Several factors play into a company’s prolonged success, including employee engagement. Research has shown that more engaged employees work harder and drive a company’s overall productivity, not to mention its bottom line. Unfortunately, recent surveys estimate that between 13 to 33 percent of workers in the United States are engaged at work. While many business leaders understand the importance of employee engagement, not all of them understand how to accomplish it. Luckily, employee engagement is not something that needs to cost a company money. In fact, many of the steps leaders can take to engage their employees involve shifts in culture. These steps include the following:
1. Listen to what employees have to say.
One of the easiest ways of engaging employees is by providing them with opportunities to voice their opinions and then actually listening to what they have to say. Annual surveys are not enough. Leaders need to take the time to engage employees more regularly to obtain feedback about their companies and create other opportunities for employees to reach out when they have concerns or suggestions. Giving employees a voice means actually listening to what they have to say and responding to them. On the other hand, employees who understand that their opinion really matters are more likely to go above and beyond their responsibilities to support the company.
2. Recognize employees who achieve great things.
Everyone wants to feel that what they do matters. The best way to demonstrate to employees that they have a real impact on the company is to recognize hard work. Importantly, the recognition does not have to be monetary in nature. People tend to be just as motivated by a leader who calls them out for praise at a monthly meeting or who takes the time to come to the office and express appreciation. Even a simple email can show employees that someone is paying attention and noticing when they work hard and achieve great things. When employees feel unappreciated, they will disengage and may begin looking for a more supportive work environment.
3. Create opportunities for socialization in the office.
Employees will naturally start to care more about the workplace when they have strong connections to their colleagues. A connected team works together much more effectively than people who barely know each other. Leaders can create a wide range of opportunities for employees to engage with each other, from creating office sports teams to organizing volunteer days. If individuals cannot think of anything, they can simply pose the question to the office. Great ideas will quickly flow into the email inbox and—even better—people will feel more engaged by just being asked.
4. Provide opportunities for advancement.
People generally want to feel like they are working toward something at a company. When they feel like their position is stagnant with no opportunities for advancement, they will begin to look for new ones elsewhere. Opportunities for advancement can look very different between companies. Even when there is no chance to advance, leaders can develop their workforce by allowing employees to pursue training in new, related areas. A great and cost-effective way to expand employees’ skillsets is to give them the opportunity to shadow managers and executives. In addition, it can be valuable to let people shadow those who work in creative positions or in other departments so that they can obtain a fuller picture of what happens at the company and start to think of their work in unique ways.
5. Trust employees to handle their own work.
When companies take the time to hire the right employees, they should then trust these individuals to do their jobs effectively. Micromanagement does not help anyone. Employees will disengage because they feel like their opinions or ideas do not matter, and leaders waste all their time on tasks that can be handled by other people. On the other hand, when leaders give individuals tasks and let them take the lead on them, employees will understand the responsibility they have and typically work hard to make a good impression. In other words, micromanagers often see better results when they release the reigns and give employees the freedom to do their job.
6. Be open and accept blame.
Leaders who do not acknowledge their mistakes instill distrust in their employees. When employees do not trust their leaders, they quickly become disengaged from the company because they worry about its future. One of the most essential aspects of leadership is being open and accepting blame when a mistake is made. Leaders play an important role in defining culture at a company. By accepting blame and refusing to dwell on it, leaders show their employees how to deal with failure and demonstrate that it is not the end of the world. On the other hand, leaders who find other people to blame create a toxic environment that encourages underhanded behavior and makes people feel insecure in their positions.