of these strategies to start and work your way up to more. The more appreciated your employees feel, the better.
The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.
A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!
Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.
In addition to having your business’s leaders making an effort to show appreciation to their team members, it’s also exceptionally valuable to set up peer-to-peer recognition programs when you want to boost employee engagement.
Most of your employees will value and even like the majority of their coworkers, but we’re not naturally inclined to dish out regular compliments in the workplace. Peer-to-peer recognition programs can change that, giving your staff incentives to acknowledge their teammates for a job well done.
Most programs work by offering each employee a set number of “points” they can award to teammates over a set period of time (like quarterly or annually). These points can be traded in for financial incentives like gift cards, or for rewards your office creates like lunch with the CEO.
There are a number of different peer-to-peer recognition programs available, but we recommend checking out Bonusly, Motivosity, and Kazoo to start.
Team collaboration is the key to cohesiveness, which can directly lead to an increase an employee engagement. People are going to be more excited about the work they do if they’re excited about (or at least can tolerate) the people that they work with.
When your team is able to rely on each other and see their coworkers as valuable assets instead of direct competitors, everything is going to run a lot more smoothly and everyone’s work day will improve significantly.
Facilitating team collaboration does rely heavily on hiring the right staff. You want people who are naturally good at working on a team and who can see the big picture and how their role fits into it. Finding employees who are adaptable, flexible, and good with people is all a good start here.
Beyond that, it’s often useful to have clear roles for each team member. This way no one is able to slack off, dropping work on another, and everyone knows exactly who to go to if they need help on anything. When your workplace is a well-oiled machine, everyone’s job is easier to do alone and in conjunction with those around them.
Those hackathons we mentioned earlier are great for this, but using other team-building activities can help, too. The strategies that we recommend starting with include:
Looking for more information on improving team collaboration? You can check out our detailed post here.
Setting up a feedback culture is one of the best things you can do to help your employees feel valued by your business, which is directly tied into employee engagement. If your staff is able to feel like their thoughts and opinions matter and that they can make a difference, you’ll see that they invest more of themselves into the work they’re doing.
In a feedback culture, everyone is encouraged to share feedback, ideas, and criticism, no matter what your current position is; the Big Ideas aren’t only relegated to those with upper positions in the company. Even entry-level workers are encouraged to participate, allowing feedback and ideas to flow from all places within the company.
Again, this is something that needs to be implemented at the core of your company culture. Your employees need to feel like they can speak up, so they should be encouraged to do so by management. In addition to having your team leaders asking for input, they also need to be receptive on what they hear and act on it when appropriate.
If a salesperson goes to their manager, for example, and explains that the software they’re using to track leads just doesn’t have the functionality that’s needed, this is something that should be considered. It doesn’t matter if it will cost money to switch tools and require more training for your staff; this is the employee using the software, and it’s likely costing you money by not switching, too.
There are multiple ways you can foster a feedback culture within your business. Here are a few suggestions:
Feedback cultures will enable everyone in your office to feel important and respected, and as an added bonus, you’ll likely come across at least a few suggestions that can benefit your business as a whole in any number of ways.
Company retreats are an incredible bonding and training or team-building experience, even if you’re just taking your staff for a fun day outside of the office. There’s no minimum amount of time that you have to pull everyone away, for example; even an evening event can count.
Getting people outside the office for a few hours and hopefully treating them to something fun is a great way to demonstrate appreciation and keep your team engaged, whether it’s for a day of hiking a local mountain or a three-day-long-stay at a resort in a gorgeous location.
When you’re planning a company retreat, it’s best to consider the following practices:
Everyone loves perks! When one of my best friends talks about how much she loves her job, she mentions that gourmet latte machine in her office almost every single time. It’s an easy way to show your employees that they’re appreciated while making your office and their job more valuable to them.
“Perks” can include anything from a great latte machine to more vacation days for your staff, and all can be used to prevent burnout.
While burnout doesn’t sound that bad in theory, it’s directly tied to a decrease in workplace engagement and productivity. It’s even estimated that 60% of work absenteeism is happening as an immediate result of stress-related burnout.
Ultimately, perks should allow your employees to feel like real people instead of just work machines, and can include any of the following:
Employee perks can be used to keep your staff trained, excited, and relatively well-rested. All of this will absolutely work to your advantage overall, and it will keep them engaged.
Employee wellness programs technically fall under the “perks” category, but it’s a little different, too.
There are a large number of different wellness programs that you can choose from in many shapes and sizes, but they’re all essentially an extended health benefit that companies can offer employees. The programs are all designed to help employees improve their health and stay healthy.
Some may focus heavily on precautionary measures, like encouraging employees to get checkups or a flu shot once a year. Others can encourage healthy behaviors by providing access to often-expensive care like nutritionists, mental health counselors, or even gym memberships.
