Employee engagement refers to the degree to which employees are emotionally engaged at work. Engaged employees are more productive, improve the morale of everyone else and generate ideas that help businesses innovate. When people are disengaged, they show up when they have to, go through the motions and put in the minimum amount of work. Here are eight easy ways to boost employee engagement.
Say Thank You
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars a year giving people plaques to make them feel appreciated. Use online tools to create free thank you cards that you can print off and give to them as a show of appreciation for putting in overtime, handling a difficult customer or giving it their all. Always take care to reward those who go the extra mile to serve a customer, since it will make employees more eager to provide exemplary service.
Some sites let you send free thank you cards digitally, though this may be a security concern for the IT department since hackers periodically send “you have an ecard” messages where clicking on it activates malware.
Seek Feedback, and Then Act on It
Many companies solicit employee feedback on how to improve operations. If you want to boost employee engagement, take action on ideas to improve product quality, streamline procedures and the facilities themselves. Then tell employees that you completed these things based on their input, so that everyone knows you are, indeed, listening. One way to build trust and enthusiasm is to hold short meetings asking everyone for procedures, policies and rules that everyone agrees are not business critical and interfere with business operations. When you get rid of these hindrances, they’ll love you.
Make Training Available But Not a Burden
A low cost way to improve engagement is to provide career related training for free to employees. Companies that let people take online courses on company time and recognizing these certifications with opportunities for promotions and pay raises will be loved. You don’t have to pay for their online masters degree and let them take the classes on company time. Walmart, for example, has online training modules that employees can take and earn modest pay raises every time they complete these “extra” learning modules. Offering career enhancement training like training line workers in QC or improving English skills for immigrants working in the firm will improve the workforce’s ability to deliver while making them loyal to the firm.
Other companies let people attend professional seminars on paid work days instead of making them use a personal day to learn about the latest and greatest trends in their discipline. Avoid sending the whole department to team building activities and then requiring them to work late that day or overtime later in the week to make up the missed work. It is counterproductive to do this.
Consider Hiring Diversity Trainers
A workplace that teaches respect for all people regardless of who they are and encouraging everyone’s ideas to be given equal weight will see real employee engagement. Trust and respect seminars held by diversity trainers are often a great way to improve cohesion between employees.
Recognize the Personal Events
Sending notes on employees’ birthdays and anniversaries shows that the company cares. Sending congratulatory notes for work anniversaries, the birth of a child or wedding is a low cost, low effort way to show the company cares about its people. Facilitating baby showers and birthday parties thrown by employees instead of applying strict limits on such events will also improve morale. Give those who earn a degree or certification a shout out at team meetings.
Engage People as Part of the Onboarding Process
Give new employees a formal mentor to show them the ropes and give them advice as they learn about the company. This person should be separate from the trainer who teaches them the detailed processes for the job and their immediate supervisor. The mentor can handle questions that the person may be afraid to ask the trainer for fear of seeming less intelligent or address issues when the immediate manager is too busy. Don’t use this as a replacement for properly training new hires in what they need to know.
Socialization Done Right
Giving people flexibility in when they take breaks or lunch is a plus, such as when someone can take their break to pick up a prescription or run errands. However, companies periodically put limits on when someone can be out of the office so that key areas are properly staffed and to maximize interactions between employees. Employees who are able to freely mix and exchange ideas are innovative. The ability to socialize in break rooms and cafeterias facilitates this. The problems arise when the team leader says we’ll all socialize after work over drinks. This puts those with childcare and family obligations at a disadvantage while making them seem like they aren’t a team player.
Some companies give employees a day or more of paid time off per year to volunteer. Companies that organize teams to volunteer for various events see such PTO as an investment in public relations. Be careful, though, of the managers who may try to bully employees into coming in on a Saturday to volunteer – this hurts morale. The negative effect is worse if the employees feel like they have to put in this unpaid overtime to be eligible for promotions or their job is on the line, and you’ll hurt engagement if the causes are contrary to the beliefs of your employees. No one complains about helping Habitat for Humanity, but being pushed to work for free for a far left wing or right wing cause can alienate half the workforce.
Say thank you for exceptional service and performance and recognize personal accomplishments and events. Seek feedback from employees, and then act on it so they know that you’re listening to them. Provide training or enable people to learn on their own, as long as you don’t make it a burden. Give new employees mentors to act as their advocates in addition to formal training. Enable socialization during work hours, and support volunteering as long as it is actually seen as voluntary.