How many times have you heard the phrase, “Your employees are your most valuable asset?” As leaders, it’s something we say quite often, and for some pretty compelling reasons. In recent years, companies have shifted their focus toward building healthy and sustainable organizational cultures, all of which would be unattainable without the involvement of dedicated and engaged employees. But, what is engagement exactly? Well, “engagement is the extent to which employees commit to something or someone within the organization.”[i]
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When employees are engaged, they possess a genuine desire to continue working for the organization and help propel the company mission forward. On the other hand, when employees are not engaged, employers risk losing work productivity, innovation, and creativity, which ultimately impact the organization’s bottom line.
Simply put, employee engagement is extremely important to the success of any organization, but it is not without its challenges. Employee engagement requires consistent and continual efforts on multiple levels. So, before we get into how best to achieve employee engagement, let’s identify a few reasons why an employee might become disengaged. Employees typically become disengaged when:
- They feel undervalued.
- They believe there are minimal opportunities for advancement or development within the organization.
- They lack confidence and/or trust in senior leadership.
- They are experiencing a work-life imbalance.
Now that you have some insight on how employee disengagement might come about, let’s explore a few ways to discern some of these feelings of disillusionment beforehand, and help keep your workforce engaged.
Implementing Employee Engagement Surveys
One of the tools I’ve found quite useful over the years is the utilization of employee engagement surveys. Employee engagement surveys can be beneficial to both the workforce and by providing employees with a platform to voice their opinions, while also allowing the leadership team to obtain a feel for what is going on in the organization. Some questions that might be asked in an employee engagement survey include:
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at work?
- Would you refer someone to work here?
- How would you rate your work-life balance?
- Do you feel you receive recognition for your accomplishments?
- What words would you use to describe the culture of your organization?
- Do you believe you will be able to meet your full potential here?
- Do you believe the management team seriously takes your feedback into consideration?
- Do you feel valued in your current role?
- If you were to leave the organization, what would be your reasons?
Additionally, I always survey my team with these three questions:
- What are we doing well as an organization?
- What can we do better?
- What big idea do you have that could make the organization or your department better?
By utilizing employee surveys, employers are able to glean information that may have not been easy to obtain through face-to-face interactions or conversations with their employees. Employee surveys provide the employer with an overall measurement for factors such as overall employee happiness, job satisfaction, work relationships, etc. With this information, employers can determine the next steps for engagement, and make adjustments where necessary.
Understanding the Importance of Connection
Many speak of connection without ever touching on just how critical it is, especially to our work lives. Yet, connection is the cornerstone to engagement, and it defines the relationship between employee and employer.
Connection is defined as “a bond based on shared identity, empathy, and understanding that moves individuals toward group-centered membership.”[ii] In the absence of connection, employees have the potential to feel unsupported, left out, and even undervalued as mentioned above. When employees feel connected, they are committed, enthusiastic about their work, and more willing to align themselves with the vision of the organization. In a culture of connection, leaders get to know their employees and display empathy when needed. Organizations that take the initiative to create a culture of connection can become that much closer to creating a fully engaged workforce.
Engaging the Whole Employee
While we’re on the subject of connection and empathy, we should probably consider the factors that impact each of us on a daily basis, both in our work and personal lives. Why? Because engagement within the workplace is often influenced by the state of our personal lives. For instance, if you have a loved one who is terminally ill, or your child is having difficulties in school, this could negatively impact your engagement at work, regardless of how much you love your job. On the contrary, if you just recently got engaged or purchased a new home, your personal life could significantly boost your engagement and work performance. Even when factoring in work-life balance, sometimes a vacation or a quick getaway is all we need to reset and refocus our efforts. The overall idea here is that no two employees are the same, and there are numerous factors that influence each employee’s engagement on a day-to-day basis. By scheduling one-on-one check-ins with your employees, you can establish trust and gain understanding in ways you may not have been able to establish otherwise. This is why it is important to engage the whole employee, not just the employee you see in passing in the break room or observe from a distance during staff meetings. Employers that are cognizant of these factors are more likely to maintain and sustain a highly engaged workforce.
Organizing Employee Engagement Activities
Sometimes employee disengagement stems from feeling disconnected or isolated from the rest of the organization. For example, maybe you have a few employees who work off-site or even in some cases, some who work in the same building, but in separate areas.
Depending on logistics and especially individual workload, your employees may find that they rarely have an opportunity to engage with members of the senior leadership team or with each other at all. For most people, inclusiveness is essential to any feeling of engagement or lack thereof, which is why employers should definitely consider scheduling employee engagement events throughout the year.
Keep in mind; you don’t necessarily have to break the bank to engage your employees. Sometimes a simple game night or team building exercise is all you need to provide your team with an opportunity to interact and get to know one another outside of their daily work assignments. By organizing a few of these events throughout the year, you can effectively boost morale in the workplace, and keep your employees engaged and committed to the overall mission of the organization.
In the end, your company’s success will be largely dependent upon its ability to balance the goals of the organization with that of the employees and individual workgroups. This is why continual employee engagement is so important. By adopting some of the practices mentioned in this blog, you can successfully utilize employee engagement to foster an ideal culture for your organization.
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
[i]Rahaman, Andrew. “Intentional Crafting of Culture.” Talent Development, Aug. 2015, pp. 53–56.
[ii]Stallard, Michael Lee. “Connect to Engage.”Talent Development, Apr. 2015, pp. 48–52.