Company leaders are hotly in pursuit of successful employee engagement. Long-term engagement requires a mindset shift about how it connects to employee experience. Here are five keys to lay the foundation for getting it right and building a strong culture.
Employee engagement is a prevailingly hot topic. In a market experiencing a war for talent, skills gaps, ever-evolving employee expectations, and an increasingly competitive business landscape, employers want to retain their top talent.
It’s well-documented that an engaged employee is happier, more productive, and more likely to stay with their company. From a business standpoint, an engaged workforce positively impacts the bottom line.
While business leaders continue to cite employee engagement as a priority, many organizations still feel challenged about how to do it well.
Additionally, while organizations today invest a lot of money in engagement initiatives, from implementing them to measuring and tracking success, engagement scores remain flat (a Gallup report proclaims a “worldwide employee engagement crisis.”)
It’s time to think about employee engagement differently – less as a point-in-time solution, and more as a layer of a holistic employee experience.
Rethinking employee engagement
The antiquated approach to engagement – annual surveys, too-long questionnaires – doesn’t fit with the experience employees are expecting from employers today.
Employees are looking for opportunities to innovate, be creative, and learn and grow – and this is very in line with the adaptive and flexible workforce employers need to be successful.
Despite employers’ awareness that old methods miss the mark, and that they need to harness and unleash creativity and innovation from within their organizations, they’re still not connecting the dots of engagement as part of the greater employee experience.
A key finding from Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report is that many companies remain focused on “point-in-time” engagement, but haven’t pulled together the disciplines of performance management, goal setting, diversity, inclusion, wellness, workplace design and leadership into an integrated framework.
Point-in-time engagement surveys, for example, don’t provide actionable results, and they’re just that – a point-in-time view, versus an ongoing pulse on engagement levels. To truly elevate engagement and weave it into the fabric of the employee experience, employers need to look beyond one-offs. Employers need to activate it with methods that result in long-term motivation, innovation and enthusiasm.
A fundamental mindset shift needs to include the following realizations:
- Engagement is not the endgame
- Engagement is ongoing
- Engagement is not one-size-fits-all
Treat employee engagement as strategic, and align it with culture
For next-gen HR leaders, employee engagement must be core to business strategy (versus simply tactics). It should be integrated into all aspects of the employee experience, and, considering its impact on the bottom line, tied more closely to business outcomes.
This approach to employee engagement extends beyond siloes, addresses business priorities, and is firmly rooted in an organization’s culture.
A strong culture with clear values is a key aspect to employee engagement. It promotes engagement because employees feel connected to a purpose and that they are contributing to both their personal success and that of the organization.
Employees also feel more engaged and connected with culture through their relationships with co-workers, and opportunities to develop their skills.
Echoing this finding, research from SHRM has shown that “employees’ engagement levels are often determined by the strength of their relationship with supervisors and co-workers, as well as their belief in their own ability to perform their jobs effectively and contribute to an organization.”
Five keys to employee engagement
Here are five keys to ongoing employee engagement – elements that can be integrated throughout the employee experience.
1. Recognition: Recognize and reward employees for doing a great job, and do it often, in the moment, and in a way that they personally want to be acknowledged.
A 2015 study cited in HBR found that seven out of 10 employees who reported receiving a form of appreciation from their supervisors said they were happy with their jobs. However, without recognition, only 39% said they were satisfied.
2. Culture-based communication: Communicate with employees in a way that is in line with your culture. If your organization promotes work-life balance, don’t email them to death. Implement technology that encourages collaboration, timely communication and provides an intuitive experience for employees to find the information they need.
3. Learning and development: A culture of learning is an essential factor in driving employee engagement – and it’s good for business. Modern companies that offer learning opportunities have an advantage in attracting, retaining and developing talent in the skills race of today’s workforce. To develop high performers, employers must empower them. Because performance development is a year-round practice, employers need to design processes to obtain better feedback, foster productivity, and support employees versus simply assess them. This means envisioning new types of employee-manager relationships.
4. Strong leadership: There are two main points here. The first is getting leadership on board with the importance of employee engagement. Many organizations struggle with demonstrating the value of engagement to leadership teams, and a question often asked is how to get executives on board with engagement initiatives. The answer is to speak their language. Focus on ROI. Demonstrate the benefits of investing in employee engagement initiatives. Think about how engagement impacts the business bottom line.
The second is to ensure managers are adequately prepared for the workforce. Have processes in place to close leadership skills gaps and to get feedback from employees on leadership strength.
5. Simplification: Providing flexible work environments and promoting work-life balance or blending are just two of the ways that employers can support employees in reducing personal and professional complexities. A culture that gives each employee the opportunity to be their best both at work and at home is one that will keep employees engaged.
Technology, in many forms, is also key to simplifying work and decreasing stress. Companies are increasingly investing in holistic HCM solutions to help with various aspects of simplification, to spend more time on their people, and less time on processes.
We’ll dive into each of these five keys in future blogs as part of our Five keys to employee engagement series.