Effective employee engagement strategies can make the difference between teams that are active and aware of company & industry news, versus those that are removed and disconnected from what’s happening around them. Learn how to boost engagement and help your workforce feel connected.
Why is it important to have engaged employees? Well, for a number of reasons. But perhaps a few of the most important are that engaged employees are more effective; they’re loyal; they’re more invested in their companies and their fellow employees, and they tend to be more satisfied with their careers, which lowers turnover. In short: they’ll make your company a better place to work at. However, given the health challenges of the last few years, and the rapid change in remote and hybrid work scenarios, overall employee engagement has been on the decline.
The purpose of this article is to explain what employee engagement is, and how to adjust your company’s employee engagement strategies to boost productivity, longevity, and an overall sense of connection to the brand among your employees. You’ll learn simple steps and strategies for employee engagement without completely altering your approach.
In this article, you will learn:
1. Why Employee Engagement is Decreasing
2. Employee Engagement Strategies to Reverse the Trend
3. Successful Employee Engagement Comes with Trust
4. How to Deploy Successful Employee Engagement Strategies
5. How to Measure Employee Engagement
6. Sociabble: A Platform that Can Help Boost your Employee Engagement Strategy
1. Why Employee Engagement is Decreasing
Employee engagement is a direct reflection of the levels of involvement and enthusiasm among workers, and the general ambiance of the workplace overall. It refers to how invested people are in their everyday jobs, as well as the success of the business as a whole. There is a direct correlation between engagement and employee satisfaction, in part because engaged employees generally have a positive emotional connection with the company, and they feel a sense of purpose in their jobs. In short: they know what they are doing, they know why they are doing it, and from that, they derive meaning and personal satisfaction. Being part of something larger and contributing directly to its success is a role that they enjoy.
Which is interesting, because globally, employee engagement levels are seeing an overall decrease. According to the Gallup State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report, “Globally, employee engagement decreased by 2 points, from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020, following a steady rise over the last decade.”
A two percentage-point decrease may not seem like a lot, but it is significant. One would think that with all the new technologies and digital tools now available, engagement would be increasing, as employees have better and more instantaneous access to updates and breaking news. However, the opposite is true.
There are several reasons, but it’s worth looking at what has happened during the last few years. The health crisis has disrupted traditional work patterns and sent millions of workers to either work remotely, or participate in hybrid scenarios in which they are only in the office and interacting with their peers and managers part of the time. Employees feel disconnected, both literally and figuratively, from what’s happening at their company. Gone are the days of chats around the water cooler, or informal updates over a cup of coffee. And the abundance of digital tools, far from bringing them in, has in many cases only distanced them further, as they see there is yet another app or feature that they have to figure out and monitor. In many such cases, employees just throw up their hands. It’s too much, and they don’t want to invest in true engagement, because they don’t see the benefits.
2. Employee Engagement Strategies to Reverse the Trend
To state it simply, there is a direct connection between employee engagement levels and productivity. Not to mention a host of other critical factors. Disengaged employees create a drag on that productivity, which in turn also negatively affects innovation and organizational change. According to a Gallup study, companies with engaged employees have 18% higher productivity, and 23% higher profitability, than companies where the employees were not as actively engaged.
But the benefits don’t end there. A high engagement rate can affect:
- • Absenteeism. Engaged employees are less likely to skip work, and more likely to show up on time, ready to begin.
- • Safety. Engaged employees are more aware of safety protocols and procedures, and are involved in fewer on-site accidents.
- • Turnover. Engaged employees tend to enjoy their jobs, and want to grow in their role. They’re generally more loyal to their company, and want to see it succeed.
- • Quality. Engaged employees are up to speed on updates and procedures, and they produce fewer defects and commit fewer errors than disengaged employees.
- • Employee satisfaction. Engaged employees are just generally happier with where they are and what they’re doing. And happy employees make the best employees, as they are the most accurate reflection of how a business is doing.
- • Customer Satisfaction. The end result of engaged employees, the company will produce a better product, have better customer service, and overall produce clients more satisfied with their experience.
