40 years ago, almost no one cared about metrics like “Employee engagement.” Today, most HR departments are painfully aware of the difference engagement can make. With research by the Korn Ferry Group showing that companies with engaged employees are up to 2.5 times more profitable than those without, most of us are right to be concerned.
At the same time, engagement offers room for improvement. Whether your organization already has a relatively engaged workforce or one that focuses on clocking out and going home, you can take steps to improve engagement and business results.
Importantly, employee engagement is never about perks, about specific rewards, or about one-time actions. Engagement only happens with consistent long-term results that drive change.
Link Vision and Strategy to Daily Work
Most people clock into work, perform an allotted number of tasks or work towards specific goals, clock out, and go home, all with no real idea of what they’ve contributed towards or achieved. This can be highly demotivating, especially over the long-term, where individuals often see no real change.
One important way around this type of demotivation is to ensure everyone always knows what they’re working towards. This means linking organizational vision and strategy (or big goals) into smaller goals, broken down into daily work. If everyone can easily see what their work is contributing towards and hopefully how close that goal is, they’ll be more motivated and therefore more engaged.
Empower Individuals and Teams to Own Their Projects
While traditional waterfall organizations don’t often support employee empowerment, doing so can greatly increase engagement. Here, you create cross-functional teams that can handle every aspect of a project they’re working on, assign ownership to that team, and allow people and teams to work towards results in a manner of their choosing. Doing so allows experts who know how to do their own work to optimize, take ownership, and engage with their work in new ways. What does ownership mean? One team will design strategy for, choose how to create, create, launch, and finalize any project. They’ll take full responsibility for its success or failure.
While this can create some risk in that everyone is not following the same standardized processes, you can implement with controls and general guidelines for processes in place to ensure everything is handled to the same (or better) level of quality than before. Why does offering ownership increase engagement? People get to be proud of what they’re working on, to improve it, and to work on it in their own way.
Encourage, Recognize, and Share Creativity and Passion
Not everyone in your organization will be creative, passionate, or engaged. But, when you do see these behaviors, it’s important to stop, recognize, and share them. Doing so can mean something as simple as having Scrum leaders stop to congratulate individuals on a job well done. It can mean improving performance scores. It can mean celebrating teams meeting new targets and goals.
Whatever you choose to do, it should involve specifically offering recognition when you see the traits you want to foster, encouraging them with open workspaces and flatter hierarchies, and creating space for individuals to fail and try again within those goals.
Teams are engaged when they have ownership, room to be creative, and space to communicate and share ideas effectively. If they know what they’re working on, why, and are responsible for the end-outcome, they have that much more motivation to engage with their work. Over time, this will improve productivity and increase employee satisfaction, both of which will cut down turnover and add to real business results.