Ah, the joys of engaged employees.
They get up in the morning excited about going to work. They arrive on time. They are grateful for the appreciation and respect their employers and co-workers show them. They give 100%. They stay.
Employee engagement and retention are top priorities for most senior and HR managers. What company doesn’t want to attract, engage and retain the best talent?
An engaged employee is a valuable commodity. Engaged workers are motivated workers. Motivated workers are more productive. Higher productivity translates to higher profits.
Engaging employees, however, can be a huge challenge in the current job market. These days it doesn’t take much for an employee to change jobs. Feeling uninspired? Get a new job. Bored? Get a new job. Stuck in a meaningless job? Get a new job. Underpaid? Get a new job. Nasty boss? Get a new job.
What can you do?
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AND CORPORATE CULTURE
Engaged employees are those who feel an emotional connection to their organization, which influences their behaviors and the effort they put into their jobs. They are enthusiastic about their work and committed to the organization’s values and goals. As a result, they have a positive impact on the performance and success of their organization.
Employee engagement is influenced by the nature of the job itself and by working conditions. At its core are values—the same values that shape corporate culture.
Corporate culture refers to the beliefs, values and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. It’s often implied, not expressly defined, developing organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.
Like employee engagement, a healthy corporate culture is an essential component in the success or failure of any business.
“In a healthy culture, employees view themselves as part of a team and gain satisfaction from helping the overall company succeed,” Inc. magazine notes.
“When employees sense that they are contributing to a successful group effort, their level of commitment and productivity, and thus the quality of the company’s products or services, are likely to improve. In contrast, employees in an unhealthy culture tend to view themselves as individuals, distinct from the company, and focus upon their own needs. They only perform the most basic requirements of their jobs, and their main—and perhaps only—motivation is their paycheck.”
According to a Harvard Business Review report, the six components of a great corporate culture are:
Increasing employee engagement and building a winning corporate culture can be a difficult task, but it can also be rewarding. There are many ways to engage employees and improve corporate culture.
Here are some great ideas to get you started.
1. Establish company values and mission
If you don’t know what your company stands for, how can your employees understand what they’re doing and why?
- Align your company with a purpose. Lead your staff to focus less on what they’re doing and more on why they’re doing it. Employees, especially millennials, work better when they think they’re making a difference or doing something for the greater good.
- Establish values and create an authentic mission statement. Examine your vision and goals and come up with a truly honest, unique and meaningful mission statement. Don’t adopt an empty and generic phrase just to have something to print, frame and hang on a wall.
- Keep the mission alive. Make it a part of your daily business operations. Remind your employees frequently why they’re doing what they’re doing and how their contributions are helping the company to reach its goals.
- Allow teams to set their own values (in addition to the company values). Having teams agree and adopt their own set of values can bring them together and make them more engaged and productive.
2. Empower your employees
The power of making decisions encourages a greater sense of responsibility and ownership among employees, thus increasing engagement levels. Employees who are not allowed to make important decisions tend to disengage.
You don’t have to give up control of your company. You can put some of the decision-making in the hands of capable employees. Make sure to give them more responsibility, not just more tasks to do.
3. Help employees achieve their professional goals
Today’s workforce is mobile. The professional goals of your employees may take them on paths that lead to other companies. Crushing their dreams or putting obstacles in their way to keep them from leaving will produce miserable employees.
Learn about your employees’ professional goals and set them on a track to achieve these goals. Help employees acquire the skills through courses, workshops, internships and promotions.
4. Promote from within, allow lateral moves
One sure way of discouraging employees, particularly those interested in moving up the ladder, is to make a habit of hiring from the outside. Companies often hire externally hoping to save money, but the damage they inflict on employee morale and engagement can offset those potential gains. Among the many advantages of hiring internally is an employee that already knows your values and mission and who fits in your corporate culture.
Allowing lateral moves has a better chance of retaining talent than not allowing them. Young employees are still figuring out their career paths, while older ones may be bored or burned out in their current positions. When employees express interest in other positions, help them design a plan to get there. You will earn their trust, and they will stay rather than jump ship.
5. Provide coaching, mentoring and training
Training shouldn’t stop after the initial probation period. Studies show that employees who continue to receive coaching and mentoring are less likely to quit. Not all employees need coaching, but some do and many would welcome having a mentor.
You can offer optional weekly coaching sessions to discuss strategies that can help team members perform better at their jobs. You can mentor employees who are having difficulties or showing signs of disengagement. Use a personal approach rather than a scripted, generic method. If you can’t do it yourself, assign a manager or coworker to serve as mentor. It’s a great opportunity to improve performance, boost engagement levels and better your corporate culture.
6. Encourage learning and personal development
A stagnant mind can’t innovate. Encourage employees to learn new things and develop their skills. Long workdays can get in the way of personal development, so consider giving your employees time during the workday—30 minutes, for example—to work on personal projects or learn something new and better themselves. Your gain? Increased creativity, energy and morale, all of which leads to happier, more motivated and engaged employees.
7. Treat employees to a motivational speaker
There’s no such thing as too much inspiration. Hire a motivational speaker to work his or her magic on your employees a few times a year. Like coaching and mentoring, a good motivational speech, creativity workshops and team-building activities can do wonders for your employees and your organization.
When choosing a motivational speaker, find out what your employees are into, what’s important to them. Tailor the speakers to your employees and culture, and you will see results.
8. Lighten up and have fun
Enough cannot be said about the power of fun to engage employees and prompt positive cultural shifts. Social events help people bond with each other and get to know co-workers they normally don’t interact with on a daily basis. Fun is the best antidote for stress.
Take a half day Friday to do something fun together. Go bowling or laser tagging. Play outdoor sports or attend a local sporting event. Have a picnic in a nice park. Take them out for ice cream. Have a potluck lunch. Go on an easy hike, take photos and post them at work. Organize board game days or nights. Make up your own holiday or come up with an interesting theme an have a party. Just make sure to do your homework regarding your employees’ interests, likes and dislikes, and make the effort to plan it well.
9. Encourage charity and volunteering
Improve employee engagement and appeal to the general public by getting involved in charity and volunteering work. Most employees prefer to work for someone who gives back to the community. It makes them feel good about themselves and their company. Philanthropic organizations tend to have high levels of employee engagement and better corporate cultures.
Donate money to a local nonprofit. Sponsor a charitable event. (Consider hiring an event planner to ensure it runs smoothly.) Give your employees a few hours each month to volunteer for causes they support or organize them into volunteering teams to serve one or more nonprofit organizations.
10. Raise salaries, expand benefits
This one is a no-brainer and needs no further explanation. When it comes to salaries, benefits and perks, employees who believe they got the short end of the stick don’t stick around. If they do, they’re usually miserable rotten apples.
11. Focus on collaboration
Collaboration doesn’t mean working in the same space and exchanging a few words here and there. Collaboration goes beyond teamwork. It requires two or more people to work together to achieve a specific business goal and provide solutions. It usually involves brainstorming and sharing ideas and tasks.
Collaboration gives team members a sense of purpose and a common goal. Its benefits cannot be overstated: it improves efficiency and productivity, develop skills, solves problems, generates innovative ideas, increases job satisfaction and talent retention, among others.
13. Praise and thank your employees
Another no-brainer. It doesn’t take much time or effort to praise and thank employees for a job well done, yet the dividends of those few words are significant and long-lasting. Say “thank you.” Give praise where praise is due. And mean it.
14. Reward and celebrate
Celebrating and rewarding your employees’ hard work makes them feel valued and appreciated. You should reward employees for outstanding performance and recognize their personal achievements. It’s also a good idea to celebrate birthdays, promotions, retirements, work anniversaries and other important events. Consider holding an awards night once a year. Employees who feel like they’re getting enough attention are more likely to be engaged.
15. Incentivize goals
Create some healthy competition and reward your employees with incentives—tickets to a game or the theater, gift cards, dinner for two, time off—for meeting or exceeding expectations. Remember: to be healthy, competition has to be fair.
16. Keep open lines of communication
Yeah, yeah, you know that. Everybody knows it. You’ve heard it a million times. But are you doing it? Are you keeping those lines of communication open? Do you even have lines of communication in your company? Is there a system in place?
If there isn’t, or if there is but it’s not working as well as you hoped, you need to drop what you’re doing and focus on communication. Good communication is critical for the successful operation of any organization. It’s a step you cannot skip. Period.
Hold brainstorming sessions with executives, managers and employees. What are their communication needs? What information needs to be shared and what would be an effective way of sharing it? What should you do with that information? What about employee grievances? How do you handle them? There are countless recommendations online on how to set and maintain open communication in your business.
Bonus tip: For whatever reason, companies tend to be secretive. Do you know how employees feel about that? Not good. Here’s one way to gain the trust and good faith of your team. Give them inside information. Keep them updated with what’s happening at the organization—changes in direction, challenging situations, new products or services in the pipeline. They will feel respected and included—and engaged.
17. Give and receive feedback
This one goes hand in hand with open communication. Your employees need feedback in order to know what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong (and the same goes for you!). They are not mind readers. Lack of feedback and the frustration that grows in its place is yet another reason why employees disengage and corporate culture suffers.
Employees who shine at their jobs, like their jobs. Honest, rational, professional feedback is necessary for people to excel at their jobs. Be objective, respectful and kind. Some people will choose to get offended no matter how careful and polite you are. At the same time, encourage employees to speak their minds.
Setting up a feedback system or framework and keeping it simple might help those who feel uncomfortable receiving or giving feedback. You could, for example, send an anonymous survey.
