Employee Engagement

Getting on Track

A new report identifies three factors that can improve employee engagement.

By Susan Hunt Stevens

Employee engagement and corporate culture have risen to high priority with executives in today’s business world because they understand that having a purposeful workforce equates to a high-performing one. Not only are key business goals met with an engaged workforce, but organizations can increase shareholder value, productivity, innovation, and bottom-line performance, all while reducing costs related to hiring and retention strategies.

But in today’s busy, plugged-in world, it’s harder than ever to keep employees focused, engaged, and empowered. Research from the Deloitte Human Capital Trends report finds that 87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges.

WeSpire’s annual The Evolution of Employee Engagement research report examines how employee engagement is being executed in the workplace and certain strategies that can improve it. The demand is there: In fact, 50 percent of employees expressed interest in becoming more involved in their organization’s volunteer, sustainability, well-being, or social responsibility initiatives. This number increases significantly for younger employees with 70 percent of those under 30 saying they want to be more involved in corporate initiatives.

As the workplace modernizes, employees expect their organizations to provide opportunities for engaging, purposeful work. When employees feel involved in the organization’s initiatives, they are more fulfilled in their lives in and out of the office. But what can HR departments do to ensure successful employee engagement programs?

  1. Great managers. Bottom line: Employees with managers who communicate and care about them report feeling more engaged. The correlation in the survey results was quite clear: 89 percent of employees who reported feeling very engaged also felt their manager or supervisors cares about them, while only 28 percent of not at all engaged employees answered positively. Overall, 78 percent of survey respondents felt that their managers or supervisors cared about them. This means that organizations need to take the necessary steps in order to put the right, talented managers in supervisory roles to help bring engagement levels up across the workforce.

But what can a manager do to drive engagement? One of the key factors is frequent and regular recognition. The study found that 35 percent of employees prefer weekly recognition and 27 percent prefer monthly. Good managers help employees identify and recognize the value in their work. Employees that have visibility into how their work is creating meaning is strongly correlated with levels of engagement. An overwhelming 97 percent of very engaged employees feel like they are making meaningful contributions.

  1. Transparency. Awareness, access to information, and transparency all play a large role in employee engagement. After all, if your employees don’t know about the programs and corporate policies available to benefit and engage them, how can they be expected to take part?

When creating employee engagement initiatives, make sure to think about how to best communicate the program’s structure and benefits to employees. Visibility into a company’s goals and an understanding of the influence they have on the business help employees identify their role and impact. Aligning the results of employee efforts to company goals -pounds of waste saved, gallons of fuel conserved -will create a sense of empowerment.

By encouraging all employees -and not just those already interested in sustainability, well-being, or social responsibility -to participate, the broader workforce may have an interest in taking part in company initiatives.

An official and well-communicated engagement policy adds a layer of transparency between management and employees, and as a result, leads to higher rates of engagement. Sixty-two percent of survey respondents reported having easy access to information about corporate initiatives, which led to higher engagement scores.

  1. Choice and collaboration. There is no cookie-cutter approach to engagement that works for every company. Each workplace environment is different. Each company has different corporate and financial goals, which require specific tactics and methods to meet their needs. A tailored approach to employee engagement should trickle down to each and every individual employee. Empower employees by offering them a choice as their interests and priorities may range across a span of engagement programs, from well-being to corporate sustainability and volunteering to social responsibility. Let your employees decide how they can make a difference. When employees have more choices, they are more likely to get involved.

The survey found that 62 percent of employees expressed interest in learning more about the efforts of their co-workers and organization. This prevalent need to share via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in personal lives is driving engagement in the workplace to follow the same trajectory. This trend is even more pronounced in younger generations, with 71 percent of survey respondents under the age of 30 having expressed an interest in the efforts of their colleagues.

The desire to know what everyone is up to can be put to good use when designing an employee engagement program. Incorporating elements of collaboration across company activities strongly correlates to engagement: 52 percent of employees who had a method for collaboration were very engaged, and an additional 39 percent reported being somewhat engaged.

Employers should feel comfortable investing in engagement programs, as the desire from employees is there with 59 percent of survey respondents wanting to see their employer change their stance on employee engagement. Of those, 57 percent wanted to see their workplace do more in regards to employee engagement.

Despite the challenges from an organizational standpoint, corporate engagement programs have been found to motivate employees to work more efficiently and effectively while also combating declining retention and lost productivity. Each employee engagement program is different, but the most successful organizations are able to bridge the engagement gap by leveraging their employee programs to create a more motivated, productive, and fulfilled workforce that drives positive business and social impact.

Susan Hunt Stevens is the co-founder and CEO of WeSpire.

Tags: July August 2015

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