According to Gallup, only 34.1 percent of American workers are engaged. While that's the highest engagement number on record, it's still not high enough. Clearly, business owners and managers aren't taking employee engagement seriously. However, it's absolutely imperative they do so, because engaged employees are a vital component of a successful company.
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"Engaged employees" are dedicated workers who feel a sincere connection to their companies. They're creative, they're customer-service oriented, and they voluntarily go the extra mile. As Market Force Chief Strategy Officer Cheryl Fink writes, "engaged employees generate more revenue, lower costs, and create more loyal customers."
Unfortunately, engagement doesn't just spontaneously develop. Engagement must be cultivated by driven leaders who are willing to ensure that the people working under them feel empowered, appreciated, and most of all, cared for. There are a number of ways in which leaders can do this, but the following three are absolute musts:
1. Connect With Employees
If you want your workers to be productive – to innovate and support one another – they have to feel both safe and cared for.
Show you care by building genuine relationships with your employees. Make an effort to get to know them, ensure that they feel comfortable talking about any subject, and understand that each person you manage is different. Forge a meaningful connection with each and every one of them.
Establish a safe environment by making sure your employees know that you have their backs, no matter what. The more you demonstrate your support through words and actions, the more your team's respect for you will grow. When your workers feel as though you're invested in them as both people and employees, they are far more likely to be engaged.
2. Give Employees What They Need to Be Productive
Just as engagement increases productivity, productivity increases engagement. An employee who is floundering due to a lack of knowledge or proper tools will feel helpless, frustrated, and disengaged.
This should go without saying, but it continues to be a problem at companies throughout the US: You must provide your employees with, at the very least, basic training. However, the more training you dispense, the better. Training familiarizes new employees with the company mission, vision, rules, and regulations. It acquaints them with their jobs and ensures that all employees have consistent experience and background knowledge. For existing employees, training refreshes and enhance knowledge, helps them strengthen weaknesses in their workplace skills, and gives them a stronger understanding of the industry and the responsibilities of their jobs.
Besides training, it's also important to give your employees the tools they need to succeed, whether that be hardware, software, or communication tools. You'd be surprised just how much of a difference they can make. For instance, CRM applications with social and mobile features have been known to boost employee productivity by 26.4 percent.
Finally, set expectations, refrain from micromanaging, and provide regular feedback so employees can improve and continue to excel at their strengths. The more tools employees have at their disposal to increase efficiency and productivity, the more engagement your organization is sure to grow.
3. Acknowledge Employees' Hard Work
When an employee's work really makes a difference, acknowledge it. Doing so will encourage employees to continue going above and beyond their basic duties. Give recognition, and do so as often as possible. There's no limit to how much can be provided, and it only serves an organization well. Even a simple "thank you" or "nice job" can go a long way in boosting engagement.
There are many forms of recognition, and it's your job to know which will motivate your employees. For example, recognition can be delivered in both monetary and non-monetary forms. Regardless of which form you choose, most employees favor receiving frequent recognition throughout the year. It's important to note that recognition should come from multiple sources, or it may lose its luster.
Engagement by the Numbers
These three approaches in particular – forming personal connections, providing tools and training, and recognizing hard work – are crucial to creating engaged employees.
Here are a few more fast facts about engagement that you should be aware of:
- The main factor in workplace discontent is not wages, benefits, or hours – it's the boss. [Gallup]
- Only 2 percent of teams with managers who ignore their employees are engaged, compared to 61 percent for teams led by managers who focus on strengths. [Gallup]
- Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged. [The Energy Project]
- Employees who feel their managers can name their strengths are 71 percent more likely to feel engaged. [The VIA Institute on Character]
- 51 percent of employees who don't feel they have the support of leadership plan to leave their job in the next year. [American Psychological Association]
- The top five contributors to job satisfaction are respectful treatment of all employees at all levels (cited by 67 percent of employees), compensation (63 percent), benefits (60 percent), job security (58 percent), and trust between employees and senior management (55 percent). [SHRM]
- Employees who know and understand their organizational values are 51 times more likely to be fully engaged than employees who do not. [Modern Survey]
- Employees who have the opportunity to continually develop are twice as likely to say they will spend their career with their company. [Gallup]
- 64 percent of employees believe they will be more successful at work by building on their strengths than by fixing their weaknesses. [The VIA Institute on Character]
- 82 percent of employees don't think they're recognized for their work as often as they deserve to be. [BambooHR]
- 75 percent of employees receiving at least monthly recognition (even if informal) are satisfied with their job. [BambooHR]
- 86 percent of values-based recognition programs show an increase in worker happiness. [SHRM]
An engaged workforce is an organization's greatest asset, so investing time and money into empowering your employees is well worth it. Train them well, recognize them often, and give them the respect and care they deserve as fellow human beings. Then, sit back and watch as engagement skyrockets.
Liz Greene is a writer, marketing professional, and full-blown pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, ID.