With all of this in mind, in becomes clear why it’s so important to reverse the trend of shrinking employee engagement. This overall decrease will affect businesses adversely, causing productivity, profitability, and overall product quality to be diminished. That is, unless companies take active measures to keep their workforce connected and engaged with their company, and with their industry as a whole. After all, engagement extends beyond the company walls, to include what’s happening in the competitive landscape around them.
3. Successful Employee Engagement Comes with Trust
Employee engagement isn’t an external factor, or a product, or something you can buy to add to your workforce. Employee engagement is generated from within, based on the positive experiences of employees. You can’t force it to happen, but as a company, you can create an environment that fosters its growth. Which means, the best place to start is with the employees themselves. Focus on people first.
Where does employee engagement begin? With trust. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer from 2022, “at 61%, business is the most trusted, ahead of NGOs at 59%, government at 52% and media at only 50%. Seventy-seven percent of respondents, however, trust ‘My Employer,’ making the relationship between employer and employee incredibly important.” What is the significance of this? Well, it means that real trust between employees and employers is not only possible, its readily achievable if the company creates the right environment.
Building trust takes time. It takes effort. It relies on the formation of a contract between employer and employee, in which it is acknowledged that a clear and honest exchange of information will occur, and that both with look out for the other’s best interest. Because in the end, there is a rather strong correlation between the success of both. It’s rare to see a thriving company full of unhappy employees, and it’s equally rare to see thriving employees working at an unsuccessful company.
And what are the effects of an environment in which there is not employee trust? Effectively, all of the factors mentioned above will collapse. Higher absenteeism, a less safe environment, increased turnover, reduced quality, and a drop in both employee and customer satisfaction.
So what is the best way to build trust and encourage employee engagement at a company? That’s the question we’ll answer next.
4. How to Deploy Successful Employee Engagement Strategies
Fortunately, for companies looking to increase engagement levels and develop a workforce that’s more engaged with company and industry news, there are simple, concrete steps they can take that have been shown to build trust, improve employee confidence, and create an environment where engagement can flourish. These should all be components in a larger employee engagement strategy that’s holistic and inclusive; it’s about changing the company’s overall philosophy regarding how employees are viewed, not just instituting a few minor programs or taking a few small steps.
a. Redefine the purpose and mission of your company and involve your employees in them.
Values matter. Increasingly, employees are looking to work at companies that share their values, and that want to have the same kinds of positive impact on that they do. A growing sense of social responsibility has emerged among the global workforce. And the experience of going through the pandemic has only heightened this response, making people eager to invest their time with a sense of purpose, for the common good. This quote from Jon Coleman of The Harvard Business Review sums it up best:
As you think ahead to what may be the “new normal,” it’s time for organizations to refresh what they stand for. The world has changed with Covid, and it’s almost certain that your old mission, vision, and values don’t fully match today’s context. There is a new emerging focus on things like health (both mental and physical), flexibility, diversity and equity, and other topics. Your customers have likely radically reinvented their lives or businesses, making them reassess what they want or need from your company. And the people in your organization are likely more focused on purpose but less connected to what you stand for, either because they are new (given high turnover) or have been in the midst of reinventing themselves.
This is exactly it. The world has changed, the way people see the world and their future has changed, and companies can’t rest on their laurels when it comes to sharing the values of their employees. They need to make sure those values are strongly aligned and given an effective outlet to enact positive change in the world. According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, for example, when it comes to climate change, “52% say business is not doing enough, while only 9% say it is overstepping. The role and expectation for business has never been clearer, and business must recognize that its societal role is here to stay.” The mandate is there—employees want it. It’s up to companies to take action.
When it comes to stating a clear purpose, and getting employees invested and taking the lead in social causes, one way to achieve this is through CSR projects. But not just any cause—ones that actually mean something to the employees. Here at Sociabble, the Employee Communication platform we offer comes with a built-in CSR feature, “Support My Cause,” that allows companies to do precisely that. They can take surveys to find the causes that mean most to employees, have a vote to determine which one is the winner, and generate a leaderboard complete with gamification to get employees involved. You can even reward their actions with trees that are planted in their name to help fight deforestation. And yes, it really works!
b. Invest in employee well-being & a positive workplace.