There are some resources you can offer your employees for free. Lumino Health, for example, is Canada’s largest network of health resources. It’s a new innovation from Sun Life and it’s free to all Canadians. Lumino Health’s Find a provider tool can help you and your employees find health-care providers – like dentists, chiropractors, psychologists and more – in your area. It can also help identify signs of burnout, educate on common mental health concerns, and even offer tips and tools for conditions like anxiety and depression.
Both anxiety and depression are incredibly common--with anxiety affecting up to 18.1% of the population every year and depression impacting about 7.1% of the population–and can immediately reduce employee engagement. It’s hard to be engaged at work when you’re struggling with depressed or anxious feelings, both of which can cause your priorities and your attention to shift.
Wellness programs are tied to an increase in employee engagement alongside reduced employee turnover, so while they may be an additional cost to your business, they are often a good investment. And remember that no matter what, it’s the responsibility of the employer to create a safe space that benefits your employees since we spend so much time at work.
Considering setting up an employee wellness program for your company? You can learn more about its benefits and how to measure its effectiveness here.
In addition to actively implementing measures to improve employee engagement, you want to avoid common mistakes that could ultimately hinder it. There are actions that employers take, after all, that can cause employees to disengage, even if that was never the intention.
Let’s take a look at the four most common mistakes that will result in disengagement so you can prevent them before they happen.
Plenty of workplaces encourage a competitive environment, where employee’s work is compared against their coworkers. I’ve been in this environment myself; when I worked in sales, every day we were compared to each other, and I’ve even had clients in my freelance business who have said “This is the top performing writer, so now try to beat them.”
A little competition can be healthy, but when it’s actively encouraged, it can cause employees to disengage. People have trouble trusting their coworkers when they’re inadvertently (or intentionally) pitted against each other, and no one likes feeling like their job is on the line. And unfortunately, once a hefty dose of toxic competition has made its way into the workplace, it’s almost impossible to stomp out.
Instead of focusing on competition, remember to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishment of individuals, and leave it at that. This will increase engagement through appreciation in a positive way.
As you’re implementing a feedback culture, it’s important to actually be receptive to feedback and new ideas whenever possible.
If someone thinks that you should hire an answering service to take on an influx of customer support calls because they don’t like answering the phone, that suggestion can be tossed out. If, however, they’re suggesting it because the team is short-staffed and struggling to deliver strong customer service, that should be considered carefully.
Really hear your employees out, and ask follow up questions or comment to show that you’re paying attention. If you know that it’s not possible, explain why (even if it’s later on), but genuinely thank them for taking the time to suggest it. People will often feel better if instead of just going “we’ll think about it” and never mention it again, you explain why you made a different decision, and they’re more likely to come back to you in the future.
And this last part is important: When you do implement a new idea from a team member, give them a public shoutout. This will make them feel appreciated and also encourage other members of your staff to come forward with their own ideas, too.
If you don’t have any flexibility as a manager, you’re going to struggle to keep your team engaged. Everyone works a little bit differently, and while company guidelines and regulations should be followed, a little flexibility is good, too.
If someone needs a morning off because their car battery died, it’s not the end of the world, so they shouldn’t be worried about their job if they need to get it replaced before coming in.
Micromanaging at work is never good, either. Hopefully, you’re hiring people with the right basic skills and qualities for a job and then training them well, so they can do the job without someone hanging over them. Micromanaging and trying to control talented, knowledgeable staff is the fastest way for them to disengage and jump ship for another company.
While employee engagement is most heavily influenced by what happens in the office, who is in the office matters a great deal, too.
There will be some employees, unfortunately, that are never really going to be engaged in anything happening in the office. They’re there for a paycheck and their health benefits, and that’s it. While they can do work, they won’t be engaged, and they can actually spread some of their attitude to other members of your team, too.
When hiring, look for enthusiasm and an intention to progress within the company. You can also ask a few questions that can help you gauge someone’s potential to be engaged in the right environment, including the following:
Someone who reads up on the industry on their own, or who continues their education, is someone who is naturally engaged in the job at hand. Those who are able to name specific things they like about the job and why they like it are also potential good candidates, especially if they name more advantages than they do disadvantages.
Investing in employee engagement initiatives will help you retain your best employees, reduce your chain rate, significantly increase your business’s productivity, and ultimately increase your revenue as a result.
Especially since we’re living in a time when people are bouncing from job to job more than ever before, you can’t afford not to actively invest in employee engagement.
Remember, too, that this is a work in progress. You can start slow, choosing one section in the guide to begin with and then working your way up. Some of the most effective changes can even come at no cost to your business, like implementing a feedback culture and showing employee recognition regularly. The rest can come in time, as you have the bandwidth and the budget to support it. The most important thing is that you simply start as soon as you can!
Want to find a quick, easy way to boost employee engagement today? Start with a well-stocked office, including healthy snacks and office supplies! We can help you with that here.
Are you putting together a corporate retreat and aren’t sure where to start? Our step-by-step guide will take you through the process of organizing a company retreat.
Need some ideas for celebrating employee work anniversaries? These 9 ideas will show your team you appreciate them and boost engagement rates!