Loyal employees are the core of every successful company. Depending on their role, they ensure the processes are running smoothly and responsibly on a daily basis. However, many employers fail to understand how they directly affect employee morale and engagement.
Top-level businesses already have pre-defined processes resulting in higher employee loyalty and workplace satisfaction. However, employee engagement is something that digital start-ups and small businesses have been struggling with in the past few years.
Lucky for both employers and employees, this is an issue that doesn’t require a huge financial investment to solve. Instead, business owners and managers need to invest their time and energy into better understanding their employees and showing them proper appreciation.
Before we go into that, it’s crucial to mention how engaged employees are more innovative, productive, and loyal. They boost customer satisfaction and help their organisations outperform competitors. Yet, the concept isn’t simple as it seems. Increasing salaries or giving more vacation days doesn’t necessarily improve employee engagement.
Instead, employee engagement consists of multiple impactful components. Throughout the article, we will help you understand the ways in which certain components matter for employees and how they impact their overall engagement.
Key elements of employee engagement
Employee engagement is more than simply being present on the job. It is a concept that encapsulates the relationship between an employee and their work environment. Engaged employees are emotionally committed to their work and the goals of their organisation. In this context, they believe the work they perform makes a real difference. And it does.
Engagement isn’t simply emotional. Employees should also be intellectually committed to the role. However, you shouldn’t expect your employees to be engaged on your own. Employee engagement is a two-way street, and if it’s not recognised adequately, you can expect a drop in morale among your workforce.
The responsibility of maximising employee engagement falls on both the individual and the organisation.
This list of key components helps you understand the most important aspects of employee engagement. However, you shouldn’t start implementing and improving all of the factors at once. Decide which of them are the most crucial for your business, and then tackle the rest of them one by one.
One of the most important aspects of any relationship between individuals is communication. The major source of stress for many employees is their inability to understand their role and their responsibilities. The reason behind this is usually higher-ups who haven’t been able to communicate this properly.
This is why it’s important to embrace open and transparent communication in the workplace. Employees shouldn’t be afraid of asking additional questions about their job, and the managers should be there to help them solve their problems.
To improve communication in the workplace, you should encourage Two-way communication, which encourages regular feedback and open dialogue. When working from home, communicating is even harder. Text messages simply can’t convey the emotions that real-life discussion can.
To facilitate communication in a remote environment, you can utilise multiple communication channels. Video meetings should be encouraged and scheduled on a regular basis, and messages need to be concise and clear of jargon.
One example of effective implementation of transparent communication is Google’s weekly “TGIF” (Thank God It’s Friday). These meetings that are scheduled every Friday help employees catch up with company news, product updates, and strategic initiatives.
Recognition and reward
Every manager can rank their subordinates according to their performance and behaviour at work. If you ask them who their best worker is, they will give you an answer in the blink of an eye. However, without a positive company culture that encourages such behaviour, they probably never give them the recognition they deserve.
Employees should feel valued for their contributions, and that is achieved mainly through recognition and rewards. Together, recognition and rewards boost employee morale and motivation.
To effectively recognise your employees, you would need to do that in a timely manner. Assuring employees that their hard work is appreciated should happen as soon as it’s done. Furthermore, it would make a much bigger impact if you disclosed their achievements publicly, at a company meeting, or using the company’s social media.
In addition, you can reward your employees with financial and non-financial benefits. Personalising these awards can have an even better impact as it will show the company cares about its employees on an individual level.
Another interesting way of increasing employee engagement through reward and recognition is by promoting peer-to-peer recognition. Starbucks and Zappos, for example, encourage their employees to recognise coworkers that are exceptional.
Career development opportunities
Throughout my career as a director, I’ve had opportunities to work with hundreds of employees. What I’ve noticed is that some of the best employees would tell me they preferred roles and companies where they have a chance to improve their skills.
Career development opportunities play a crucial role in fostering employee engagement. When employees see a clear path for advancement and growth within an organisation, they are more likely to stay engaged and committed to their work. Employees that don’t see the way in which they can advance in the company are likely to be less motivated.
These opportunities can range from providing training and development programs, mentorship, cross-functional projects, and opportunities for promotion. As an employer, these opportunities are ideal for you to see which employees are already highly-engaged with your company. Shortlisting these people for the nearest available promotion or a salary increase will not only reward them properly but also show the rest of the team that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.
