By Twine on

Only 15% of employees worldwide consider themselves engaged in their jobs. Shocking, right? But this is what Gallup found in their 2017 State of the Global Workplace report. Think about that: despite all the effort that firms put into hiring the right people, nurturing employee development, and boosting employee retention, the vast majority of the global workforce still doesn't feel connected to their work or invested in their organizations' success.

To make sure that your organization isn't just another statistic, today we're going to show you how to boost employee engagement. We'll cover what employee engagement is and why it matters, and offer five tactics you can use to develop an employee engagement strategy.

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What Is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is a term that business professionals throw around a lot without understanding what it means. It's easy to use it interchangeably with terms such as "job satisfaction" or even "happiness". Engaged employees tend to be happy and satisfied, but not necessarily the other way around.

Employee engagement refers to something specific: the degree to which someone cares about their organization's success and manifests that care in their daily work. An employee could be happy and satisfied while still being disengaged. For example, an employee may do the work they are assigned, but do it as quickly as possible (and at a minimum acceptable quality), be constantly distracted by social media, work the least number of hours they can get away with, and not care less about the success of their organization. Meanwhile, they might still be very satisfied with their job, if it brings them a hefty paycheck.

As a manager, you don’t want an employee who works like this. Of course, you want your employees to feel a high degree of job satisfaction, but you must not confuse those qualities with strong engagement. Because, as we’ll explore next, the best managers understand that employee engagement is crucial to an organization’s health and success.

Why Employee Engagement Matters

As our theoretical disengaged employee example demonstrates, a lack of employee engagement will slowly but surely weaken your organization. When your people don’t feel personally invested in your company, and they don’t understand their role in it, they don’t feel like their actions matter to the bigger picture. This will lead to:

  • The employee will resign, and find another organization where they do feel engaged. Or,

  • The employee will perform poorly, which not only affects the bottom line, but also damages your company culture.

Neither of these outcomes are desirable. You need to concern yourself with achieving high employee engagement, because engaged workers are:

  • More productive. When they buy into the work they’re doing (and its significance within the bigger picture), your employees will increase their discretionary effort; employees who are motivated to go the extra mile will make your organization exceptional.

  • More innovative. When employees care about your company's mission, they’ll look for more ways to help it succeed.

  • More satisfied. While employees can be satisfied without being engaged, an engaged employee is likely to be even more satisfied with their job, since people find satisfaction in meaningful work.

  • More likely to stay with your organization long-term. When employees believe in what your company is doing, they’ll look to make their next career moves internally, knowing that they have a future of meaningful work ahead of them.

But how do you create an engaged workforce? That’s what we explore in the next section.

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5 Tactics to Boost Employee Engagement

Now that you understand the benefits of more engaged employees, you can start working to boost employee engagement. Here are five tactics we recommend you adopt as part of your employee engagement strategy:

1. Have Clear Organizational Values

When employees buy into your organizational values, their engagement soars. But in order to facilitate this buy-in, you need to make sure these values are clearly defined and communicated. If you don't, your employees will become listless and disengaged, spinning their wheels without any clear direction or higher sense of purpose.

Clarity of values must come from you. If you haven't, you need to sit down and write out a list of your organizational values. The specifics of these will vary with your organization and are, necessarily, personal. Example values include “transparency”, “integrity”, and “exceptional customer service”, but there are hundreds of possibilities. What matters is that the values you do establish are made crystal clear to your workforce.

Of course, your ability to determine organization values will depend on your level of seniority within the organization. But even if you’re receiving the values from the CEO or a higher executive, you still need to be sure you understand them before you communicate them to your team. Because, for your organizational values to matter, they must be clear to your employees. They should be represented in everything you do, from employee onboarding to performance reviews to decisions regarding promotions.

2. Conduct Employee Engagement Surveys

Most managers only realize their employees are disengaged when it’s already too late. To keep this from happening to you, conduct employee engagement surveys to assess this aspect of your organizational health before it becomes a problem.

How do you create an employee engagement survey? To start, the way you present the survey to your employees matters. Make it clear that this survey is to help you help them, not to increase your bottom line or to decide which employees to terminate.

With that in mind, you can create your survey. A variety of vendors sell and administer employee engagement surveys. To find one, consult the employee engagement survey database that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) maintains.

Alternatively, you can create your own survey. Popular survey software SurveyMonkey has a template just for this purpose, but you can also use a Google Form. When you create the questions for this survey, make sure that you’re asking questions targeting engagement, not satisfaction. This will result in the right kind of survey data.

For example, ask, “On a scale of 1 - 10, how much do you feel that your job duties contribute to the overall mission of our company?” Don’t ask, “On a scale of 1 - 10, how satisfied are you with your position?” This isn’t to say that it isn’t important to survey employee satisfaction, but save that for a separate survey.

3. Communicate Regularly and Openly with Employees

One major reason for low employee engagement is a lack of communication. If your employees don’t hear from you, they won’t have the opportunity to voice their concerns, and it will be easy for them to feel like their work doesn’t matter.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. You need to maintain open communication in order to gauge employee engagement, and to boost it. This is not a major challenge; maintaining communication channels is as simple as holding regular meetings, conducting quarterly performance reviews, and establishing a general policy that employees can come to you at any time with their concerns.

And it bears repeating: make it clear that your goal is to improve the organization and the job experience of your employees. This will soothe employee fears that their honesty will affect their compensation or advancement.

4. Clarify Employee Expectations

If employees don’t know what you expect of them, you can’t expect them to be engaged with their jobs. Indeed, if expectations are unclear, they may not even be sure what their jobs are, beyond their titles.

Sometimes, the problem is that you don’t quite know what you expect of your employees. If that’s the case, then sit down and decide how your direct reports’ jobs translate into your overall organizational goals and target numbers. From there, you can craft a set of expectations. You should also keep in mind your organizational values and how those will inform what you expect of your employees.

Once you’ve clarified what you expect, you need to communicate it to your employees. The same principles we discussed in the previous section apply: communicate expectations regularly, openly, and with a willingness to hear employee feedback and concerns.

5. Show Employees That Their Work Matters

If your employees don’t feel that their work matters, their engagement is going to plummet. Especially in large organizations with many moving parts, it can be hard for a a single employee “in the trenches” to see how their work contributes to the success of the company.

Ensure that employees know their work matters. Show them the larger picture. Particularly when conducting performance reviews, demonstrate to your employees how the work they do has a quantitative impact on the company’s business outcomes. Seeing these numbers is immensely motivating, for it demonstrates that even if your employee is a small part of a large machine, their part is essential.

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Show Your Employees a Future at Your Company

We already mentioned the importance of showing your employees that they have a future with your company. But it can be tricky to figure out exactly what this future is.

Enter Twine Labs. Our product helps you create an internal company network to identify opportunities for your employees to grow within your organization. Request a demo today to get started.