How organizations engage with their employees and go the extra mile to understand what motivates them, is critical in maintaining organizational productivity and morale. In this article we look at popular methods for measuring and responding to levels of staff engagement.
Employee engagement is critical to corporate success
Companies with excellent employee engagement report the highest returns, which makes it an obvious focus for any successful company. Measuring and reacting to employee engagement signals is vital for any management team. As many as 8% of employees surveyed in a report from the Hay Group identified themselves as ‘completely demotivated,’ with another 24% as ‘coasting.’ For managers, understanding how to motivate your employees and keep your workforce happy and engaged is a key skill for productivity and profitability.
What causes low employee engagement?
Sadly, many employees feel less committed than before to long-term employment. Managers in many sectors struggle to retain and cultivate talent, as millennials often see employment in a more transient way than past generations. In a changing world, where changing roles and changing job requirements mean security and stability cannot be guaranteed, many see work as a temporary activity.
Equally, a more diverse employment marketplace means that the workforce feels less tied to their jobs. With more opportunities available than ever before, it’s easy to see why employee engagement is no longer a certainty.
How do you measure engagement?
What is the most effective way to measure employee engagement? Start simple. A survey, a meeting, an informal chat. Checking in with your employees should be a regular feature of your management. If you’re unsure how to go about this, then Gallup issued a series of 12 statements that can be shared with employees to measure their enthusiasm for their work. With statements such as, ‘I know what is expected of me,’ or ‘I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work,’ it’s possible to find out actions that managers can undertake to improve engagement in the workforce.
Regular communication with employees, supervisors and managers can help you understand the workforce better and motivate them accordingly. Measure often, and pay attention to the results. Checking how staff feel about their work once every six months isn’t enough, with companies like Cisco and GE setting the bar with regular check-ins.
One of the most user-friendly, and low-stress ways to measure engagement is via a survey. Some businesses have effectively adopted the ‘pulse’ approach: sending out one or two questions to staff more frequently; as regularly as every other week. This enables you to see the morale of an organization in real-time. It also means that questioning can be wide-reaching and specific, for example, if you’re changing office environment or restructuring, it can flag up any issues before they become serious.
Appraisals also offer an opportunity to measure engagement, by setting regular goals and keeping track of performance. It’s also a time to ask employees about what motivates them, and what challenges they’re facing. Like the above ‘pulse’ approach, it’s a way of keeping track of any issues before they become red flags.
As well as measuring engagement with online surveys, or with performance meetings, businesses should look to effective internal communication. By having regular updates, and communicating frequently with line managers, directors and senior team members, it’s possible to understand engagement across different sectors and teams in larger organisations.
How to keep your workforce engaged
Even if you are measuring engagement effectively, there are still plenty of strategies that can improve staff morale at work. One of the best ways of ensuring productivity is to prevent problems before they start.
1. Focus on behaviors
By setting out aspirational behaviors companies can help staff aspire towards their corporate goals. Behaviors should reflect how we conduct ourselves and how we interact with others. Engaged employees understand that how we behave has a big impact on those around them. By encouraging collaboration and positive values, and rewarding attitude as well as outcome, you can create a culture of engagement where it matters. Modelling good practice, and championing and rewarding the behaviors you want to see, is vital for maintaining momentum in this respect.
Dealing with your employees as people is a key feature in businesses that successfully maintain high staff morale. By treating staff as partners in the business, and involving them in strategic and corporate decision making, you empower staff to want to build a future where they work. The biggest way of getting increased engagement is to make your staff feel as if they are really part of the direction of the business. John Lewis makes all employers ‘partners’ in the wider business, which explains their excellent staff retention and engagement record.
3. Purpose & Responsibility
Low engagement comes from low interaction and purpose with our work. To increase engagement, it’s worth delegating more responsibility to staff, encouraging people in the directions of their interests and developing staff skills towards new solutions and ideas. Show your employees they are valued by allowing purpose into their role, and they will begin to see it as more of a calling, less of a millstone.
If you think that asking your staff regularly how they feel about their work is tiresome, think again. Engaging with your workforce is the key to engagement. Workers who don’t feel listened to, don’t feel part of the team or don’t feel included in large decisions, are less likely to feel engaged.