Amplify Your Employee Engagement

Most of us now realize that people create the real value in every company—and the better your people are, the better your business performs. Maintaining a strong, productive workforce requires us to play defense, too, by working to retain employees once they’re hired, and by truly engaging them and optimizing their value.

A recent Gallup poll revealed less than a third of employees today are engaged with their work and their companies. Even worse, 18% of employees are actively disengaged. Clearly, we need help figuring out how to connect with our people – not just after they are hired, but while we are hiring them – so we can foster the kind of engaged relationships that generate long-term value.

Build and amplify your employee engagement, from the time candidates interview to long after they join the team. Learn how strategic alignment between companies and their employees – or the lack thereof – can impact productivity.

Purpose Alignment

Inspire employees with a cause that makes a connection. Conventional companies lead from the outside in; they have an idea for a business, they build products, and then worry about the purpose behind it all. The difference is, remarkable companies work from the inside out. They start with the why of the business – its mission and core values – and grow from there. By doing so, everything they build afterward, including the workforce, naturally becomes aligned with and inspired by that purpose. Employees must feel drawn to a purpose in order to be engaged with the work they do and the place they work.

A person who is inspired by a cause – and whose job centers around furthering that cause – has an intrinsic desire to succeed, and therefore becomes more productive. Conversely, when employees don’t feel that their work contributes to a higher cause, they’ll tend to put less effort into what they do.

It’s natural for momentum to stall when the path becomes unclear, or when visible progress slows. Ensure your managers are trained on how to handle the situation. Restate and refocus on the objectives at hand. Employees should have a clear plan of attack when they aren’t sure how to continue work on a project.

Progress Inertia

Have you ever felt like you just can’t muster the will to do the task in front of you?
There’s most likely a set of tasks you know would meaningfully change the trajectory of your business, that you could be doing them right now. Instead, you tend to one of the many other less impactful things on your plate. There’s just so much… and it turns into a, “well, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

What’s stopping you? What’s keeping you from changing your outlook, creating new opportunities and learning something meaningful? When we’re not contributing effectively, it’s easy to continue doing nothing. But when we’re achieving something and making progress, inertia still applies: we’re driven to continue that forward motion.

When people sense momentum and when they believe they are part-way to achieving a desirable objective, they gain a deeper feeling of engagement. They believe they’re invested in the process, and they need to see it through to completion. When people see progress, they’re more compelled to finish what they began. So at work, when employees who are able to see how much has already been accomplished – on both the company and individual level – will naturally want to increase productivity in order to continue that progress.

Task Autonomy

Autonomy is the power to shape your work environment in ways that allow you to perform at your best. Giving employees autonomy over tasks means ensuring that they have control over some aspects of the work that they do. In an autonomous organization, it’s what gets done that matters, with less concern for how it gets done. The bottom-line benefit to both employees and organizations is that workers who are free to make more choices are happier, more committed to their jobs, productive and less likely to leave.

Autonomy gives us that feeling of ownership and accountability. When managers place trust in you to get it done right, you’ll take pride in knowing that you’ve earned that trust, and you’ll want to live up to the expectation.

Help managers understand where to draw the line between guidance and micromanagement. Getting too involved in what an employee is working on will stifle his or her sense of engagement. Give them opportunities to test their own theories and demonstrate their abilities. It’s okay if they make mistakes – they’ll learn from them and grow from the experience. What matters is that you trust them to own something and give it their best shot.

Task-to-skill Alignment

Aligning employee tasks with their skills is primarily about ensuring people are in the right jobs. 61% of employees say the reality of what they’re required to do in a job differs from the expectations set during the interview process. In other words, aligning tasks to skills starts from the moment we open a job requisition. It involves fully understanding what a job entails, which qualifications are necessary to fulfill those duties, and – more importantly – what type of person will thrive in that type of position.

Productivity surveys highlight that the most actively disengaged employees are the ones being asked to do things they aren’t good at. That disengagement comes from not being challenged but it also comes when we feel like we aren’t contributing. The more people feel like their work contributes to something, and that they’re making a difference because they’re good at what they’re doing, the more they feel engaged. There’s a sweet spot where competency, opportunity, and passion come together – and when employees are put in jobs that ignite that sweet spot, they’re going to be massively productive. They’ll be in “the zone,” when they are so focused on their work that they don’t even notice the passing of time. This is where employees generate the most value for the company, and for themselves.

Rewards & Recognitions

To give a little psychology background… humans are hard-wired neurologically to crave rewards, activating a rush of dopamine, and compelling us to repeat rewarding behaviors. This is the essence of addictive behavior – but it can be used to your advantage in the workplace.

Gamification plays on the psychology that drives human engagement—the drive to compete, improve, and out-do—and to get instantly rewarded while doing so. Gamification is one-way employers are making work for staff more enjoyable. Tapping into our need for instant rewards, gratification, and feedback, gamification tools are an effective way to engage employees, improve productivity and reduce staff turnover. According to Bersin by Deloitte, “Organizations with recognition programs that are highly effective at improving employee engagement had 31% lower voluntary turnover than their peers.”

Research by BambooHR shows that 52% of employees aren’t satisfied with the recognition they receive, and 39% don’t feel appreciated at all. If companies don’t work to pull those numbers up, they will have a much harder time retaining valuable workers. Organizations with recognition programs are highly effective at improving employee engagement with a 31% lower voluntary turnover than their peers. People want to stay where they are rewarded for their efforts.

Friends at work

Work shouldn’t feel like your back in high school. You don’t want exclusive cliques that leave people feeling left out. You want the workplace to be an enjoyable environment for everyone, and social relationships play a huge role in whether or not you can achieve that objective.

Camaraderie has a tremendous impact on both productivity and turnover. 56% of new hires say that having a buddy or mentor would help them become more productive faster. Likewise, 17% of employees who left a job in the first 6 months said a friendly smile or helpful coworker would have made a difference. People like to work with people they know and respect.

Make sure your employees know how valuable their referrals are – and encourage them to keep referring. Communicate regularly about what jobs are open and what makes an ideal candidate. Consider asking new hires to complete personal questionnaires about their hobbies, travel destinations, or favorite restaurants. Sharing that information and facilitating introductions between like-minded employees can jumpstart initial conversations and encourage stronger personal relationships.

“…employee referrals are five times more likely to be hired than candidates found through any other source.”

Without a strong workforce, companies cannot and will not succeed. The best HR departments view employee engagement as a continuous cycle that starts before people are hired, accelerates as they are onboarded, and persists throughout an employee’s tenure. By empowering HR organizations with the right tools and technology to take this long-term approach, companies can more effectively and strategically optimize the value of their greatest assets – their people.