Here are six ways you can boost employee engagement, productivity and improve employee retention.
Companies put an enormous amount of effort into attracting "the best and the brightest". However, after the thrill of this chase, what is your retention and employee engagement strategy? Will talent simply move on to the next company that woos them with bigger and better pay packets, benefits and responsibilities?
Should this have employers quaking in their boots? Yes – if you’re not doing anything about it. Here are three interesting facts you should know if you’re not fully convinced of the importance of employee engagement:
- Strong employee engagement reduces absenteeism levels. Employers that have taken steps to engage their workforce see 41% less absenteeism.
- Engaged employees outperform those who are not engaged. Overall, companies with high employee engagement are more productive and 21% more profitable.
- Low employee engagement is costly for your business. It costs businesses $4,129 on average to hire new talent, and around $986 to onboard the new hire - this can be easily avoided by engaging your current employees.
In order to be successful, it’s important that you get the best out of every employee and retain them. How can you do this? By committing to effective employee engagement strategies, wherever your teams are based.
Why make sure employees feel as valued as customers?
Employee turnover has a cost...if talent leaves the company, they may go to competitors, and could also take clients with them.
You will have to cover the period when you’re between employees - advertising the role, screening applicants, interviewing, training and on-boarding. Many organisations will consider hiring agile and flexible contractors in this instance, but it would be better if you could retain as many employees as possible in the first place.
It makes a lot of business sense to put significant effort into keeping 'good people' after you work so hard to find them in the first place.
What if they stay? Disengaged employees cost even more
There is an anecdote: CFO asks CEO: "What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?" and CEO responds: "What happens if we don't, and they stay?"
Presenteeism, when staff are 'at work' but aren’t productive, is just as big a problem as turnover. Employees are doing a job with little effectiveness because they’re not trained appropriately or don't have the resources they need. They don’t enjoy it any longer and are doing the minimum to get by – or worse, they’re actively seeking out new employment on the job, and you are paying them to do so. Research by Global Corporate Challenge found that presenteeism costs ten times more than absenteeism.
Your retention strategy shouldn’t just try to hold on to good people, but ensure they’re bringing their talents to the role.
How can you improve employee engagement of remote workers?
We’ve outlined why employee engagement should be near the top of your priority list. But how can you ensure all your team members are fully engaged, happy and productive when you aren’t in the same room as them everyday? In short, it boils down to three key elements: communication, participation and appreciation.
Communication with remotely based employees is a necessity. Chat programs make it easy to keep in touch, or schedule regular video meetings between team members so everyone is aligned on tasks being worked on. These virtual face-to-face meetings are also beneficial as they allow remote workers to see their colleagues, albeit through a screen, which helps them feel like a part of the team.
Participation ensures that remote workers do not feel isolated. Encourage cross-team interactions, arrange virtual ‘office’ drinks and try to facilitate an online shared environment where remote employees can participate in extracurricular activities. If you can foster social connections between your employees, you should notice increased engagement during the workweek!
Appreciation is where a lot of companies fall down when it comes to remote workers, yet it’s the most direct way to show you care about them - which is a huge contributor to engagement. Could you send personalised gifts on work anniversaries or their birthday? Do you give them a budget to improve their home working set up?
These three prominent pillars of remote employee engagement strengthen the bond between an employer and its remote workforce. Communication, participation and appreciation all contribute towards employees feeling valued.
The secret to an engaged workforce: feeling valued
Employees who feel valued are more likely to be motivated to do their very best for an employer. You should treat employees at least as well as you treat customers. Adapt your client retention strategy to include coworkers and collaborators.
1. Start by being genuinely interested in who they are, beyond what they can do for you.
Customers are not just wallets – and employees are not just an “asset”, they’re human beings who want to be valued and regularly communicated with. For those in your workforce who work remotely, arrange regular video meetings to check in with them.
2. Offer a great product experience: give employees the means to do good work.
You make sure your product or service solves a pressing problem for your customers and that it delivers on its promise; also that it’s easy and intuitive to use. You make sure customer reps and salespeople or store clerks welcome customers like the important people they are - make the same effort for your employees.
The great product experience you offer is the company itself: great company culture, a great place to work, the feeling that one can do good work without frustrating obstacles.
A key element of engagement is doing what you love in a meaningful context. If people are spending time learning about a subject they enjoy and can apply that in the workplace, it can dramatically boost engagement and retention.
Actively devise a professional development plan with your employees and support them on their educational journey. From online e-learning modules to investing in a professional qualification; education is not just for employees who are new in their role.
3. React to issues quickly
Employees won’t savage the company on social media in the way an irate customer might, (although forums like Glassdoor.com give them a platform to do so now!) but reacting to issues quickly shows people they are valued.
Listen to them and try to solve their problems, just as you would with customer complaints. People want to do excellent work that has meaning, they want to move the needle and get results for their company: giving them what they need is a huge win-win.
4. Demonstrate that you appreciate their work in a meaningful way
Do you offer perks and gifts to customers? Could you do the same for team members?
Small gifts, celebrating results and milestones, even small ones, help to cement good feelings. Acknowledge personal events (a birthday, a wedding, etc.) as well as team events (a big sale, a new client or a completed project).
Company-wide initiatives like providing healthy food options and offering (virtual) exercise classes have been proven to boost wellness, morale and productivity for two reasons: employees are in better health and less stressed, and they are grateful because they feel valued.
5. Reward positive ambassadors
Who among your co-workers makes your company a great place to be? Who is kind? Who is a lot of fun? Who is the problem solver who will run to the rescue? Who inspires colleagues to higher standards? Who has a positive influence on the place?
Find out who these people are, look for the ‘positive deviant’, and give them a position or engineer their existing position so that their positive influence can be felt far and wide.
6. Find meaning in the bigger picture
Just like customers are increasingly concerned about companies' impact on the human and natural environment, employees want to make a positive difference in the world. It is crucial to highlight how their contribution is making the company, local community and the world better.
Is there a budget you can give to each employee to donate to a charity of their choosing? Can the company donate a certain number of days of that person’s time to volunteer? Alternatively, could your staff offer their own sick leave that they may not use to another staff member who is going through a time of hardship?
Finally, as you take these steps within your company, ensure that the world knows about it by applying for “Great Place to Work” awards and the Investors in People Quality Standard, so that you are recognised internally and externally for your efforts.