The statistics on employee engagement are abysmal. Numbers vary, but it’s safe to say that approximately three-quarters of U.S. employees feel some level of disengagement at work. If you’re struggling with employee engagement at your workplace, you’re far from alone. Unfortunately, low employee engagement leads to higher turnover. And, in today’s tight job market, you don’t want to find yourself short-staffed.
Engaged employees are happier, more productive and even healthier than their disengaged counterparts. Businesses with engaged employees enjoy higher profitability and customer satisfaction. So, if shoring up employee engagement isn’t on your to-do list — it should be. Luckily, there are dozens of ways to boost employee engagement that won’t cost you a penny, although they will require your time, attention and commitment. Below we’ve narrowed it down to five ideas you can try today:
- Create opportunities for connection.
Employees crave connection with each other and with their managers. Foster a culture that values togetherness whether that means inside or outside the office. You don’t have to plan fancy events. Something as simple as encouraging employees to occasionally work in common areas could work. Alternatively, you could plan to eat lunch as a group one day per week (everyone can BYO) or plan a bi-weekly happy hour.
Volunteering together does double duty. Consumers increasingly want to do business with companies that share their values, and highlighting how you give back to your community (on social media, for example) is a great way to promote togetherness while promoting your business.
- Encourage transparency.
Many companies tout an “open door” policy. In reality, employees seldom feel that door is really open. But leaders often miss things and they must depend on employees to alert them. When employees are comfortable about telling the truth with no fear of consequences, it allows you to tackle small problems before they blow up.
Allow employees to take ownership of problems by encouraging them to bring potential solutions to the table. Lastly, ask for feedback. The most productive businesses have a feedback loop between employees and managers — it’s not just a one-way street. When staff feel that you value their opinions, it connects them with their organization.
- Invest in staff development.
When employees feel that their organization is invested in their personal and professional growth, they are more likely to be engaged with their work. Part of a leader’s job is to help employees do their job better. That could mean mentoring, providing educational opportunities or encouraging skills development outside the office.
If you’re concerned that developing your staff will lead them to move on to other opportunities, don’t be. By consistently investing in staff development, you’ll create a pool of promotable employees to work with. Those same development opportunities will help you hire top-notch talent when you need it.
- Help employees find meaning in their work.
Employees feel more engaged when they understand that their daily work makes a difference. If employees don’t understand why they do what they do or feel that their daily job is an important part of the whole, they will disengage. Make sure that all employees, no matter their level of seniority, know exactly how their job fits into your overall business strategy. Clarify their goals and responsibilities and if they don’t have goals, help them set some.
- Share the responsibility.
Accountability for increasing employee engagement is tilted overwhelmingly toward organizations — not individual employees. However, you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. Employees share mutual responsibility for their own engagement. When they are on board with working to improve it, you’ll see better results than with one-sided, company-led initiatives.
On that note, you also must know when disengagement is a dead end. The percentage of actively disengaged (miserable) employees is at its lowest point since 2000 (13%, according to a 2018 Gallup poll). But they still exist, and they can wreak havoc on your company culture and business operations. Those folks were likely not a good fit for the organization in the first place. If an employee is at that point and you’ve exhausted attempts at reengagement, it may be time to start looking at how you can help actively disengaged employees exit from your organization.
- What are some signs of employee engagement and/or disengagement that you observe in your business?
- Create one new opportunity for staff to personally connect with each other and their leader(s), either inside or outside the office.