Top 5 Tips for an Engaged Workforce

By Beth Smith

Did you know that only 15% of employees worldwide report feeling engaged at their place of work? Employee engagement has emerged as an important topic as business owners continue to battle for talent in the marketplace. Employee engagement strategies can help organizations compete and perform in a dynamic and competitive environment, reduce turnover, improve productivity and efficiency, and improve the wellbeing of employees. The need to increase employee engagement is pressing across all businesses, but especially small businesses and startups where reducing turnover and productivity are key to the organization’s financial health.

Although employee engagement is a continuous process and is highly organization specific, there are some general tips to facilitate an engaged workforce. We will be covering 5 employee engagement tips that managers can follow to drive engagement in their workplace:

  • Tip 1: Support and invest in employees

  • Tip 2: Allow strength-based flexibility

  • Tip 3: Provide training and coaching opportunities

  • Tip 4: Recognize loudly and proudly

  • Tip 5: Nurture relationships among employees

Before discussing tips for an engaged workforce, it is important to highlight some of the advantages of having energized workers. Engaged employees are:

  • More than twice as likely to remain on the job as those characterized as disengaged, and more likely to refer friends, and family members for employment. These factors lead to lower costs of recruitment, hiring, and training

  • Up to 2.5 times more productive than a disengaged employee

  • Less likely to be absent, work more safely on the job, produce fewer quality defects, and are less likely to steal

  • Able to foster higher levels of customer engagement that lead to higher customer loyalty, greater growth (and thus higher profits)

Let’s discuss our first tip now:

TIP 1: SUPPORT AND INVEST IN EMPLOYEES

The relationship an individual, or team, has with their manager is one of the most significant influencers of engagement. Managers are critical players in the effort to foster engagement and help maximize productivity by building strong, positive relationships with their employees. Great managers work to understand the sources of intrinsic motivation of their employees and develop flexible strategies for engaging each employee accordingly.

  • One way managers can help employees feel supported is by providing them with the tools and processes they need to succeed in their role. Managers can spend more time ensuring their employees have all the resources needed to perform effectively and then get it for them. By doing so, the focus of management shifts from management as control to management as facilitation.

  • Another way managers can help support their employees is by taking a keen interest in what is going on in each of their employee’s life at work and sometimes outside of work. Managers can help employees feel valued by paying attention to what their employees have to say and acting on the feedback.

This comprehensive approach to listening and investing in employees can help an organization identify and address problems that arise. Encouraging frequent communication and feedback among employees helps to develop trust and a feeling of belonging in workplace. By fostering a workplace environment that emphasizes communication, respect for others and collaboration among workers at all levels, higher levels of engagement from employees can be expected.

TIP 2: ALLOW STRENGTH-BASED FLEXIBILITY

For many employees, increased autonomy and responsibility in their roles can lead to higher levels of engagement. Often the flexibility and autonomy to decide when and how they complete tasks also motivates them to do better work and be more invested in their work. A strengths-based approach to managing talent adopts practices that help employees identify, cultivate, and use their strengths at work. Managers should grant employees greater input and autonomy to use their strengths and gravitate towards roles and responsibilities that align with their inherent abilities. By allowing employees to identify, develop, and use their natural talents, their strengths have the potential to also significantly improve workforce productivity. When employees utilize their strengths on the job, their work can feel less like work to them.

At the group and organization level, team members who know each other’s strengths can relate more effectively to one another and become more cohesive, which can result in a sense of empowerment that benefits each employee, the team, and the organization. When employees feel empowered by higher levels of autonomy and flexibility, this can promote the development and implantation of new ideas that benefit the organization. Without the opportunity to use and develop their strengths, employees can become less motivated and productive, which in turn negatively impacts their engagement. Encouraging employees to use their skills and abilities can make their jobs more meaningful in the process. Managers can help their employees thrive by helping them understand and leverage their skills and abilities by focusing on what is strong rather than what is wrong.

TIP 3: PROVIDE TRAINING AND COACHING OPPORTUNITIES

Creating a culture that fosters continuous development helps employees build the skills they need to do their job and communicates that the organization values its employees and believes in their potential. The more employees feel like their future is invested in, the more engaged they are. A key way this can be accomplished is by cross-training employees so they have a broader understanding of the organization and how it operates. Having employees work on “other duties as assigned” is an informal way cross-training can put into action. Some of the benefits that employees experience from cross-training include:

  • Exposure to a new set of co-workers, managers, and customers, which broadens their network and strengthens their reputation within the company

  • Development of new skill sets

  • Opportunity to test out another area of interest and learn about the realities of other roles

  • Increased marketability and leverage to move up within the company

Coaching is another way engagement can be developed. Managers and employees should be encouraged to engage in coaching exercises to improve performance, develop skills, and build on employees’ strengths. Managers should be coached on taking an active role building engagement plans with their employees and be continuously focused on engaging with their employees. Through coaching, managers can establish trust, reinforce ethical standards, display active listening, and greatly assist in creating a strong, engaged workplace.

TIP 4: RECOGNIZE LOUDLY AND PROUDLY

Another way to cultivate a sense of engagement is by recognizing employee performance. Employees respond well when they are appreciated for their hard work- it facilitates motivation, a sense of accomplishment, and makes them feel valued. The benefits of recognition also extend beyond engagement and can improve productivity and commitment to the company, which can lead to higher retention of employees. When employees feel that their best efforts are not adequately recognized, there are twice as likely to say they will quit in the next year.

Organization should broadcast the meaning of their work so employees have a clear idea of what kinds of behaviors will be rewarded and how they fit into the mission of the company. The act of recognition is a tool for personal reward and it also reinforces the desired culture of the organization to other employees. Recognizing employees who perform above and beyond is motivating to employees throughout the organization and sends the message to other employees about what success looks like. One of the best ways to recognize a high performing employee is publicly acknowledging them by means of an award, certificate, or commendation and private recognition from a manager, fellow employee, or customer. Managers can promote a high-recognition environment and reinforce company values by voicing praise frequently and being aware of how their employees like to receive appreciation.

TIP 5: NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS AMONG EMPLOYEES

The final top tip for an engaged workforce is to create opportunities for employees to build personal connections with one another. Hiring the right employees who mesh well and motivate one another is essential to nurture these important relationships. One way to bring employees together outside of the office is through team-building activities or service projects that focus on building relationships. Creating a team-building event where employees can get to know each other on a personal level can instill a sense of common purpose among employees and can make working together more enjoyable. These team bonding experiences are most effective when:

  • Company goals and objectives are clear

  • Information on employees’ learning styles, expectations for the event, and physical capabilities are known so everyone can everyone can participate in a meaningful way

  • The activity, the site, and size of the group match

  • There is a willingness to invest time and money

  • An assessment follows the activity that ties the event back to the company goals

After a team-building exercise, participants’ can be reconfigured into different teams and encouraged to share their experiences and insights with one another.

THE FINAL WORD

An important consideration when implementing approaches to develop engagement is to evaluate your progress. To measure employee engagement, it is recommended to assess effects, such as corporate results, employee attrition and absenteeism, or even desired behaviors at work, than to merely measure employee engagement.

Having engaged employees is one of the most effective competitive strategies available to many organizations as it supports their growth and survival. When employees are dedicated and absorbed in their work, they are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organization every day. The top tips for an engaged workforce outlined above are some excellent ways managers can develop highly engaged employees who are committed to their organization's goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, and have an enhanced sense of well-being.