Employee engagement is not a zero-sum game of getting more from employees for less. Rather it is about figuring out how to increase organisational effectiveness as well as enhancing employee well-being.
The need to establish and maintain employee engagement processes is driven by two main factors. Firstly, employee engagement directly impacts organisational performance and is considered a source of competitive advantage. According to a study published in the book, Employee Engagement: Tools for Analysis, Practice, and Competitive Advantage, companies that scored in the top 25% for employee engagement had more than double the shareholder value when compared to companies in the bottom 25%.
The second factor comes from a general concern among managers for productivity and organisational efficiency. The strive to build leaner teams that are able to accomplish more has driven organisations to develop methods of harnessing the “discretionary” effort of employees.
The challenge for managers is then how to maintain employee engagement once the processes have been established. In this blog post, we discuss eight strategies to help you effectively maintain employee engagement.
1. Start with culture
The most effective strategy for establishing and maintaining employee engagement is through an organisation’s culture. It is infinitely scalable, non-excludable and non-subtractable, and is capable of driving effort and retention for thousands of employees at a time.
Google, often rated as a great place to work, measures dozens of factors to understand what makes employee productive and happy. The research is used to shape its internal culture and has impacted a number of things from its open workspace to providing free food and on-site laundry services for employees.
2. Check-in regularly
They say prevention is better than cure. Well, that is definitely the case when it comes to keeping employees engaged. Regular employee surveys help you identify potential problem areas that might undermine your organisational culture and efforts to engage employees.
Understanding how things fluctuate can allow your business to adapt to the changing needs and temperament of your employees. This sort of proactive approach keeps teams engaged in their work over the long term.
3. Two-way communication
According to a CIPD study of over 2000 employees, communication was described as the key factor when it came to employee engagement. The study specifically singled out employees having opportunities to send feedback and ideas up the chain as the most important factor.
Opening channels for your employees to communicate with their managers and participate in decision making creates an inclusive environment where employees feel valued and can take ownership of business outcomes.
4. A clear path to growth
This comes in two parts. Firstly, employees should be encouraged to think independently by giving them the autonomy to decide how their work is done. This shifts your responsibility from an action-based approach to a result-based one and allows your employees to grow into their positions.
Secondly, your employees need to have ample opportunity to be upskilled through training. The more they know about their jobs the more confident and empowered they will feel to work with less supervision which in turn increases commitment and ownership of the work they are doing.
5. Link incentives to performance
Incentives play an important role in long-term commitment and effort. Employees should receive both financial and non-financial benefits as a reward for high levels of performance and achievement.
Incentives can take a number of forms from money to extra time off or benefits around the office. Zappos, the online shoe retailer, awards a “Hero Of The Month” to the employee that is considered to be the best team player by fellow employees. They get a voucher and a priority parking spot for the month as well as a “mini-parade”.
Linking rewards to performance and behaviour helps to reinforce your company culture and creates positive habits to help sustain engagement.
6. Continuous feedback
We have already mentioned how important communication is and here we are going to mention it again. According to a study published by DDI, providing feedback and support is central to employee engagement.
Employees need feedback in order to know how they are performing. This means giving recognition for their achievements but also providing support to help address areas where they are underperforming.
7. Speak To The Heart
Emotional commitment is four times as valuable as rational commitment in producing discretionary effort. The search for a high-performing workforce is therefore synonymous with the search for emotional commitment.
In order to gain emotional commitment, organisations need to clearly define “why” they exist. This connection between work and purpose is essential to keep your employees motivated and performing day-to-day.
8. Focus on high-impact levers.
The list of levers that your organisation can use to improve employee engagement is extensive and can pose a daunting challenge for managers. So instead of trying to implement them all rather focus on areas identified by employees within the organisation.
Pick 3-5 levers that address the most concerns and have the opportunity of making the biggest impact. Levers that have a broad reach like creating a clear vision and mission or opening channels of communication are great places to start.
By focusing on a handful of initiatives, it is easier to maintain employee engagement processes and monitor performance. The end result is an employee engagement strategy that creates sustainable competitive advantages and drive performance over the long term.
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