If you’re in HR, you already know the correlation between employee engagement and employee performance; studies and statistics repeatedly prove engagement to be the critical driver for productivity, satisfaction and ultimately, company growth. Once an employee becomes actively disengaged, however, it can be close to impossible to get these workers back.
That’s why there’s no better success strategy for increasing engagement than by building this benchmark into the very beginning of the employee lifecycle: recruiting.
Employers should want to hire people whose passion, energy and values align with the company and culture; for optimal employee engagement, screening for skills should be secondary. This is why candidate assessments are such a valuable tool for building employee engagement, allowing recruiters to embed behaviors and values into the talent acquisition and selection process.
By hiring for fit and training for skills, new workers will not only be a better long term fit, but also allows new workers to onboard and become inculcated into an organization much more quickly. Recruiters and hiring managers should focus these candidate assessments to uncover the candidates with the right mix of great personality, great sense of humor, great people skills and great emotional intelligence. After all, every candidate could be a future co-worker – and it’s important to keep in mind the kind of person you actually want to work with when assessing candidates for fit.
Here are some 7 key steps every recruiter and staffing practitioner needs to know about how to grow employee engagement (and the bottom line):
1. Get Employees Involved
It sounds obvious, but the first key to increasing employee engagement is simple: listen to your employees. Sure, most companies provide some sort of standardized survey for gauging engagement and accumulating feedback, but this anonymous, aggregate data doesn’t always paint the most accurate picture of employee engagement. Believe it or not, simply sending a survey might generate some actionable input, but these strategies are designed primarily to measure employee engagement, not grow it. The key to growth lies in personalizing the feedback experience, particularly in one on one interactions with their managers, internal stakeholders and even HR.
Apart from providing an opportunity to provide praise and reinforce appreciation, workers want to know how valuable they are to the organization – and what their leaders and managers really think of them. Be honest, be open, and most of all, be open minded to their insights and observations. Keep it conversational, and you’ll immediately improve communication by setting an important precedent for personal interaction.
2. Assess Current Employee Engagement Levels
As mentioned above, if you want to programmatically improve employee engagement, it’s crucial to know where your organization currently stands. That means having a baseline for evaluating your progress at improving employee engagement. Whether through standard surveys or other feedback mechanisms, knowing where you stand can help you identify initiatives and build a business case for employee engagement. After all, actively engaged employees boost your bottom line profits, while actively disengaged employees can sabotage productivity, erode employee morale among colleagues and coworkers, and ultimately cost businesses money, not to mention opportunities. By way of a benchmark, a healthy ratio for employees who are engaged vs. actively disengaged should stay around 8:1.
3. Give Employees A Reason To Get Engaged
One of the key drivers of employee engagement is helping employees understand the reason behind the work that they do, and how their individual efforts contribute to the bigger business picture. Even if employees know what they’re supposed to do on a daily basis, it’s important to remind them why they’re doing that work in the first place (and why it matters). Everyone wants to feel they’re doing meaningful work which serves a meaningful purpose. Without that alignment, employees tend to lose motivation, not to mention the drive to deliver anything above and beyond basic expectations. As a talent manager, make sure that you not only provide direction and delegation, but the meaning for the tasks you assign and why they are being selected for these tasks. It’s a great time to reinforce top talent while developing skills for long term success.
4. Empowering Employee Engagement
Some companies, particularly those with a more established, rigid and conservative corporate culture, can have a hard time recruiting, retaining and developing the younger employees who represent the emerging workforce. Studies show Gen Y workers want dynamic leadership and a culture that provides for personalized interactions and professional growth.
One way to improve employee engagement is through employee empowerment, particularly by providing self-driven learning and development opportunities. Online, mobile and on-demand training offer employees a chance to expand their skills, which increases not only employee engagement, but also, employee performance.
5. Connect People
In today’s world of work, many teams are remote or geographically diffuse, meaning that it’s increasingly common to have coworkers and colleagues on opposite sides of the globe. There are many benefits, of course, to building a distributed workforce model, but the downside is often that virtual work can remove the sense of team spirit, camaraderie and shared purpose that often organically occurs when everyone is working in the same office.
While getting together your team or employees in person might prove impossible, it’s important to utilize technology to enable employee engagement by connecting people. Technology can encourage communication, collaboration and remove the sense of isolation that’s often endemic to virtual workers – and build employee engagement by demonstrating that out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind.
Remember: no one employee should ever feel like they’re on their own.
6. Leading Employee Engagement By Example
One key factor determining employee engagement (or lack thereof) is how the front line worker views senior management and executive leadership. With layoffs, outsourcing and offshoring increasingly affecting employers, workers can feel that these hard business decisions demonstrate that management cares about profits more than their own people. This kind of thinking is fuel on the fire for fostering active disengagement. The key to turning around employee engagement is to investigate and implement programs that directly benefit employees and demonstrate a commitment to their welfare. Some examples include ongoing training, personalized development plans and individualized career roadmaps. Make sure management has a direct hand in providing regular feedback and communications; employee engagement happens when workers feel like they’re valued, and leaders’ actions must reinforce this fact.
7. Make Employee Engagement A Continual Process
Any employee engagement program implemented to provide a short term solution or one-time fix is doomed for failure. Employee engagement is a dynamic, ongoing and critical measurement of your organization’s health, which requires continuous planning and flexible strategies for long term improvement. Research studies show that employee engagement leads to happier, more productive employees who provide better customer service and typically stay with companies longer than their disengaged counterparts.
That all adds up to better business results, more profit and a sustainable competitive advantage for companies who can effectively keep employees engaged. It’s not just in their best interests as employees – it’s in your best interests as a company, too.
About the Author: Davis Miller is part of the editorial team at PeopleInsight, a UK-based provider of employee engagement solutions and expertise for administering and measuring employee engagement surveys. the writer to this article.
A freelance writer specializing on business related topics, Miller is a regular contributor at many top sites for human capital management and small business.