For many executives, improving employee engagement is a top global business strategy, and for good reason. Employee engagement is critically important in today’s competitive marketplace. Engaged employees are more productive and committed to their companies, generating shareholder value and improving organizational performance. They exhibit lower levels of attrition and absenteeism. Plus, they have fewer on-the-job accidents, foster loyalty among customers and enhance the company’s reputation.
Gallup polls indicate that just 36% of employees are engaged on the job. Does that mean that nearly two-thirds of workers are just putting in the hours? Pretty much. According to the research, the number of actively disengaged stands at 15% through June 2021. That leaves another half of all employees who are simply showing up. Not a comforting thought. But it does show that many U.S. companies are nowhere near their potential when it comes to performance.
Employees can be satisfied with their jobs but not actually vested in the company. They may enjoy the work and look forward to the paycheck without being terribly interested in the company's vision. This is not engagement. These employees would be just as comfortable collecting their paychecks from another firm. Engagement means that employees are a key component of your overall strategy and are committed to advancing the company’s goals. It happens when companies create a culture that invites emotional connection, genuine involvement and contagious enthusiasm about the purpose and mission.
There are a number of programs aimed at getting employees more excited about coming to work each day. Employee engagement ideas are a dime a dozen with blog articles touting 15, 25, 50 ways to engage your workforce. But unless these programs are thoughtfully conceived, they will just be noise. To get true engagement, employees need to feel that their work is valued, their opinions are heard and supported, and they are respected. These are the beliefs that underpin trust. Employees can have the best perks, but if trust is lacking, they will not be engaged. This trust comes from the following areas:
If your engagement levels aren’t as high as you’d like, there is no silver bullet. One teambuilding event or corporate baseball tournament is not going to fix it. However, there are employee engagement ideas and programs you can implement that will help you get started:
Match new employees with someone who can help them navigate and understand the company culture. Ideally, it will be an individual outside of their workgroup, allowing them to meet people from other departments. This person can help them become adept at finding resources with the company and answer questions they may not feel comfortable asking their immediate bosses or co-workers.
It is important to have social connections and work relationships. These relationships increase collaboration and job satisfaction. Ensure that employees have a place to interact and have a little downtime. You don’t need a foosball table or a trendy office playroom. If all you have is a breakroom, make the space inviting and encourage people to go there. Better yet, solicit the executive team to model the behavior by occasionally making themselves accessible and available in the employee lounge. If some of your employees are remote, you can create virtual meeting spots.
Employees are thrilled when they know that the top leaders in the company understand their day-to-day challenges. That’s the spirit behind Hilton’s innovative Senior Leadership Business Immersion program. The program has senior leaders and board members spend three days doing customer-facing work. This means that executives are making beds and preparing room service trays right alongside the staff. They leave the experience with a greater appreciation of the challenges and opportunities the business is facing and the improvements that could be made. Perhaps the greatest benefits, however, are the boost it provides to employee morale and the feeling of solidarity it generates.
Competing priorities can sometimes make teams believe that they aren’t all working toward the same ends. It may help to introduce a fun ritual that doesn’t require much time. You don’t actually need a golden globe, or even a globe. Any symbolic object will work.Each week, the object is awarded, with a bit of celebratory fanfare, from one team to another. The award is given in recognition for assistance provided, an expedited request, information shared or simply being helpful colleagues. The next week, the award is passed from the former recipients to another team. The idea is to encourage inter-team collaboration and goodwill.
London-based company John Lewis calls its 80,000 employees partners. It’s an interesting choice of words because the vast majority of the people who work there are not true partners according to the legal definition. Rather, they share responsibility for the company, its customers and its outcomes. The word partner evokes a sense of empowerment. The company stated, in their words, as “an experiment in industrial democracy.”
According to Gartner researchers, 65% of those surveyed say that the pandemic has made them rethink the place work should have in their lives. Increasingly, employees want to work for a company that aligns with a purpose that they can believe in.Southwest Airlines is a company that differentiates itself beyond being a transporter of people. They consider themselves an enabler that helps people get to the people or places they care about. It’s not a huge difference, but it does help define a strong purpose and an emotional connection with its employees and an important responsibility to the customers they serve. That’s not the end of the story, though. Southwest encourages its employees to create a superior experience for the customers and give them the support and the trust they need to accomplish this goal.
People love to donate to a good cause and in 2020, charitable giving topped $471 billion. Companies give to nonprofit organizations, as well. But those organizations may not be the ones that capture the hearts and minds of their employees. Everyone has a favorite charity or two. Groundswell allows employees to pick the problems and the solutions they want to address, supporting them with matching donations of up to $5,000 and time off to volunteer. It makes managing employee giving programs effortless. Further, Groundswell provides data that gives employers insight into the issues their employees care about. It’s great information to have as you consider how to design your HR practices and plan your strategic initiatives to deepen employee engagement.
Beyond simply sending a check to a select group of nonprofits, companies can take a stand on causes that employees care deeply about. Many corporations have adopted K-12 schools and invested time and resources to bring about higher-quality educational experiences in underserved communities. Employees at SDN Communications in Sioux Falls have an opportunity to make an impact and bond with colleagues as they engage in activities such as a winter clothing drive and volunteering for the Read Across America program.
It’s no coincidence that some of the most profitable companies today are those with the most engaged workforces. It’s the companies that summit on “the best places to work” lists. Their employees don’t flock to the company because they have a cool game room and free snacks. They aren’t drawn in by catchy slogans and nice placards on the wall. They are excited by the vision and energized by the empowerment they feel when they come to work each day. Employee engagement is all about building your brand internally. It will take some work, but the rewards will determine how your company will fare against the competition in the years to come. When you consider engagement statistics, the reality is that engaged employees help companies win. If you’d like more information on the benefits of a donor-advised fund, contact Groundswell today.
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