Employee Engagement: Important Yet Elusive

recent article in Fast Company has once again shown how important employee engagement is to any organization. The more engaged the employees, the lower the turnover, the lower the shrinkage, the higher the customer service, and the higher the profits.

And yet, despite the preponderance of engagement surveys, software, and programs, true employee engagement remains an elusive goal for many companies. While there are several key drivers of employee engagement (corporate image, leadership, job function, work/life balance, managers) that require significant operational changes to move the engagement needle, below I present some tips that can be easily implemented and drive engagement results.

Better Internal Communications 
Treat your employees like your best customers or shareholders. Customers get fancy newsletters, interactive websites, personalized emails. Investors get elaborate annual reports. What communications do your employees get? Often it’s a simple newsletter with employee anniversaries, “articles” that are little more than press releases, and the latest information about open enrollment. Worse, they live forever on dull, decade-old intranets that are bare-bones, black and white, and boring – the 3 B’s of awful web experience. How can employees get excited about their workplace when the workplace doesn’t seem excited about them?

Internally, your employees are your audience, and you should treat them the way you treat your most valued customers. That means creating internal communications that are interesting and entertaining.

Collaborative Corporate Social Responsibility
Some organizations have established CSR programs, allowing employees to select their own cause, which is a wonderful means to truly engage. Employees feel empowerment and camaraderie as they stay involved and seek volunteers for their own “social good.” They also feel a greater sense of purpose. Meanwhile, your organization gets great press and a big tax write-off. It’s a win/win/win/win!

 
Listening
Sure, this seems obvious, but one of the most frequent complaints I hear in
client focus groups, is “Management doesn’t listen to us.” Just as
social media allows a dialogue with your customers, you must find some
mechanism(s) to create a conversation with your employees. Instead of a
yearly survey, do it quarterly. Or monthly. Have an hour of “open door”
meetings every week, where any employee can approach any manager in any
area with any idea or concern. Use your intranet or enterprise software
to let your employee collaborate and ask each other questions. Today,
everything is crowd-sourced, from American Idol to Wikipedia to presidential debate questions. What can your employees teach you?


Little Things

There are many free or low-cost methods of employee engagement. Casual
Fridays are just the beginning. Be sure to acknowledge employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries, whether it’s an email, an announcement at a weekly meeting, or an actual gift (I’m a fan of Starbucks gift cards). Bringing in treats every week or month is always nice – try cupcakes, pizza, gourmet coffee, or flavored popcorn. If you can’t afford to send employees to conferences, encourage them to attend free local seminars or online webinars. Give them a small “education budget” to learn software, read books, or subscribe to industry publications.


As you can see, there are all kinds of small ways to engage employees. There are big ways too – gamification, employee referral programs (ask me about this one), social engagement strategies. How to know what’s right for you? When looking at your engagement strategy budget, remember that, according to a recent Gallup poll, employee engagement can mean a 22% increase in profitability.

Want to learn more about these or other HR initiatives, including training videos, benefit communications, or wellness programs? Email me with your questions and I’ll help you out.

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