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3 Steps to Improve Employee Engagement

by Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP, on April 08, 2019
Employee engagement is a hot topic in HR and management circles - and for good reason. Research shows engagement gets results. A 2016 study found that companies with highly engaged employees see a 41 percent reduction in absenteeism, and a reduction in turnover ranging from 24 percent at high-turnover organizations to 59 percent at low-turnover organizations. They also realized a 17 percent increase in productivity, and 70 percent fewer safety incidents.

And yet, in most businesses, employee engagement is the exception, not the rule. Surveys have found that only 31 percent of employees are engaged at work, while 51 percent say they are not -- and had not been for some time.

Engagement means that employees are involved, enthusiastic, and committed. Factors like having meaningful work, receiving recognition, a supportive and respectful workplace, and fair treatment all contribute to engagement.

So how can you build engagement in your employees? Real engagement takes more than offering free snacks or handing out employee appreciation awards. The good news is, there are things every employer can do to keep employees engaged and improve retention, no matter the size of your business. Here are 3 tips to better engagement:

1. Look for ways to improve the employee experience -- from start to finish. Engagement starts long before the first team-building event or employee recognition award. Make sure your recruiting and onboarding processes set the tone for a positive employee experience, with smooth transitions, respectful treatment, and clear communication. Within the organization, consider tools like employee self-service (ESS) platforms, which empower employees to handle routine workplace tasks themselves. Everything from checking pay information to swapping shifts with co-workers can be handled through these platforms. Finally, encourage regular employee feedback using tools like pulse surveys, and open the door for two-way conversations about what’s going well and what could be improved.

2. Boost your employees with professional development opportunities. In one study, more than 86 percent of workers said they wanted to work for employers that offered ongoing opportunities for training and coaching. Coaching, training, developing plans for advancement, and giving people tasks that stretch their skills keeps employees challenged and helps them see how their role can evolve within the organization long-term.

There are many new technologies that are making employee training more affordable and effective. AI and chat bots can be used to nudge employees to brush up on skills, retain information after training, and assess skills and ROI. Virtual reality (VR) allows companies to train employees in simulations that might be too costly or dangerous to carry out in real life. Studies have found that employees learn faster, make fewer mistakes, and retain more information when trained in VR simulations. Gamification can turn training and development into a friendly competition when there are rewards tied to the completion of certain tasks you define.

3. Empower employees to drive engagement from the ground up. While the majority of employees assume engagement initiatives will come from leadership -- especially employees in low-paying and high-turnover jobs -- engagement can be even more effective when employees are building it from the ground up and taking ownership for their own success and job satisfaction. While the people speaking up in meetings are often the ones at either end of the spectrum -- the most- and least-engaged -- it’s the employees in the middle who have the most influence when it comes to creating meaningful change. Look for ways to seek input and collaborate with this silent majority, and empower employees to address challenges.

Building a more engaged workforce can yield powerful results for your company, from reduced employee turnover to improved safety on the front lines. While there’s no quick fix, every employer is capable of improving engagement and developing a team of more enthusiastic and involved employees.

Did you know that employee turnover is 10% to 14% lower for businesses that work with a PEO? Find out what outsourcing HR can do for your business.
Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP

Becki has over 25 years of Human Resources experience and holds a business degree with a concentration in HR. She is certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and a Certified Professional through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-CP). She also holds her SHRM People Analytics Specialty Credential. At LandrumHR, Becki has worked with the staffing, PEO, and consulting divisions of the company. She currently holds the position of Managing Consultant for hrQ, their national Human Capital Consulting firm. Becki is passionate about helping organizations best manage their greatest resource – their people. A teacher at heart, Becki focuses on helping business leaders understand the “why” behind the “what” so they can move forward with confidence in their decisions.

View more blogs by Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP