July 25, 2019

How to Increase Employee Engagement and Retain Your Best Workers


Your team is your business’ most important asset, and ensuring a high level of dedication and job satisfaction should be one of your top priorities in workforce management. Highly-engaged employees are more productive, more likely to stay with the company, and drive success. Yet many executives miss the opportunity to increase employee engagement.

Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workforce determined that only 15% of full-time employees are highly involved in, and enthusiastic about, their work. This means fewer than two out of ten workers understand how their work and efforts contribute to the company’s goals. Employee engagement in the U.S. is slightly better—33 percent—but that still leaves two-thirds of the workforce either not engaged or actively disengaged. Managers and peers can easily recognize actively disengaged coworkers—they are oftentimes outwardly dissatisfied and resentful, openly expressing that their needs and expectations are not being met. And while these dissatisfied workers might not be actively undermining their team and organization, they’re also not passionate about their projects—leading to projects and work not being completed to drive success.

There are two facets of employee engagement—retaining highly motivated talent and increasing job satisfaction. Here are the five steps managers can take to convert their staff into a high-performing team.

1. Show appreciation

Many executives assume that employees will only respond to a pay raise as a sign of appreciation, but there are other impactful ways to recognize the value of your staff members and their work. Although a raise in pay can have a significant effect, it’s ineffective in the long-run as a go-to solution for building team morale.

More than half of the workers being dissatisfied with employee recognition practices in their organization, it is not surprising that maintaining and increasing employee engagement is a challenge for so many companies. When employees don’t feel appreciated and encouraged on a daily basis, they’re less likely to suggest improvements, show creativity in problem-solving or go the extra mile.

Showing appreciation can take many forms—from office perks and treats that energize the entire team to company-wide recognition of the most successful staff members. Expressing gratitude for a job well done is often disregarded, especially in large enterprises, yet this everyday kindness can go a long way in fostering loyalty and trust in the team.

2. Shift flexibility

Disengagement is a known cause of employee absenteeism, which, in turn, is a solid indicator of dropping motivation and involvement. Fortunately, there are ways for managers to optimize their attendance policies in line with the employees’ needs. By giving staff members the opportunity to set their availability preferences, managers show that the company values work/life balance. This policy also allows schedule administrators to build more accurate shift schedules and minimize the risk of understaffing.

Moreover, employees should be urged to be accountable for their planned absences by allowing them to independently arrange shift trades with their coworkers when necessary. Managers only need to review these requests, which will reduce the number of schedule conflicts in the long run.

When workforce management processes exist to support the team instead of hinder it, the employees will feel that the organization is on their side.

3. Transparent communication

Enhancing employee morale demands a work environment where team members feel that they are a part of the company’s overall success of the enterprise. Transparency across the organization has a 94% direct correlation with employee happiness. Employees want to understand the company’s vision and how their contributions count. Managers and executives need to open communication channels and drive transparency—about both the good and the bad in the organization. This kind of change must come from the top, in both policy and action. If employees see their supervisors practice what they preach by being approachable, transparent, and honest, they will feel more comfortable sharing their ideas or concerns. Research has shown that employees are 55% more engaged when their leaders act as role-models for desired behavior.

Moreover, internal communication can be streamlined by deploying different communication tools and techniques, such as an internal messaging system, team discussions and brainstorming sessions, and open-door policies. These mechanisms will contribute to staff members feeling welcome to participate in business-critical processes, helping them to be more connected to the workplace.

4. On-the-job training

Any opportunity to provide additional training and education for workers is time well spent. Empowering employees to develop their skills and become more efficient in their duties is one of the most effective ways of showing appreciation and trust, particularly when the training comes with added responsibility and exciting challenges. Upskilling opportunities have been identified as one of the vital strategies for keeping top performers.

Training programs don’t require pricey sessions with external consultants. (Ex. Google, famous for its hiring and career development strategies, offers a widely popular Career Guru program where employees have the opportunity to have a one-on-one session with a coworker who has been identified as a subject matter expert.) Engaged team members will jump at the chance to learn and grow, boosting their loyalty to the company. Disengaged employees will probably not be as enthusiastic, but gaining new skills can increase their confidence and their connection with the group.

5. Offering financial incentives

While pay raises might not be the most important motivator, they are still the most tangible and have a direct impact on employees’ quality of life. Regardless of the established reward system, employers are obligated to stay informed about the labor regulations regarding wages, the pay scale and financial incentives offered by competing businesses in their geographic area.

Aside from raises and one-time bonuses, another way to provide a financial benefit to employees is through offering paid leave, especially if it is not standard in your line of business. This is not a financial compensation per se, although employees can perceive it as equally valuable. This type of reward can even help to nurture a positive competitive workplace culture.

Increasing employee engagement is not a one-time project, but rather a process that should often be revisited. Before dedicating time and resources to any of these, managers need to measure the employee engagement rate to discover what measures have the biggest potential to make an impact in their company. Only then can they commence with implementing changes that will bring the team to the next level, keeping their eyes on the prize—the success of the company.