Employee engagement is good for business. According to a study published by Gallup, employee engagement has a greater influence on business profitability than improvements in processes or an increase in operational efficiency. This is primarily because engaged employees are more productive at work and this improves overall efficiency.
But it is not always easy to track how engaged your employees are at work. More importantly, it can be pretty tricky to understand the reasons why your employees are disengaged. Traditional research tools like surveys may not work since employees may either fail to articulate their reasons clearly or may choose to keep their reasons private.
Regardless of this, it is important for businesses to know how engaged their employees are at work and find ways to improve engagement.
Figuring out the reasons for poor employee engagement
There are a number of different tools and strategies a business can use to identify the engagement levels of their employees. Among them, there are two tools that offer the best insights.
Anonymous surveys: As noted earlier in this article, employees tend to keep their reasons private because they may not want to come out with problems that could affect their performance ratings. However, letting employees respond anonymously would enable an organization to gather deeper insights into how they operate.
A few points to note here. It is absolutely important to emphasize on the anonymity of this exercise. One way to establish this is by making use of third party tools to conduct surveys. While services like SurveyMonkey do allow anonymous polling, the respondent cannot be sure of this feature either way. It is thus vital that you choose a polling service that explicitly mentions if a poll is anonymous or not.
At the same time, anonymity breeds trolling and it is common for such surveys to have loads of gibberish responses. This is a price that businesses must pay in order to to get extract meaningful responses about engagement.
Exit interviews: The trouble with anonymous surveys is that the management may not be able to ask for a response to be elaborated by the respondent in case they need to hear more. Exit interviews are a better platform for this reason. Employees quitting an organization tend to be less invested in their performance ratings and are thus more inclined to answer truthfully to questions about their engagement levels at work.
It is however important to point out that organizations must strive to gather as much insights as they can through anonymous polling rather than exit interviews. Attrition costs organizations money and it is not advisable to wait for an employee to leave an organization before you can start understanding the reasons that contributed to their exit. A lot of engagement-related organizational changes can be implemented with a short turnaround time. It is thus better to deploy these changes when your worker is still with your team rather than waiting till they leave.
Setting up employee engagement metrics
Once you have understood why employees feel disengaged, it is time to work on measuring them in the workplace. For example, your surveys might have revealed that employees do not have adequate training for what they do, or do not feel part of the team that establishes the long-term vision for the organization.
The organization might need to deploy a host of subjective and objective benchmarks to measure engagement. In the example above, training adequacy could be measured through quizzes and assessments while surveys could help understand if employees believe they play a part in driving the organizational vision.
Fixing employee engagement
Once you have the necessary metrics to measure engagement, the next step is to implement fixes to your system to see if this contributes to a real improvement in metrics. Here are a few popular solutions that can work across industries and across job categories.
Gamification: Gamification is the process of using game-like features and elements on work tools. The most popular gamification elements include trophies, badges and leaderboards. One survey found that 84% of employees who experienced gamification at work felt more engaged as a result. Gamification also helped improve productivity and created happier employees at work.
Gamification could be introduced on literally any aspect of work. This could include employee training, work processes, as well as mundane tasks like filling up time-sheets and submitting work reports.
Transparent decision making: To create a highly engaged army of workers, it is first important to make them realize the value of their contributions. One of the best ways to do this is by involving them in the decision making process. There are many ways to do this. The most popular strategy is to create open-house meetings that allow workers to interact with the management. Such open-house meetings help employees get an understanding of the direction that the company is taking, and their role in the entire process.
In addition to this, businesses may also deploy Slack groups for idea sharing and discussion. This allows employees to put forth ideas that could be discussed by all stakeholders. This levels the playing field between the workers and the decision-makers and thus makes the employee more engaged at work.
Assess engagement at every stage: Regardless of your work policies, employee engagement is highly influenced by the team your employee works in, and its managers. It is thus important to train your managers at every level to make them realize the importance of engagement and how it impacts work productivity. In addition to this, assessments need to be conducted at a team level to see the influence a manager has on their team’s overall engagement.
Many businesses today are still oblivious to the impact of employee engagement on business productivity. While employee productivity is often a part of business KPI, many managers fail to see the connect between engagement and productivity. Thankfully, the number of such businesses is on the decline. It is time for managers everywhere to acknowledge the impact of engagement on productivity which ultimately contributes to the top-line of their organization.