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Employee Engagement: Why it Matters and How to Improve it

Employee engagement is one the most important indicators of work satisfaction. Employees today want to feel a sense of purpose in their work and feel enthusiastic about the organization that they work for. The COVID-19 pandemic has further fuelled this need in employees to feel a sense of belonging and engagement in their work, as well as be afforded flexibility around schedules and location.

In reality, there is still room for improvement when it comes to driving employee engagement. Global engagement scores remain low globally, with only 21% of employees globally feeling engaged in their work. Interestingly, the same Gallup report shows that global employee engagement levels have remained stable since the pandemic. This may suggest that organizations are actually doing something in improving employee engagement.

A highly engaged workforce is key to the organization’s success, with 71% of executives indicating that it is a critical factor. And it is not surprising. There are plenty of benefits associated with a highly-engaged workforce: low attrition rates, high employee commitment levels, better employee health, effective leadership and increased productivity levels are some of the associated benefits.

How to improve employee engagement

Creating a highly-engaged workforce does not happen overnight. It requires herculean efforts from HR and senior leaders to create an environment that encourages employees to naturally feel involved and engaged in their work. So what can organizations do to better engage employees?

Provide opportunities for growth and development

Employees’ perception of internal growth and development opportunities is a key contributor to engagement levels. Interestingly, slightly over half of employees (61%) agree that their current organization provides attractive opportunities for growth and development. Career advancement and promotions are often what employees view as growth and development opportunities. While these may not necessarily be applicable to all employees as it is important to promote everyone every year, the trick is to focus on perceived growth opportunities, no matter how small. It may be small grade title promotions, giving opportunities for employees to work on projects outside their primary domain, or communicating frequently about succession and personal development plans. Maintaining regular conversations about “Where do you see yourself in this company five years from now?” and “How can we help you get there?” can help to increase employees’ perception about growth opportunities, and in turn boost epmployee engagement levels.

Create platforms for feedback and recognition

Recognition is the most important motivator for 37% of employees, particularly if it is a personal recognition. Formal recognitions such as regular performance reviews and announcements during town halls or team meetings can let employees feel valued and appreciated. Aside from those, it is the little acts of recognition in which employees truly feel appreciated. Buying employees lunch or giving them a spot bonus to celebrate work anniversaries or a compliment from a client can be more impactful than public recognition.

Foster open communication

Communication in the workplace is key as it impacts employees’ ability to work together and engagement. Based on Culture Amp‘s survey with over 60,000 employees on ranking the top 10 engagement drivers, “Leaders have communicated a vision that motivates them” and “Employees experience open and honest two-way communication” rank high on their responses. Additionally, the top 10% of highly engaged companies typically have leaders that communicate a motivating vision. Leadership communication does not necessarily mean having the CEO share his or her long-term vision for the organization. It may also involve open communication between employees and managers, be it communicating about an employee’s development or honest feedback about their performance. These are the things that foster highly-engaged employees and build trust within the organization.

Nurture a positive work culture

Creating a positive and nurturing work culture is one of the key ingredients to a highly engaged workforce. There are numerous ways to build a positive work culture, including caring and maintaining positive work relationships with colleagues, offering support and compassion, emphasizing on the meaning of work, and even treating one another with respect and gratitude. Building an environment that fosters social connection enables employees to empathize and support one another as a friend, beyond just colleagues. In the long term, a highly supportive workplace culture enables employees to feel connected, and influences a high-performance culture within the organization.

There is no single way to immediately improve engagement levels within the organization. It all starts with the HR team and leadership to focus on creating that positive and healthy culture to boost engagement levels. While organizations today are shifting towards upskilling and cross-skilling employees, they must also not forget the core values, and that is the employees themselves.

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