Employee engagement reflects the extent to which employees feel invested in and motivated by their work. When employees are more engaged, they also tend to feel more satisfied, productive and willing to stay at your company longer.
Employee engagement isn’t straightforward. What drives it, exactly? To answer this question, we’re going to dive into the top drivers of employee engagement across four main categories — organizational, human resources, leadership and individual — while paying special attention to how to drive employee engagement in our increasingly remote and hybrid workplaces.
Organizational Drivers of Employee Engagement
Direction and Purpose
Values alignment is the number one predictor of employee engagement, according to a survey conducted in June 2020 by the Achievers Workforce Institute.
It’s crucial for a company to have a clear direction with a well-defined mission statement, core values, culture code and employee value proposition. Setting organizational direction and purpose should be a collaborative effort that considers the future of the company while also taking into account its current state.
Besides driving employee engagement, establishing direction and purpose is also essential for recruiting great talent. It will help you find and hire people who will engage in their work beyond the bare minimum and help in developing a cohesive employer branding strategy.
We'll walk through a process for crafting an EVP that resonates with candidates.
Resources and Tools
In order to know how to allocate resources, it’s important to stay in close communication with teams to prioritize resources, whether they be financial, educational, experiential or sheer human power. While it may seem obvious to hire a new team member with more experience, it may be cheaper and more beneficial to provide more training to your current team to help them be more engaged and accomplish more collectively than a new hire.
It is also important to ensure your employees have the appropriate tools to complete their jobs — from software to complete their work to organizational tools. As more employers incorporate remote work into their companies, they should consider investing in collaboration tools and productivity tools that allow workers to connect effectively and efficiently with their teammates.
Environmental factors, like lighting and temperature, contribute to performance and productivity. While certain people work well in silence with bright lights, others prefer background noise and dim lights. You should regularly ask your employees what changes would improve their in-office environment because it could be as simple as dimming the lights or implementing quiet hours.
Providing an appealing work environment can also include allowing employees the flexibility to work from home or a coworking space. If your company is considering going hybrid or fully remote, consider these tips when making a work-from-home policy.
80 percent of employees want to know how decisions are made in their organization, according to a 2018 Slack survey. In order for your company to be successful, you need to make sure all of your C-Suite, board members, senior leadership and other stakeholders are on the same page with how to be effectively transparent with employees. The last thing you want is information leaked or rumors spread that will cause distrust and animosity among employees.
When you create a culture built around transparency, people will be more open to addressing conflict and concerns. Sometimes people don’t know who to talk with or how to start a conversation and that can quickly escalate to decreased engagement, productivity and turnover.
Unlike other drivers of employee engagement on this list, company culture starts at the inception of a company and evolves with each new hire. As a business grows, it becomes very difficult to alter culture, which is why it needs to be a priority for even the smallest startups.
Culture has a significant impact on the daily lives and engagement of employees. Employees are 50 percent happier when they develop strong relationships with coworkers, and 82 percent of employees have at least one friend at work. Even in hybrid or remote work environments, it is important to maintain company culture through virtual team-building activities, engagement with leadership and social events.
Human Resources Drivers of Employee Engagement
Employee engagement surveys are a popular way for driving employee engagement, because they are effective and simple to implement. In fact, almost 60 percent of employees wished their companies conducted more employee engagement surveys.
To get started, you can find platforms online that send out automated questionnaires to employees. These surveys come with metrics to determine key pain points to focus and suggest resource allocation.
Perks, Benefits and Compensation
While these factors may seem unrelated to an individual’s daily work, they can be influential drivers of employee engagement. The right blend of perks, benefits and compensation allows employees to design the ideal work environment, establish work-life balance, plan their financial future and much more, all of which have a direct impact on engagement.
Almost two-thirds of employees in 2021 decided whether to stay in or leave their current role based on their company’s new benefits plan. But designing the perfect package can be difficult. The best way to decide which benefits to prioritize, especially when you’re on a tight budget, is to survey your employees to see what they want.
Depending on the various demographics of your employees, there will be different desired benefits that will change over time as your company and its people age. For example, there are significant generational differences when it comes to benefit preferences — 36 percent of Baby Boomers seek benefits like employee discount programs, 34 percent of Generation Xers want paid parental leave and 46 percent of Millennials value financial wellness programs.
Diversity and Inclusion
Creating a more engaging work environment goes beyond hiring diverse talent. Companies need to ensure that all of their employees feel comfortable and welcome at work. Aside from hiring people who share those values, it’s up to HR to implement diversity and inclusion programs that match their dialogue and vibe with employees.
If you’re having troubles internally, it may be helpful to hire an external diversity consultant to get you started.
Dedicated culture committees are another way for driving employee engagement. Giving employees a seat at the table encourages them to take ownership and feel like their opinions are being heard.
Depending on your company culture, size and employee interests, there are a variety of culture sub-committees for companies to consider, like party planning or events, diversity and inclusion and philanthropic committees.
Committees contribute to creating a more inclusive work environment and give you an insight into the interests of your current team. Smaller committees are unique in that they bring together people of similar interests — regardless of their role or seniority — to bond and implement change from the bottom up.
