Employee engagement is not a new concept. Companies have long understood that a highly engaged workforce can reduce absenteeism, lower employee turnover, increase productivity, and improve customer satisfaction—among myriad other benefits.
Why the renewed emphasis as of late?
The answer to that question relates in no small part to what companies are dealing with in the job market. These days, it’s gotten increasingly tight. In April 2022, there were 11.4 million job openings, while the number of unemployed persons remained at 6 million in May.
Finding and retaining talent in a tight job market is among the hardest challenges your organization will face—made even more difficult by the number of people currently considering changing jobs. A recent survey found that 30% of workers are toying with the idea, with 62% citing toxic company culture as the reason for making a switch.
This alone should be enough to prompt your leadership team to reconsider your engagement levels. After all, employee engagement and culture go hand in hand. Culture is often the direct result of engagement; it shows how people feel about various aspects of your business, chief among those being their roles.
Showing renewed interest in your team
Enhancing engagement starts with employees. You have to recognize that your business is made up of individuals with differing needs, aspirations, and motivations. Here’s how to adjust your approach to engagement and get to know your team better:
1. Disrupt your traditional patterns.
It’s only natural to have different relationships with different people on your team. The problem arises when you begin defaulting to certain team members more than others. For one, it gives the impression that you’re playing favorites. Even if that’s not your intention, repeatedly relying on a select few individuals can take a toll on team morale. In turn, engagement and productivity will suffer. Favoring certain team members, subconscious or otherwise, can also put your business in a precarious position should one of your go-to employees quit.
Instead of always deferring to the most vocal people in the room, make a conscious effort to continually assess who was given what assignment and when. “I encourage people to look around and see who’s doing the office housework, who’s doing the glamour work, and try to disrupt those systems,” explains journalist, editor, and author Alan Henry.
You not only want to be fair and equitable with workloads, but also give everyone on the team opportunities to grow and learn. This isn’t to say there won’t be exceptions. When certain team members have the necessary skills to deliver on a project’s goals, you’d be foolish not to hand them the reins. Just find a balance.
2. Focus on talent fit.
Though this should go without saying, you always want the right person in the right role to improve engagement. Dr. Dan Harrison, founder and CEO of Harrison Assessments, explains that engagement is an individual state of mind.
“Being engaged is a psychological phenomenon that is driven by employee expectations and motivations as well as good leadership and management practices,” he writes. “It requires the employer to take interest in what the employee cares about and what they enjoy doing. Ensuring an employee’s interests and enjoyment are aligned to the role they have is key, particularly in a job market where talent is hard to find.”
If you’re uncertain where someone’s skills and interests lie, just ask. Inquire about your employees’ professional goals and whether they feel their current roles and responsibilities are getting them closer to where they want to be career-wise. Get a read on what’s going well and if they’re encountering any challenges. Then, see what you can do to boost alignment.
3. Engage the whole person.
Compartmentalizing work and life might sound good in theory, but it’s impossible for most people to do. That’s why you should engage the whole person in the workplace. You don’t need to delve into people’s personal details, but you do want to connect on a human level to better understand your employees. Factors outside of the workplace could be impacting engagement and might very well be leading to burnout.
Research finds that workers are more apt to burn out when poorly matched in one of six key areas: workload, control, reward, community, fairness, or values. If you want to improve engagement and avoid burnout, practice empathy. Your team will feel more comfortable confiding in you, allowing you to get to the root cause of almost any problem. Once that happens, then you can make adjustments.
Employee engagement isn’t something to be left to chance. You must actively work toward creating an environment where employees are engaged with what they’re doing. Encourage people to bring their full selves to work, make sure their responsibilities align with their interests, and shake up their assignments from time to time. Everyone wants an opportunity to improve and grow, so why not give it to them? It’s hard enough finding talent these days, so make sure your workers are happy and fulfilled. They’ll return the favor by staying with you and your business.