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Creating a culture of employee engagement
Employee engagement is more than the latest trendy business topic or buzz phrase; it makes a direct hit to an organization’s bottom line. With only 34% of U.S. employees indicating they feel engaged with their company, draw a bullseye on what needs attention: employee engagement.
In companies with a culture of strong engagement, employees are more productive and innovative. They are committed to the business’s success and won’t easily jump, or escape, to greener opportunities. In today’s low unemployment climate, retaining employees is not only cost effective, it provides an edge on the competition.
Organizations that dare to ignore the importance of engaging employees, or are stumped how to unlock its secret, will continue to grapple with a steady stream of experience heading for the exit. Or worse: disengaged employees who stay can be like an anvil around the business, expending resources and stifling growth.
Yet creating a culture where employees feel valued, empowered and committed to the vision can feel insurmountable for leaders and HR pros. It doesn’t have to be.
What’s the path to employee engagement?
Yes, there is consensus that employee engagement is important to every organization. But despite what some claim is the ideal path to engaged employees and business growth – it’s not what many think it is.
Attention HR teams and employee activity committees: there is a time and place for birthday celebrations, ice cream socials, volunteering excursions and team building exercises. Oh yes, there’s also the perks of enhanced break areas, job flexibility, game rooms, creative office spaces, and any number of ideas to convey a collaborative team environment to allure and retain employees.
Sure, these efforts are nice, but you won’t find these social gatherings and perk magnets as the easy fix to engage employees. Rather, these efforts should be the organic result of creating a culture of true employee engagement. They aren’t the impetus for the engagement.
Employee engagement doesn’t have to be a moving target. It’s also not a one-and-done project to check off the list. Employee engagement lives. It breaths. It grows and weaves through the culture of an organization to the level it is cared for.
So, if the perks aren’t the path to engaged employees, what is? Before taking the express lane to the secret sauce, it’s important to understand what employees really want to feel engaged.
What employees want
From Millennials to Boomers, employees want to feel a high level of commitment and connection to the organization. Are they part of something bigger – beyond just collecting a pay check? Here’s some difference-makers:
- Company vision
Employees want to know and believe in the vision of the company they work for. Does each employee, at every level in the organization know, understand and feel connected with the goals and vision of the organization? Beyond a vision and mission statement posted to the company website, or hung in conference rooms, do leaders share with and inspire teams about where the business is headed? Businesses with engaged employees regularly communicate the strategic goals and provide connectivity to what each person does in the organization.
- Problem Solving
- Employee Development
- Manager Relationship
People want to trust those they work with and respect the organization they work for. Employees may not always agree with executive leaders’ decisions and direction. And many may lack visibility to the behind-the-scene decision details. Yet when trust is rooted in the organization and its leaders, people will follow.
Trust grows when leaders are transparent on the organization’s direction, including the highs and lows. Do employees feel included or excluded on news and developments of the organization? Do managers regularly communicate with their teams and share insight on the business? Employees feel more connected with an organization when leaders are transparent with them.
Employees prize accountability. Are they, and their peers and leaders, held accountable for goals and projects? If one-member slips, it can impact the whole team. When trust is blended with accountability, employees feel empowered to make decisions and initiate action.
It’s human nature to want to be valued. Leaders can convey appreciation through employee recognition awards, anniversaries with the company, making a big sale or completing a project on time. In addition, it should be an organic occurrence where people give and receive appreciation frequently. Even a “thanks, good job on that” is helpful to have employees feel connected to, and valued by, the organization.
Consistent communication flowing through a business is beneficial to an organization’s effectiveness. Employees feel connected when information traverses across workstreams as well as up and down a department’s hierarchy. It is beneficial to all employees when a steady stream of information flows from multiple communications channels within an organization.
Employees are engaged when they have help to solve problems. Do managers and team members regularly discuss solutions to project bottlenecks or schedule delays? In a collaborative environment, managers and peers strategize together to resolve issues related to completing work.
Is personal and professional development of each individual prized as part of the company culture? Or is it a line item at the end of an employee’s annual review? Employees are engaged when they know with certainty that their manager encourages, and assists in, their development throughout the year. In addition, organizations with a dedicated Learning & Development effort provide accessible and quality training for employee growth.
It’s often quoted that employees don’t leave their jobs; they leave their manager. So, when a manager cares about their team members as individuals, it contributes significantly to bolstering employee engagement. Effective managers with high employee engagement communicate frequently, help others overcome obstacles, guides their team on tasks and projects, supports employees’ ideas and approaches to tasks, and recognizes that they have a life outside of their job. These managers will endear their staff to the team, company and any endeavor they undertake.
Why does a high engagement culture matter?
Increased productivity = higher profitability
Let’s face it. Your company is in business to sell a product or service and churn out a profit. Whether you sell the latest gadget, develop next generation software, or provide an indispensable service to your customers, the objective is to make money. When employees are engaged with the organization, they perform at a higher level, increasing their productivity and the efficiency of the team.
Retention and Recruitment
Many know that it is more cost efficient to retain quality employees rather than hire and train new employees. A revolving front door and a HR team in constant recruitment mode is not sustainable for company growth. When employees feel engaged with an organization, they are more likely to stay put, and less likely to seek other opportunities. It costs more, and is disruptive to an organization, to constantly function in hiring mode.
In a competitive marketspace for talented people, current employees can be a great recruitment tool. Beyond any financial recruitment incentives, engaged employees are advocates for the company. They willingly share with friends and family how much they like the company and encourage others to apply and come aboard.
High Morale + Commitment = Team Success
It’s hard for a company to be successful when employees are demoralized and disgruntled. Negativity can spread like a cancer and is not sustainable for growth. As well, positivity and optimism can also spread, creating high morale across the team. When employees feel part of something bigger than themselves, they are committed to the team and the company’s success.
Innovation leads to growth
Engaged employees feel that their ideas and contributions are valued. An engaged culture encourages an environment of new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and discovery to improve products, services and operational efficiencies. An organization creates the opportunity to grow and prosper when innovation is fostered and celebrated.
Through trust in leadership and support of procedures, engaged employees are more supportive of safety concerns and protocols, resulting in fewer accidents and cost savings.
Service to customers
Without customers or clients, there is no business. Engaged employees who feel confident in the company, supported by their manager and empowered to do their job, will provide better service and stronger relationships with customers.
How to create a culture of employee engagement
So now we have a handle on what employee engagement is. And we’ve highlighted what employees really want from their employer and why it’s important to develop a culture of engagement.
Great! So, what’s next? For company leaders and HR professionals, take the next step to learn HOW to your organization and employees to the next level. Download “Create a Culture of Employee Engagement” whitepaper to learn the 5 important steps.
Get 5 steps to create a culture of employee engagement. Download today!