Passion and Commitment
Over 90 percent of employees are willing to sacrifice greater pay for more meaningful work, but meaningful work is a two-way street. Employers have to create roles that have meaning, and employees have to find meaning in their work.
Identifying employees who are passionate and committed to their work starts with the hiring process. To find people who will be passionate and committed, it’s important to be transparent about your company’s goals, mission and values. Doing so can start as early as the job description and should continue in more depth during the interview process.
You should also continue to survey employees throughout their careers to pinpoint areas for improvement. It’s certainly not uncommon for employees to lose passion and commitment to their work and become burned out. Sometimes the solutions to employee engagement are much simpler than you expect.
Leadership Drivers of Employee Engagement
Hiring, Onboarding and Training
51 percent of employees are not engaged with their work, according to a 2020 Gallup Poll. These employees often remain in their current job because they see it as an easy paycheck; they become a drain on the organization. Human capital is by far a company’s most important asset, so we highlight these statistics to give you the motivation to make engagement assessments part of your hiring and onboarding processes.
As Millennials rise into senior positions, they are pioneering new methods for leadership and mentorship. As traditional processes are ditched in favor of modern techniques, it’s important to ensure that new leadership styles have a positive impact on employee engagement.
Management and Leadership Style
42 percent of managers develop their leadership styles from recent managers, and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does leave a lot to chance. It’s important to respect your managers’ individual leadership styles, but it’s also crucial that employers provide adequate education and resources to train leaders on how to adjust their style to better communicate with and meet the needs of individual employees.
As remote work remains more commonplace, managers are recognizing the importance of being more empathetic and flexible with employees and their personal lives. Work-life balance has proven to significantly affect employees’ ability to engage with their work when they have time to relax and recharge.
Communication and Feedback
It comes as no surprise that employees often find it easier to communicate with people close to their own age. Businesses must work to overcome communication gaps between younger (typically direct reports) and older (typically managers) employees.
To mitigate challenges among diverse teams, it’s crucial for managers to initiate regular communication and feedback with employees. Not only does this help managers discover the learning style of individual reports, but it helps leaders adjust their own mentorship and communication style as well.
Unlike the one-sided performance reviews of the past, feedback needs to be a two-way conversation. Scheduling regular sessions and providing constructive feedback between managers and direct reports greatly helps both parties become more confident and engaged in their roles.
While these conversations may feel intimidating, generational trends indicate that 97 percent of Gen Zers are receptive to regular feedback from their superiors. Just like the company needs to provide guidance and direction for growth and development, leaders need to provide guidance and direction for their direct reports.
Support and Empowerment
Not to be confused with recognition and appreciation, support and empowerment pertain to providing coworkers (both managers and direct reports) with the tools and resources they need to excel in their roles.
Whether that be providing training opportunities to improve weaknesses, allowing employees to pursue passion projects or simply offering time off to improve work-life balance, it’s up to leadership to figure out how they can better support employees to be successful and engage with their work.
Initiative and Contribution
To be fully engaged at work, it takes a certain level of initiative from employees, and from employers to help employees do work that contributes to the company in a way that is both meaningful to the employee and significantly impacts the company.
If you encourage employees to test experiments and pursue passion projects, they will become more comfortable and confident taking initiative with their own work and consequently become more engaged. Additionally, it’s important for leaders to recognize and reward people who model this behavior and build it into their culture.
Individual Drivers of Employee Engagement
RECOGNITION and Appreciation
Employees are more likely to be engaged in their work when they’re recognized and appreciated for contributing to the success of the company at large. The chances they’ll look for a new job actually drops by 56 percent when employee recognition is a priority.
Growth and Development
87 percent of Millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as important to them in a job. This is to the benefit of both employees and employers, and it applies to all organizational levels.
Employees who are driven to learn and develop their skills tend to be more engaged with their work. That’s because they are constantly being challenged with new material, which improves their quality of work and elevates the success of the company.
While these opportunities can be limited due to available resources and tools, leaders have the experience and knowledge to provide in-house mentorship and training to employees at minimal cost to the employer.
Similar to leadership styles, every contributor has different learning styles that best resonate with them. While some people learn better through lectures and presentations, others may need to have hands-on experience before they fully grasp a new concept.
Mixing individual learning styles with individual management styles can be quite challenging, so this is another area to focus on during the interview process to ensure your new employee has the resources they need to succeed.
While we already touched on company culture under the HR section, it’s important to note that culture is created by the collective differences and common interests of individual employees. When companies create culture, they do so as a result of the people they hire and the opportunities they provide them to foster their own unique culture.
According to Statista, 72 percent of people looking for a job believe that work-life balance is an important factor to consider. Not only does providing work-life balance and flexibility attract more candidates, but they will work harder and be more engaged on a day-to-day basis. Lack of work-life balance is one of the reasons employees have been leaving their jobs as a part of the Great Resignation, so prioritizing balance at your company can serve as one of the main drivers of employee engagement and retention.
Alexandria Jacobson contributed reporting to this story.
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