One of the most important aspects of post-pandemic professional culture is a renewed emphasis on the balance between work and personal life. And employee engagement can definitely be influenced by the importance that an organization places on work-life balance. It matters to employees, and they want to work for companies that respect their own downtime and personal lives. Discouraging long hours, implementing flexible work hours, instituting remote and hybrid office scenarios when appropriate—these can all help. But also, encouraging personal projects can have a positive impact as well.
According to The Harvard Business Review, “Many employees may benefit from viewing their jobs as conduits to pursue their passion outside of work, and jobs that allow employees to do so may not only draw in talented employees, but can help them maintain their productivity and well-being over the long-term.” Indeed, while outside projects were often discouraged and seen as distractions, today, many companies are realizing that encouraging such passions is a way of bringing in top talent and keeping employees satisfied and engaged.
There are some nuts & bolts steps to take to help accomplish this. According to the Gartner CHRO Guide, it pays to “Make employees feel autonomous by giving them flexibility over where, when, how much, how and with whom they work.” That autonomy will create satisfaction and generate a sense of mutual trust. But beyond the conceptual structure of work, the physical structure and layout of the workplace can make a difference, too. Consider reworking your floor plan in a way that encourages more cross-communication between members of the workforce. By creating stronger connections with their peers, employees will also build a stronger sense of identity and belonging, which will help generate team spirit as well as engagement.
Improving a sense of employee well-being can also be achieved through your company’s communication strategy. The Sociabble platform, for example, gives companies the ability to turn off push-notifications and alerts during “Quite Hours,” and encourages them to build stronger relationships with their colleagues thanks to a quick, informal chat feature, and a peer-to-peer recognition program that gives kudos and praise for a job well done.
c. Offer learning opportunities and career development.
Employees want to grow—as professionals, but also as people. And when a company assists them on this journey, a relationship of trust and support is built that goes both ways. By giving employees the opportunity to better themselves through the company, you’re essentially giving them room to grow without having to look elsewhere. Training and additional tools do come at a price, but it is a worthwhile investment. Having employees who want to grow and develop is a positive, not a negative. Because while yes, supporting employees in their personal and professional growth does have a cost attached—training, resources, possibly even missed days of work while they pursue their goals—the trust and commitment that is built will pay higher dividends in the end.
One element of this is making sure that employees are aware of open positions and growth opportunities within the company, and also staying on top of promotions and advancement opportunities within the broader organization. If employees feel like their company is looking out for their best interest, they will return the favor.
At Sociabble, we make this possible on our communication platform with a series of features designed to promote employee growth. Our multi-media content features make it easy to create and share best practices and “how to” videos, as well as targeted HR and training communications. Visibility of internal job opportunities can also readily be increased via a dedicated channel that employees can follow. And top-down recognition for personal development comes in the form of employee badges that recognize new acquired skills following training sessions.
d. Create a transparent work environment.
Transparency is about honesty, and honesty builds trust. It’s that simple. And when we talk about a transparent work environment, it’s founded upon transparent communication. But what does transparent communication mean, exactly? What can companies do to ensure that the style and substance of their communication is transparent?
Communicate with everyone. This means making sure that every single employee is aware of what’s going on at the company, including frontline workers in stores, delivery trucks, and assembly lines. It’s about making sure all employees feel included and valued, that they’re aware they’re all equals on the same team, with equal access to information.
Ask for employee feedback. Transparent communication is a two-way street. Companies also have to be open to receiving honest feedback from employees, even when it may be negative or expressive of a dissatisfaction. To feel respected, employees need to feel like their voice matters, and that it’s heard. Transparency is built upon this kind of honesty and openness between the workforce and management.
Let them know what is happening behind the scenes. This includes top-level discussions, new strategic shifts, upticks and downturns in the business—include them in these sorts of discussions so they feel informed about the company and the direction it is going. Being informed, in a transparent environment, will further build the trust that’s needed for real engagement. Employees don’t want corporate jargon; they want to know where they and the company stand.
