Employee engagement is a critical factor in a company’s success. Engaged employees are enthusiastic and committed to performing their job at the highest level. Their value rests in more than just high morale; the energy and positive attitude of employees who truly love what they do can have a tremendous effect on the bottom line.
But according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, only 33% of U.S. employees are engaged at work. Whether it's because of a lack of growth opportunities, missing constructive feedback, or feeling overlooked, it means that as much as two thirds of the American workforce is either not engaged – mentally and emotionally “checked out” – or actively disengaged, demonstrating their unhappiness and potentially sabotaging the work of engaged employees.
Fortunately, there are many ways that managers can mitigate this problem to boost employee engagement and improve workplace culture. Here are just a few:
Start from the top
A disengaged manager is almost guaranteed to have disengaged employees. We look to our leaders to serve as models of our behavior and attitude. Managers should go out of their way to model engaged behavior by demonstrating enthusiasm and excitement and showing dedication in their work. Not only will this give employees a positive image of engagement to emulate, but seeing that their leader is upbeat and confident will improve overall workplace morale.
Ensure transparency and authenticity
Employees who feel their managers are being open, honest, and transparent with them are significantly more likely to be better engaged. If leaders promote a stark divide between management and employees, this “us-versus-them” atmosphere is bound to result in mistrust and disengagement. Being more open and transparent about the running of the company shows your employees that you trust them and consider them part of the team, rather than merely subordinates.
By the same token, employees will feel trusted when managers are open and transparent about themselves – in other words, when they have authentic, human relationships with their employees. Everyone in the company is a person, and people have likes and dislikes, fortes, foibles, and flaws. While it’s important to keep in mind workplace boundaries and appropriate behavior, encouraging authenticity among your employees promotes team cohesion and engagement.
Hire for traits, and then train for skills
Creating a workplace environment that promotes employee engagement starts at the hiring process. Too often, managers look exclusively for candidates who check all the boxes in terms of hard skills and ignore intangible traits. Although hiring candidates who are qualified should always be a concern, the trouble with this approach is that, for the most part, skills can be learned through all types of employee training, whereas traits like a good attitude, dedication, and taking pride in one’s work – these simply can’t be taught.
Constructing a team that will work well together is never easy, but the proliferation of employee training and coaching programs means that hiring managers are more free to focus on the qualities that make someone a good team member, rather than just the skills that make them a productive worker. This brings us to our next employee engagement idea.
Just as managers should offer constructive feedback to their employees, employees should be encouraged to voice their concerns. Managers who keep their door open help promote an honest and transparent work environment. If employees feel their voice matters, they’re more likely to remain invested in the success of the company. And let’s not forget: leaders are human, too. There will always be ways managers can improve, and inviting employees to offer feedback and express their opinions is essential to growing and developing as a manager.
Organize team-building activities
Sometimes the secret to creating engaged employees in a positive workplace culture is to get out of the workplace. It’s not a requirement for everyone to be BFFs, but the more connected employees feel with the people around them, the more engaged they will be on the job.
Team-building exercises can range from after-hours meals and get-togethers to professional development opportunities like guest speakers or participatory workshops. But one of the most rewarding team-building activities for work is engaging in service projects. One of the primary factors that contribute to employee engagement is feeling a sense of purpose at work. Whether it’s serving food at a local homeless shelter, cleaning up a nearby park, or collecting donations for a food bank, volunteering as a team strengthens the bonds among employees while giving everyone a sense of pride and accomplishment at having made a tangible improvement to their community.
In a scene from the TV show Mad Men, Peggy Olson asks her boss, Don Draper, why he’s never thanked her for her work. “That’s what the money’s for,” Don replies.
Even though many aspects of 1960s culture have fallen by the wayside, that kind of attitude among managers still occasionally persists. While it may seem like a small thing, showing appreciation for employees can make a huge difference in terms of their sense of purpose and worth at the company. A simple “thank you” for a job well done goes a long way toward keeping employees engaged and motivated to perform at the highest level.
Listen to employees’ needs
While these employee engagement ideas are more or less universal, it’s important to listen to what your employees value most about their workplace environment. Conducting an employee satisfaction survey can help managers determine workers’ priorities, so that these areas can receive the most focus in order to improve engagement.
There is no magic bullet to instantly boost employee engagement. As with most aspects of business, the right tactics and approaches arise from a conversation that includes employees and management. Improving engagement is in everyone’s best interest, and so everyone should be involved in the process.
Is employee engagement low at your organization? Get them excited about the workplace by offering your employees career training and development. The most effective way to improve skills and take careers to the next level is through individualized, personal instruction.
Ace-up’s coaching can help managers improve their leadership style – or help employees bolster the skills they need to feel more engaged at work. Learn more about our deep bench of experienced business coaches by talking to an Ace-up representative today.