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Popping the (real) question: How to improve employee engagement in 7 simple steps

June 27, 2023

Picture this: the sun is shining. The birds are chirping. Your alarm goes off — it’s 7am. All you want to do is bask in the beautiful rays of summer (and perhaps catch another hour of sleep), but you have to head to work. You sit at your desk, looking pensively through the window, dreaming of that sweet moment the clock would hit 5 o’clock and allow you to finally start enjoying your day.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, there aren’t many who don't know the feeling of being detached from their work. So much so, that almost a third of all employees don’t feel fulfilled at work right now. It’s no wonder that businesses are investing in turning the tide and making work more engaging for their employees. But how can you improve employee engagement at your company?

What is employee engagement?

Put simply, employee engagement is the commitment and alignment an individual employee has towards the organisation they work for. This is a highly emotional function, which revolves around caring about work. An engaged employee doesn’t exclusively work for their paycheck or promotion, but rather because they truly believe in the goals and values of their company and want to play a part in achieving them.

Why is employee engagement important for businesses?

Today’s workforce is notoriously lacking engagement. According to the latest study from Gallup, only 23% of workers are engaged, with 18% actively disengaged. But why should this matter to you?

As you can probably tell from the definition of engagement, it is crucial for the smooth operation of your business. For example, companies with engaged employees are happier, have higher retention rates, lower absenteeism, and improved productivity. Without investing in engagement, you’re running the risk of high turnover and reduced profits.

Further reading: What are the benefits of employee engagement?

How do I engage my employees?

Whether you believe your team is at peak performance, or you see employee disengagement as the top issue plaguing your organisation, here are a few ideas for improving engagement.

1. Understand employees as individuals

Today, more than ever, recognising the uniqueness of individuals in the multigenerational, multinational, multiethnic, and multigendered workforce is essential for the success of any employee engagement strategy. No one is like the other, and we all view the world, digest information, and do our jobs differently. This, of course, is even more true in a neurodiverse workplace — but in any case, working with the quirks and differences of each of your workers could really transform their level of engagement.

Understanding each employee’s personality can be invaluable for this purpose. For example, the Thrive assessment allows you to benchmark your workers compared to others in the field (and in your team), delving into their strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to gain insight into how individuals on your team tick. However, if personality tests are a step too far for you, investing time into appreciating your employees and their individual needs (even if it’s just by asking them!) could be a significant driver of engagement.

2. Offer training and development opportunities

There’s nothing that will make an employee feel less engaged than stagnation. Think about it: if you feel like you’re doing the same thing every day, not learning anything new, not developing yourself personally or professionally… Are you going to be aligned and enthusiastic about your organisation and its goals? Probably not.

Ensure that employees know that if they recognise a new development in their field, they can come up to you for a course on the subject. If they want to try something new or test out different ideas, they should feel as though they are welcome to. Setting a development budget is always useful. If you utilise a personality assessment, it may help discern what kinds of personal development each individual requires (and if you use Thrive, the assessment will even tell you how to do it). If you’re looking for more ideas on how to support your employees’ personal development, check out our helpful guide.

A happy woman with glitter

3. Invest in culture and socialising

Humans are social creatures. Interactions can make or break a workplace, but it’s almost certain that the lack of them will cause engagement issues. Fostering closer relationships between employees — within their team and across departments — should be an active part of your engagement strategy. Ensure you’re organising socials, encouraging personal connections between colleagues, and insist on a friendly atmosphere in your office. Make your company values clear and bold, and have them shine throughout.

However, we all know that the 2020s are the age of hybrid and remote work. It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to involve all of your employees in the social and work activities, even those who may not be locally based or those who work remotely. Providing Zoom links to events or even organising some virtual get-togethers can be a great way to introduce teams. For example, at Thrive, we use an app called Donut to encourage random employees to get a virtual coffee together once a month, which has worked fantastically.

4. Set a clear promotion path

Don’t get us wrong, everyone loves a good pizza party. Unfortunately, free snacks don’t pay the bills, and they also don’t make you feel appreciated at work. Ensuring that your employees know what their next career steps within your organisation will be will make them feel as though you view them as respected and valuable members of the team, while regular salary updates are crucial for both their financial wellbeing and feeling of security within the workplace.

Beyond a promotion and remuneration plan, professional recognition is also a factor that should not be ignored. In fact, studies have shown that, if an employee believes their efforts would be recognised, they are 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged. Make sure you’re giving credit when it’s due, and shout out the successes and accomplishments of your employees, both as teams and individuals.

5. Put wellbeing on your agenda

Another significant factor impacting employee engagement are the wellbeing of your team and the work-life balance you offer. It’s pretty straightforward: when people are feeling happy and calm, don’t suffer from stress and anxiety in their life and workplace, and feel like they have a full life outside of the office walls, they are more likely to be engaged. And when you consider that a whopping 89% of employees experienced burnout within the past year, it’s not a minor issue.

By providing your team with tools that can help their mental health, such as a subscription to a mindfulness app, yoga classes, support with gym memberships, and even online therapy, you can relieve some of the stressors that push engagement down. Offering flexible working can also help those with conditions such as insomnia and anxiety, and can allow for an overall improved work-life balance.

6. Provide the right tools and processes

Stress can also be caused by ways of working. If your employees don’t have the right processes and tools in place, they may struggle to complete tasks and find themselves uninterested in their work. This can include software and hardware, for instance, providing your employees with fast enough computers, or a communication app that enables them to ask questions or keep colleagues informed.

Having a clear working process for projects is also crucial, and supporting it with the right management and CRM software can be the difference between a frustrated and slow employee to an efficient and effective one. Simplify your procedures, ensure all relevant information is visible to everyone, and make your team’s work as easy as it can be, so they don’t feel like they’re wasting time and brain capacity.

7. Create a mutually beneficial environment

The place where businesses usually fail is… asking. Simply asking. The reality is that your employees want to be engaged — no one wants to feel detached and miserable at work. So they have a clear interest in making their work life better. All you need to do is communicate with them and you’ll get the best insights into what can be done to improve engagement. Consistent and frequent 1-2-1s, as well as a suggestion box and general open communication can be the most effective tools for this.

However, there could be some suggestions or frustrations that your employees wouldn’t feel comfortable to share. Alternatively, they might not be able to put their finger on exactly what the problem is. For this purpose, anonymous surveys are a great addition to your engagement strategy. They can help you gain a bird’s-eye view of the way your workforce views the organisation, obtain insights into your strengths and weaknesses, and in some cases (for example, if you use the Thrive surveys), even directly learn how to improve.

If you’re interested to learn more about how the Thrive platform can help with engagement, watch our webinar or book a demo with us today.

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