Once you’ve established ways in which your employees can improve their job-related skills, you can also proceed with creating workshops for personal or soft skills development. These workshops could focus on areas such as communication, leadership, or time management, all of which can contribute to a more harmonious, productive, and engaged workplace.
In the era of remote work, work-life balance has become one of the most important aspects for employees looking for a job. Some experts are looking exclusively for jobs that offer them flexible work hours and the opportunity to work remotely.
When employees have a good work-life balance, they are to be more satisfied, less prone to burnout, and more productive at work, leading to increased engagement. Poor work-life balance will bring the opposite of the mentioned benefits.
Remote work and flexible work hours are some of the more impactful changes you can bring to your company. However, paid time-off and well-being programs can be just as effective and help employees lower their stress levels and improve their work-life balance.
The ROI of employee well-being programs like fitness initiatives and stress management workshops is immense. Happier employees mean higher productivity at no additional cost. There are also companies that offer mental health services, which also promote well-being.
However, none of these methods will work if you’re setting unrealistic expectations for your employees or if they’re working too many hours. Avoid overloading employees with work and ensure they are not consistently working overtime.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management play a crucial role in driving employee engagement. Leaders set the tone for the organisational culture and work environment, and their behaviour and attitudes can significantly influence employees’ engagement levels.
An unmotivated leader will certainly leave a negative impact on the people around him. It can not only lower employee engagement, but also push talent away from the company and incur additional expenses.
On the other hand, strong leaders inspire their teams, foster open communication, and model the behaviours they expect from their teams. A manager who preaches values that they themselves do not apply will not leave a positive impression on the workers.
Similarly, managers have a direct impact on their teams’ engagement levels. Managers who provide regular feedback and support their teams in career development can significantly boost employee engagement.
Not all leaders are made equal. There are multiple types of leaders who can equally help increase employee engagement. The Berkeley Leadership Matrix defines leader types as:
- Transformational Leadership,
- Servant Leadership,
- Authentic Leadership,
- Participative Leadership.
Some leaders are natural at inspiring others with their vision, while others enjoy putting their workers first and leading with empathy. You need to help your managers recognise their leadership style.
Organisational culture and environment
Implementing a single change or a policy as a part of your company’s process of increasing employee engagement won’t be of much help. On an organisational level, your business needs to embrace a positive culture that values employee well-being and fosters collaboration.
Every company needs to cultivate inclusivity and diversity. Having a team of international experts with a diverse set of skills will help the business move forward while giving the advantage of different perspectives and innovative ideas.
If your employees work from the office, provide them with a safe, comfortable, and well-equipped work environment. Google’s innovative and inclusive culture is characterised by a flat organisational structure. Workers have the freedom to spend time on personal projects and focus on their well-being. This type of culture encourages employees to develop themselves personally and professionally.
One of the common stressors for employees is the feeling their managers are too involved with their work. By fostering a culture of employee autonomy, you can increase employee engagement.
Last but not least is helping your employees find meaning in their work.
It’s easy for an employee to start feeling detached from their colleagues when performing a role that doesn’t result in immediate revenue or client satisfaction. More often than not, these employees are both irreplaceable and directly responsible for company stability. But, that’s only visible if you can peek behind the company curtains.
It’s crucial for them to have a manager that can recognise and value their work regardless of whether their work assignments are menial or not. It’s just as important for the HR department to be aware of this potential issue and pay special attention to these brilliant individuals. Giving them regular shout-outs and helping them connect with their teams on a personal level is just as important as patting your highest-earner on their back.
In fact, the “behind-the-scenes” employee might need it more, as the high-earner already feels valued and is always in the spotlight.
Improving the key components on the employee engagement list can be done immediately. On the other hand, some employees are simply not interested in trying out whatever methods you decide to go for.
As a manager or an executive, you should do what’s within your reach to provide as many benefits as you’re able for your employees. Top talents will always recognise these values, which will attract and retain them.
For many industry experts, a high salary isn’t as important as working in a stress-free environment where they are appreciated and have the opportunity to improve. Furthermore, the ways in which you can apply some of these strategies differ from industry to industry.
Successful application of these key components of employee engagement will make your company future-proof. Don’t limit yourself to the six components mentioned in the article, survey your employees and see whether there are components more important for them.
About the Author
Alex Popovic is a digital marketing specialist with a decade of experience spearheading teams in primarily tech and finance sectors. These days he’s focused both on SEO consultancy and Balkan Based, a recruitment organisation he co-founded to help ambitious individuals from the region find work online.