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5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now

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Thu Aug 18 2016

5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now
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If I told you that two-thirds of your employees were disengaged at work, what would you say?

To some this may seem shocking; to others, an obvious reality. Gallup has been tracking employee engagement since 2000 and the numbers haven’t changed much, even though more than 30 suppliers serve the $1.5 billion employee engagement market. So what’s the deal?

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To begin to answer the confounding employee engagement question, I attended Human Capital Institute’s Employee Engagement Conference in Denver, July 19-21. Like hundreds of other attendees, I listened to experts, researchers, and practitioners hoping to gain new insights and best practices to use in employee engagement efforts. I have boiled down hours’ worth of content to five tips to help you boost your employee engagement numbers.

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Hold Leaders Accountable

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Your leadership team has created a new initiative to improve employee engagement this year. Now what? You create a strategic plan, build action items, and call it a day, right?

No! You need to hold your leadership, including frontline management, accountable for the engagement expectations that you have set for your organization. When leadership acts in an authentic and engaging way, the effect will trickle down.

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Encourage leaders to have conversations with their employees about their work experience and how the leadership team can make the workplace more engaging. Then be sure to act on the feedback you receive from employees; you don’t want to ask how you can help without being prepared to respond to the answers you receive. Inaction will cause distrust and lower engagement. Make engagement everyone’s business. 

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Provide Career Development Opportunities

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Some organizations have found career development initiatives to be the number-one driver of employee engagement. Take a look at your organization. Are you taking the time to meet with employees to set development goals? Have you mapped out lateral and vertical career moves that individuals can make in your organization?

If you answered no to all or any of these questions, you may want to take a step back and consider developing a sustainable career development program for your employees. Millennials especially crave development opportunities. Aligning engagement strategies around Millennial priorities may benefit organizations in the long run. 

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Focus on Your Human Capital Energy

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Ensuring that your workers have sustainable energy is critical to employee effectiveness and engagement. Unlike the perceived standard many Americans have set, working harder and longer hours doesn’t necessarily equate to higher levels of productivity. Often, employees report feeling anxious, irritable, burnt out, and exhausted. Why? Our work cultures and always-on, technology-driven society create a sense of urgency, forcing employees to believe they need to be on at all times, leaving no time for rest and rejuvenation.

Employers are not helping or allowing employees to meet core energy needs, whether they are physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. Focusing on improving employee’s work quality of life may lead to increased engagement because employees will have enough high-quality energy to be truly productive during working hours. 

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Encourage Employee Innovation

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People love to work on projects they are passionate about, but often they are bogged down with day-to-day tasks that hold little meaning to employees. Organizations may benefit from taking advice from companies like Cisco and develop a culture of innovation to keep employees motivated and engaged.

Cisco has developed a program that enables employees to think of innovative ideas, and they battle for the spot of best idea in the organization. The results? More than half of employees participated, with three winning ideas in a single year! Employees were given the space to work on passion projects and engagement increased. 

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Make Sure Workers Are Genuinely Connected

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Employees (hopefully) know where to find your organization’s mission and values and they get the gist of the business. But do they feel personally connected to and invested in what the company has set out to accomplish? Employees who are able to find true meaning in the work and connect their personal values to their company’s values have higher levels of engagement than those who are coming in just for the paycheck. This means hiring people whose personal values align with the business’s and having ongoing conversations with employees to keep them connected to the company goals. 

So you’re thinking, “This sounds like a lot of work.” And it is. But according to a 2013 study, there are nine performance outcomes connected to engaged employees:

  • customer ratings

  • profitability

  • productivity

  • turnover

  • safety incidents

  • shrinkage (theft)

  • absenteeism

  • patient safety incidents

  • quality.

This raises the question: Can your company afford not to think about employee engagement?

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