If your organization experiences a relatively stable level of professional productivity and you’re not coping with excessive turnover rates, you may begin to assume your employees are engaged given the output and retention rates. This can be a dangerous assumption, however, and it can end up costing your company significant amounts of money. Instead, learn how to tell whether your employee engagement strategy is up to par and what to do if it needs improvement.
Why Employee Engagement is Important
It really comes down to the bottom line — your company can suffer financially from the effects of disengaged employees. One Gallup poll found that disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses between $450 and $500 billion annually due to resulting poor productivity, high employee turnover and overall damage to their brands.
The human downside of disengagement is important, too. As a manager, you want your employees to experience a sense of well-being at work. If they feel that their personal goals are aligned with the company’s, they naturally project a sense of loyalty to customers. Your employees are your most effective brand ambassadors, and if they have negative feelings about your company, your customers will notice and may follow suit.
How to Tell if Your Employees are Disengaged
Disengagement isn’t hard to spot if you focus on it — just look for workers displaying signs of withdrawal and distraction. Are there people on your workforce who consistently stay in the background, avoiding responsibility and watching the clock? Is the same worker who complains and makes excuses for not finishing tasks also the only one who shows no interest in training opportunities? Is there one person who avoids colleagues’ birthday lunches or the annual Christmas gift exchange? In some cases, extreme negativity toward management can even result in workers lying and gossiping, which damages morale and corrodes the company culture.
7 Best Practices for Employee Engagement
Implementing a strategy for high-level employee engagement is not a mysterious process. Follow these steps for success:
- Draw on Front-Line Knowledge: Harvard Business Review points out that “Call center representatives, sales specialists, field technicians and others on the front line know intimately which aspects of the business annoy or delight customers.” Ask your workers to make suggestions about how operations can be improved, and establish a system for considering each suggestion made.
- Aim High: It’s not enough to merely aim for a moderate amount of employee retention. FastCompany urges managers and HR departments to seek out workers who are passionate about your brand: “You need to hire people who genuinely fall in love with everything about your company — your brand, your services, your products, your passion.”
- Give HR a Seat at the Table: The role of your HR department is evolving: No longer merely occupied with administrative tasks, the new HR department sees itself as “the actual voice of the employees.” Used appropriately, HR officers are instrumental in developing company culture and implementing it in collaboration with training supervisors and operations teams.
- Train Your Supervisors Well: Surveys repeatedly find that “People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.” On the plus side, 87 percent of super-enthusiastic employees award high ratings to their direct supervisors. Close monitoring and leadership training benefits all managers and gives them the tools to relate productively to their teams.
- Enable Employee Feedback: Brief “pulse” surveys are an effective way to take a snapshot of how your workers are feeling about their jobs. These may consist of only a few questions sent out once a week. You can include such questions as “do you feel valued on the job?” and “knowing what you know now, would you reapply for your current job?” Surveys should include questions about work-life balance and job satisfaction and ask opinions of organizational goals.
- Encourage Wellness: Regardless of how enthusiastic your workers are, they can’t maintain true engagement if they aren’t in top physical and mental form. There are many ways to encourage healthy habits, and workers typically take their cues from management. Start by making sure everyone from the top down takes their allotted vacation time, and let workers know that brief stress relief breaks are considered beneficial. Offering discounted gym memberships and providing baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables are other ways of defining your company culture as one that is health-centered.
- Help Employees Give Back to The Community: Altruism is not at odds with successful business practices. When employees feel that their efforts are supporting a larger social cause, they may identify more closely with the company and are likelier to become passionate brand promoters. Forbes profiles a successful New York bakery whose CEO is “committed first and foremost to helping people succeed in life.” Through donations to neighborhood clinics and daycare centers, and hiring people in need of a second chance, this bakery has built a pool of passionate promoters that is in large part responsible for its 30-year success record.
As FastCompany says, “If you don’t offer a great culture, somebody else will.” Business success relies on engaged employees who identify with the company’s brand. These super-promoters can make your business stand out from the crowd, and they will use informal word-of-mouth advertising to draw more great workers like themselves to you. Your employee engagement strategy is a key tool for navigating uncertain times and building long-term business strength.
Millions of dollars are being invested in training each year. But how are organizations measuring the effectiveness of their training, especially soft skills training like sales? At Richardson, Eileen Krantz, Vice President of Client Analytics, has discovered that some clients believe that there is just an inherent value in providing quality sales training, others are more concerned with just aligning training with the sales strategy, and some develop a comprehensive measurement strategy to isolate the financial return on their investment.