The importance of keeping employees engaged
Keeping staff engaged is a challenge for a manager at any level, but the benefits are plentiful.
Companies with an engaged staff often outperform those with less engaged employees. Since hiring new staff is expensive and often risky, focusing on engaging the existing employees will often yield the best results.
“Engaged employees tend to feel a strong sense of connection with their work, are more productive and produce higher quality work,” said Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources Officer at CareerBuilder. “Engaged workers also tend to be loyal – something employers need to focus on in this competitive hiring market – and can lead to higher profitability, increased customer ratings and reduced turnover.”
Only about 30% of US employees and 13% worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup, with managers accounting for most of the variance. “Nothing depresses engagement faster than bad management,” said Tami Forman, Executive Director of Path Forward.
The happier and more engaged an employee is at work, the more likely they are to stay in their job and deliver what is expected of them.
“A good manager may not be able to engage someone who isn’t willing to be engaged, but a bad manager can disengage someone who is a high-performer. And bad managers have an especially negative impact on high-performing employees, who will leave if they don’t see a path to success.”
Starting at the top, chief executives should be focused on people, strategy and the balance sheet. “The pressure to build a great team has never been greater on a CEO,” said Ian Smith CA, Founder of The Portfolio Partnership, an operational consultancy that scales businesses organically and by acquisition.
Since recruiting is expensive and new hires don’t always work out, engaging existing staff is the most efficient use of the leadership team’s time.
“The happier and more engaged an employee is at work, the more likely they are to stay in their job and deliver what is expected of them,” said executive coach and career strategist Elizabeth Koraca. “When managers work with their employees on engagement levels, there is less chance of employee turnover, which can cost business big bucks.”
Employees don’t just work for a pay check
Once you’re beyond the ‘paying the bills’ level of salary, employees place money lower down the priority list of why they come to work. The three big reasons are autonomy, mastery and purpose, said Ian.
Autonomy in the sense they want to be left to do their role with limited intervention, mastery talks to the need to get better at what they do, and purpose addresses the reason their role is important.
Purpose can be linked to changing the world or to something as basic as understanding how different roles fit into the business strategy. Companies with high levels of engagement have staff who know what they’re doing, refine their skills and understand why their role is key to success for that company.
“The effect of engagement on a team is pretty clear in that you become much more competitive, smarter, and you worry about the value you add to your customer,” said Ian. “When engagement is high, you become aware that your actions are focused on a common purpose. That alignment of action with strategy is a game changer.”
Promote ownership and accountability
Having responsibility for projects provides a sense of autonomy as less oversight is more. “Employees that own projects and are accountable tend to be more engaged,” said Rosemary. “Trust and empower your workers to do their jobs.”
Provide career development
“Companies that focus on career paths and providing opportunities for learning and training often keep top talent around longer,” said Rosemary. Employees should be able to envision their career trajectory and understand how to move forward in an organization.
Regular feedback outside of the formal review process is an opportunity to give employees clear guidance on areas of improvement and where they excel – managers need to emphasize both the positive and the negative to help people understand what they’re doing right and wrong.
Setting clear goals and a vision will provide clarity for expectations and will create an environment for success.
“Have open communications and be transparent with your employees so they trust you and feel free and comfortable to ask for what they want,” said Elizabeth, “When an employee gets what they want and need, they are happier, more motivated and more efficient on the job.”
Communication goes both ways, and a dialogue can help to ensure you’re doing the right thing as a manager.
“Use surveys, one on ones, and performance reviews to not only tell them how they’re doing, but ask how your company is doing as well,” said Rosemary. “A lack of communication can be a major cause of negativity and disengagement in the workplace.”
About the author
Andrea Murad is a New York–based writer. Having worked on both Wall Street and Main Street, she now pursues her passion for words. She covers business and finance, and her work can be found on BBC Capital, Consumers Digest, Entrepreneur.com, FOXBusiness.com, Global Finance and InstitutionalInvestor.com.