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A Simple Guide to Employee Engagement

Employees are the heart of the organization. They should feel happy, enthusiastic and inspired to bring laurels. Employee engagement is arousing all these sentiments in your employees. Employee engagement is the holy grail of the business world. This topic is discussed in every HR conference, debated in seminars and enterprises spending an insane amount on creating an engaged workforce. Yet the progress is minuscule. That is something to ponder over.

Employees are first and foremost a human being. Whatever makes us do better, makes us tick will work well with employees too with the added benefit of the salary. Approaching the subject as conceptual aspects such as workplace culture, productivity, retention, etc. will not yield results.

If you can discover what your employee wants, then you can achieve employee engagement easily. Employees expect to have the following in their workplace.

  1. A sense of purpose
  2. Flexible ecosystem
  3. Recognition & Rewards
  4. Opportunity to grow

These are more or less same as the expectation of any person in their life. The same works for the workplace too. “The whole person comes to work, not just the worker”, says Jim Harter, the Gallup researcher. The first step towards creating an engaged workforce is to treat them as a person not just your employee.

A sense of purpose

The work, the knowledge of why I do what I do is most important in creating a sense of purpose. The understanding of how my work contributing to the overall success of the company helps them defines their sense of purpose.

The clearly defined KRAs & KPIs determine their contribution to the organization growth story. Talk to your employees repeatedly what their collective purpose is how their collective KRAs and KPIs lead them to success. Goal management software helps you bring visibility and clarity to the employees on their goals and progress.

Flexible ecosystem

In her TED talk Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer at Netflix insists that “Your employees are adults. Give them the flexibility they need to work effectively.” They do have obligations, priorities, and a life to live besides working for you. A recent study shows that when a company added a flexible work schedule in the job ad, they received more applicants than the companies that paid more.

Giving flexible work time, work from home options will make you seen as an employee-friendly company. It shows the organizations trust their employees to get the work done from anywhere and in their own convenient time.

Employees who are back from time off tend to be more creative, more engaged, more productive and less stressed. Besides generous vacation and paid leaves, offer them flexible time off so that they can heartily pursue their passion and be there for their family. They would feel gratitude and put more effort to give their best.

The trendsetters of the flexible work schedule

Ernst & Young Oceania offers six to 12 weeks of “life leave scheme” every year to pursue their passion. Recognizing the employees growing fondness to travel and to experiment with new things E&Y gives a flexible work environment for their employees. For working parents, they have a unique ‘term-time’ program to have a flexible work arrangement during school holidays. Kate Hillman, the people & organizational change partner in E&Y believes these flexibility measures will drive retention and increase employee engagement by 11%. Retaining and engaging employees are among the top HR concerns for organizations and they are eager to experiment with innovative ideas to make it work.

Recognition and rewards

Motivated employees are a more engaged and more productive lot. They tend to stay with the organization and inspire others too. Recognition is the best form of a motivator.

Have you ever noticed a child in action? When it does something cool (cool to them; pretty ordinary for others except maybe to their parents), it looks at the parents with a beaming smile and gets a matching one from the parents approving and recognizing the kid’s achievement. I think no one ever outgrows the penchant for seeking approval & recognition.

Rewards are important too but recognition is the most primal feeling. Any cash rewards or awards accompanied by public/peer recognition have a more positive impact.

Here are a few best ways to recognize and reward your employees that motivate them to work harder.

Cash reward has its charm: The unpretentious cash rewards still works well. Especially, among sales and service workers and in manufacturing sectors incentives, bonuses are the prominent form of rewards. You can make the cash reward a little more special by adding a personal note or citation which they can post it in their social media and flaunt their achievement.

Personalized gift options: A personalized gift is more rewarding than a generic cash bonus. Employees feel they are respected as an individual and their preferences are valued. For a fitness aficionado, gift a gym membership or for a bookish person get a gift card from Barns & Nobles. It shows the organization knows and values its employees personally.

Peer Recognition: Recognition in any form is always better but peer recognition makes them extra special. The persons who are sitting next to you and whom you’re working closely with looks at you like an achiever, that kind of feeling is priceless. The best way to make peer recognition culture mainstream is by introducing feedback software such as Synergita.

Awards & Public Recognition: Awards are the time-honored way to recognize your employees’ contribution. Employee of the month, role star and other awards though sounds cliché still are employees’ favorites. Announce the awards in the organization’s forum and organize a special event or meeting to bestow the trophies and certificates and make your employees feel special. Other employees would also get inspired to work harder to get public accolades.

‘Well Done’ & ‘Thank You’ work equally well: Simple words like well done, great job and thank you for the sincere work never fails to create wonders. In-the-moment, hearty appreciation from the managers goes a long way in creating a lasting bond and camaraderie.  Be sincere in your praise, highlight their contribution and motivate them to work harder. This is the most underused, cost-effective yet the significant day-to-day motivational factor for your employees.

The definite don’t’s of employee engagement

Micromanaging your employees are stifling. It makes them feel inadequate, doubt their ability and judgment. The oppressive situation clouds their better sense and they end up floundering more. None is the wiser – organization, managers and employees all become the loser.

Trust your employees to do their best. Give them a free hand. Measure, monitor, ask questions and raise standards. Don’t hold their hands and hit the ball, let them bat confidently. You can get involved, coach them and be a mentor, but know your limits. Creativity and innovation are essential in this competitive era which can be achieved only by empowering employees not by micromanaging them.

Train the bosses well

The famous adage says it all “Employees don’t leave bad jobs they leave bad bosses”. Make the bosses work for the employees, and then employees will work for the company. A recent survey shows that 65% of employees prefer to have better bosses than a better hike. The compensation package, perks and benefits don’t help you hold your employees if they have a bad boss.

Encourage your managers to create a healthy work environment. Taking care of employees’ workplace well-being and building a happy, engaged workforce is the prerequisite of every manager.

According to Gallup, managers are accountable for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores.

Set up training programs, workshops and sessions for your managers to build an engaged workforce. If possible, add ‘nurturing and inspiring employees’ as one of their KRA. Down the lane, you would get a set of KRA metrics to analyze the correlation between good bosses and engaged employees.

Engaged employees are your constant pillars, goodwill ambassadors and marathon achievers. Treat your employees as fellow human beings, give autonomy, trust their ability and recognize their achievement. They’ll remain loyal to the organization and inspire others.

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