When it comes to employment, it’s a buyer’s market out there. For the past few years, the relationship between employers and employees has undergone a profound shift, now resembling freelancing much more, and focusing less of the latters’ time, energy and loyalty to the companies they work for. Indeed, senior executives have to spend more time considering the strategies required not only to attract new staff, but also retain them.
Everyone has job experiences that feel more like play, and ones where they couldn’t wait to get out, simply because they weren’t invested in the project or outcome.
This is where employee engagement comes in. It’s one thing to bring people on board, but what are the most effective employee engagement strategies? How do you keep your people engaged, motivated, productive and happy? Let’s look at some of the best tips for employee engagement.
The philosophy of employee engagement best practices
What do you think are the three key elements behind effective employee engagement? Here’s a clue: money isn’t one of them. While a good remuneration package goes a long way to keeping an employee engaged, it doesn’t do everything. In fact, the three core elements have everything to do with a sense of belonging. Back in 1990, Professor William Kahn held in-depth interviews with employees. he found that for an employee to feel engaged, they had to:
- Feel that their work was meaningful and made a difference
- Feel valued, trusted and respected
- Feel secure and self-confident
In other words, the more an employee feels part of a community, the more likely it is that they are engaged with what they do.
It seems quite simple written out like this, but it’s also easy and common to overlook these factors. And the changes to the job market since this research was done make the need for effective employee engagement strategies even more imperative.
Considering this, our first hint is to think holistically. We often spend more time working than we do with our families, so it makes sense to consider all the features of the working environment. It’s not just all about the money: it’s how comfortable we feel where we work, how we feel around our colleagues, how we feel about the value of what we do. Notice we use ‘feel’ a lot: subjective impressions have as much (if not more) clout than our cool, objective opinions, when it comes to work.
The best strategies for employee engagement
OK, so having looked at the background issues, let’s consider the strategies we need to improve employee engagement.
1. Think “Bottom Up”, not “Top Down”
You don’t build a house starting from the roof and working downwards, do you? Well, the same goes for companies. After all, your people are the bedrock on which you are founded, and if you don’t know what it’s thinking, you’ll soon run into trouble.
Using surveys and questionnaires is crucial when gauging your employees’ feelings and opinions. We know what you’re thinking: ‘Will this ever actually affect anything?’. In many cases, these surveys aren’t quite thought out. They’re phrased in such a way that they are designed to produce an outcome that will satisfy the executive board, but do nothing to allow employees to comment on the real issues. They’re also an example of top down thinking, focusing possibly on one or two issues rather than thinking holistically.
Instead, if you’ve given careful consideration, you’ll see that your survey is only the springboard to engagement. Once you have the results, hold a team meeting – not necessarily formal, perhaps something with lunch included – and go through it. Focus on common issues and ask your team about how an issue can be improved upon.
The more your team are asked their opinions, the more they will feel empowered, trusted and respected – and the more engaged they’ll be.
2. Show them you listen
If a clear issue has been identified, then it should be acted upon. More importantly, it should be visibly adressed, particularly if you have discussed it with them. Knowing that one’s opinions are not only listened to but also contribute to change is another way to increase engagement. Use your internal notice boards to demonstrate what you’ve done in response to what your employees have said.
3. Share good practice and ideas between teams
There’s nothing better than seeing your ideas and work practices being praised, so ensure that your employees have the opportunity to share and display their very best work. Peer-to-peer learning, whether in meetings or via your Talent Development Platform, is a great way to foster engagement and create or strengthen links between your employees.
4. Have an employee voice
Having a once-a-year satisfaction survey is not enough to gauge how your company is doing. You also need to facilitate channels where each employee can raise issues and give feedback. For this, consider using discussion forums where your teams can air issues and get feedback from their peers and managers.
5. Understand individual learning styles and preferences
If you understand how your employees learn – whether they prefer to work independently or in groups, for example – you will also find out a lot about how well they work and in which ways they are more likely to engage with projects.
You should also consider when someone can learn, and for how long. This is an important consideration with online training in particular: you will find that some employees will happily get on with individual training, while others are better suited to synchronous, collaborative learning. Your Talent Development Platform should offer a variety of ways in which the user can engage with their course.
6. Employ effective group learning strategies
Traditional workplace training sessions are part of working life and a great way to help everyone engage with new ideas and techniques. However, there is the risk that they can become somewhat stale, manager-lead exercises. Here’s where the instructor should put aside their managerial hat, and act instead as a facilitator for action, rather than directing it. Let the whole team be involved. Challenge employees to step out of their comfort zone, for example, by making a quieter employee act as a subteam leader.
Also, forming small groups and having them focus on a narrow, specific task is a great practice. Small group learning strategies are not that different from group learning strategies. Smaller groups are often quite fast paced and may cover a lot of ground. Each member feels that their voice is heard and that they are supported by their colleagues through the process. In the end, all groups can come together and reflect on the outcome.
Where these strategies really shine, however, is on your Learning and Talent Development Platform. It’s proven that group learning facilitates engagement, so use strategies such as online simulations, group assignments, and augmented learning.
Keep in mind that effective employee engagement strategies require you need to think globally. Remember, your business is a community – for you, your team, your managers and your employees. And communities thrive best when everyone in it feels they are included, valued and trusted. The more engaged your employees are, the more productive they become, and you get something money just can’t buy – a happy workplace!