It’s no secret that employee engagement has taken a massive hit since the increase of remote and hybrid work. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, only 33% of U.S. employees feel engaged with their work. Moreover, employees who are disengaged with their work are much more likely to leave their company.
Before we dive into some tools to boost employee engagement, it’s important we establish exactly what that means. Employee engagement is defined by how strongly an employee feels connected to their work and their employer. This includes the individual’s commitment, motivation, and likeliness to refer a prospective employee or client to the company. To achieve sustainable engagement, companies must address their employees’ intrinsic motivation, which encompasses mastery, autonomy, and purpose. External rewards, like pay and benefits, boost morale but do so in the short term. In this piece, we will focus on building sustainable employee engagement.
1. Live by your mission, vision, and values.
Increasingly, employees and job seekers are looking for alignment of their own values, beliefs, and attitudes with those of the company. They want to see how the company’s mission impacts the functions of the business. When they understand how this affects the organization as well as their own work, they are more likely to be engaged. Ensure that new hires are onboarded with an understanding of the company’s mission, vision, and values so they understand how they fit into the bigger picture.
2. Provide employees with training and development opportunities.
When you take care of your employees, they take care of you. This is represented in an IBM study where 84% of employees at top-performing companies received the training they needed, as opposed to only 16% at the worst-performing ones. It is critical to provide training, coaching opportunities, and a clear path for development to invest in your employees and their future. A recent Gallup poll shows that the number one reason people leave a company is for career growth opportunities. That is why it is important for managers to maintain an open dialogue with their team to ensure their career goals are being met. Consider creating cross-training programs and interdepartmental development opportunities to promote career growth. Even if this results in a team member moving to another department, celebrate this to demonstrate the company’s commitment to continuous development.
3. Re-embrace communication, collaboration, and community.
Regardless of the increased solitude that comes with remote or hybrid work, it is not lost that communication, collaboration, and community are key to building an engaged workforce and strengthening company culture. It is crucial that employees continue to feel heard, valued, and empowered. Maintain social engagement to keep a sense of community, relationships, and connection for teams. This can take the form of brainstorming sessions, team building workshops, cross-departmental meetings, mentorship programs, and coaching opportunities. With hybrid work, ensure the playing field is even so that those who are in the office and those who are at home are given the same opportunity to speak and share their ideas. Finally, keep a pulse on your team with employee engagement surveys. This anonymous feedback allows for employees to feel heard in a safe manner.
4. Recognize, reward, and listen to your employees.
Give verbal affirmation, recognizing employees for projects, milestones, or ideas they have contributed. Celebrate the wins — big and small — to encourage and motivate others. If the win was inspired by feedback, make that clear as well. Managers or leaders who actively listen to their team and maintain safe, two-way communication will make them feel valued and trusted. In turn, they will trust their manager and that they have their best interest in mind. Finally, ensure employees are well-informed on important decisions so they see the bigger picture and the way their work impacts the company.
5. Promote healthy work habits.
Creating a space that promotes healthy work-life harmony, not work-life balance, goes a long way in remote and hybrid work environments. Work-life harmony is when work integrates into the rest of someone’s life in a way that promotes happiness both at home and in the office, while work-life balance focuses solely on managing time dedicated to work and other areas of life, which we consider a fairly antiquated approach.
Workers can now do tasks around the home mid-day, take a break as they please, or drive their kid to practice in the afternoon. The blurring of lines between the home and office has become increasingly difficult to navigate. It can be hard for employees to know when to turn their work off. Managers and leaders alike must maintain open communication with their team to ensure their workload is manageable, and if it isn’t, to find a solution. Whether it be adding more resources to the team, outsourcing some of the work, providing additional training, or simply saying no to requests, this will result in lower burnout rates, higher retention, and better work-life harmony for their team.
These new working environments are here to stay. If organizations don’t rise to the occasion and embrace this new era, others will move ahead and bring top talent with them. Employee engagement is critical for companies to remain desirable and sought after by both current and future employees, and in turn, to perform at its best.