At Sociabble, we’ve found that the best way to accomplish this kind of transparent communication is with surveys and newsletters, which is why both can be created in just a few minutes on our Employee Communication platform. Our survey engine makes it easy to send out targeted, anonymous surveys, in a way that any manager can operate. And our employee newsletter feature takes the pain out of company newsletters, with built-in templates, dynamic targeting by section, and click-notices to keep tabs on whether or not they’re being read. And frontline workers are never out of the loop. Our mobile app keeps them connected, even if they don’t have a work desk or professional email.
e. Empower autonomy and accountability.
The fact of the matter is, employees like to feel like they have control over their own days, their own calendar, and their own careers. Which is why it pays to invest in their sense of autonomy, coupled with accountability. When they’re given autonomy, they feel more responsible for their work, and more satisfied with the contributions they make.
To that end, make sure that managers, HR heads, and executives lead by example. Keep them in the loop and let employees know what they are doing. Show appreciation for employee initiatives and give them the company support they need to make them a success. If employees want to set up a donation drive for a fund, or create a library with books and periodicals for break times, then support them in those endeavors. Let them know that you’re behind them and supportive of their needs. And when it comes to accountability, implement a suggestion system for improving the overall experience. Recognize employee accomplishments and reward success stories. Demonstrate that you trust them with the company and its culture. Make them partners in the company’s success.
How have we incorporated all this into Sociabble? Through both a top-down and peer-to-peer recognition program that comes with badges and earned points, giving employees visibility through designated channels, newsletters, and push notifications, and by giving employees the power to create their own UGC (user generated content) to share with others. Employees feel both empowered and recognized thanks to the systems in place. They understand their value, and they know that their value is recognized by the company.
5. How to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Employee Engagement Strategy
Obviously, the question of metrics and KPI’s will come up when any initiative is discussed in business. And while Employee Engagement is a bit more qualitative and amorphous than profits or sales, there are ways to measure your company’s progress when it comes to getting employees engaged. For example:
• Turnover Rate. If your program is working, you should see a decrease in employee turnover, as loyalty and a desire to stay at the company increase among the workforce.
• Absenteeism Rate. When engagement picks up, there should be a gradual reduction in people missing work, leaves of absence, and arriving late. Engaged employees want to be present because they care about their work and their role at the company.
• Efficiency & Productivity. KPI’s related to these two categories should increase alongside engagement. Projects should be completed quicker and with fewer resources; output should rise, as well as profits.
• Employee Advocacy. By monitoring social media, companies with increased engagement should notice a significant uptick in online mentions and shares on the part of employees, as they become more involved and eager to share what’s happening at their jobs. Employee Advocacy is one of the primary functions of the Sociabble platform, as it offers a variety of ways for employees to create content and share it across their networks with just a few clicks.
By monitoring these indicators, companies can get an idea of how their efforts to increase employee engagement are going. It may take time and a bit of patience, but engagement efforts do pay off and produce tangible results. Which makes a strong employee engagement strategy well worth it in the end.
6. Sociabble: A Platform that Can Help Boost Your Employee Engagement Strategy
Now is the right time to re-engage employees within your company. And this must happen, as the Gartner CHRO Guide states, by engaging with them as people, not just workers. According to the reinvented employee value proposition, or EVP, “a human deal orients toward employees as people, not workers; provides the attributes that are critical to that person’s life experience, not just work experience; and delivers a positive emotional response.”
And that’s what employee engagement is: a human deal. Future success will depend on engagement levels of the workforce, and fighting against the trend of decreasing general engagement will ensure that the companies that invest in engagement rise to the top. It’s not just a “nice to have”; employee engagement is a must.
At Sociabble, we offer communication solutions designed to do precisely this—because digital tools must be adapted to humans, not the other way around. With our Employee Communication platform, your employees will:
• Create their own multi-media content
• Receive targeted updates and newsletters via themed channels
• Participate in CSR programs like Sociabble Trees
• Create their own CSR initiatives via “Support My Cause”
• Receive points and badges for participation and sharing
• Exchange praise with peer-to-peer recognition
To learn more about the Employee Communication platform that companies like Coca-Cola CCEP, Primark, and L’Occitane are already using, you can sign up for a free demo here.