Here are some sample questions:
- How are you feeling? How do you think others are feeling?
- Do you like your job? Why? Is there anything the company could do to make it better?
- Are you satisfied with your opportunities for professional growth?
- Do you have a good working relationship with your manager? Coworkers?
- Are you happy with your compensation?
- Do you have any ideas that could improve your job, team or the company?
And remember that for feedback to be useful you have to act on it.
18. Show respect
Respect should be the foundation for every office interaction. A lot of managers demand respect believing that it’s owed to them because of their titles. That kind of respect is not real. Genuine respect is earned through respectful words and actions.
One way to show respect is to make sure employees have all of the resources they need to do their jobs. For example, asking a team to produce daily reports and documents when four out of five printers have been broken for days or weeks is unreasonable and demoralizing. Demanding miracles from employees when the higher ups themselves consistently fail to produce miracles is the most unfair thing you can do. Watch them disengage.
19. Clarify goals and responsibilities
Confusion over goals and responsibilities is a contributing factor in falling engagement levels. Employees cannot be engaged in something they don’t understand. It’s up to management to ensure employees understand their role in the organization and to provide whatever support they need. Go into details. Ask and answer questions. Explain procedures carefully. It will save you time in the long run.
20. Take care of new hires
The first day at a new job is a stressful experience. New hires need all the help and support they can get. Do not neglect this crucial time and leave them to fend for themselves. It will have an impact on their engagement levels.
Make sure new hires get to know everyone on the team. Plan an outing for the entire team. The sooner new employees bond with one or more team members, they quicker they engage.
21. Let them create a unique office environment
Full-time employees spend half their waking hours at work. If the environment is uncomfortable, they will be uncomfortable. Uncomfortable employees are not at their best.
Office environments can be changed. Allow employees to participate in this change by listening to their ideas to make the office more comfortable and fun and making the changes themselves. Organize a painting and/or decorating day. Use color, artwork, ornaments, music and furniture to add character to your work environment. The office should be fun and inviting. And while you’re at it, replace the cubicles with open spaces.
22. Be flexible
Employees don’t like someone constantly breathing down their necks. Granted, some need to be micromanaged, and whether or not they fit in your organization is for you to decide. But most of them prefer managers who are flexible and willing to relinquish some control.
There are many ways to trust employees with flexibility. You can allow them to work from home, set their schedules, determine their number of sick and personal days or get rid of set holidays and add those days to their vacation time. They are less likely to complain if they were included in these decisions. Flexibility shouldn’t be a problem as long as they do their jobs.
Another way to be flexible is to allow your staff to choose a reasonable dress code. If cut-off jeans and flip flops don’t go with your corporate image, then put them on the “don’t” list. If changing the everyday dress code is not doable at your company, implement casual days (Fridays, for example).
23. Emphasize work-life balance
Work-life balance is the source of many a crisis. The stress that a poor work-life balance produces results in problems at work, problems at home, relationships problems, health problems and more problems. There’s simply no way job performance can go unaffected when people feel pulled in so many directions and nothing gives.
Help with work-life balance issues is one of the most important things employers can do for their employees. Give them time to pick up their kids at school. Implement flextime and telecommuting policies. Don’t pressure them to come to work sick. Establish a wellness program. Remember: they are human resources.
24. Implement a health and wellness program
Stress in the workplace is the No. 1 reason employees quit. It’s also at the core of many unhealthy habits. Experts and studies maintain that health and wellness efforts at work yield higher productivity and increase employee engagement, reducing turnover. But we don’t need experts and studies to tell us that, do we?
Wellness programs include exercise facilities, gym memberships, health screenings, yoga classes, transit options, longer lunches, nutritional advice, massage therapy, healthy lunch and snacks options, weight management programs, smoking cessation incentives, flu shots, and many others. An online search of wellness programs will reveal great ideas you can start implementing today. Your employees will thank you.
Bonus tip: Bring a comedian once a month at lunch or after work for much needed comic relief.
24. Hire wisely
Have you ever hired someone who was qualified for the job, had a good personality and great attitude only to find out he or she just didn’t fit? You forgot your company culture. If you don’t know your company culture, study it and figure it out because you need to hire by it. A good cultural fit is more likely to want to work with existing employees, understand and embrace your values and enjoy the environment.
Consider bringing employees into the hiring process. Their presence and participation can be helpful during the interview and help you hire the right person for the job. Allowing them to be part of the hiring process will also make them feel important, appreciated and more engaged.
Remember that knowledge can be acquired, skills can be learned, but attitude and personality are there to stay.
25. Get help
Typical HR responsibilities—recruitment, onboarding, training, performance reviews, benefits management, etc.—leave little or no time for employee engagement and corporate culture issues.
Consider hiring someone responsible of employee engagement and culture in your organization. That person can study your company and staff and make suggestions as well as implement steps to improve employee engagement and corporate culture, track progress and measure results.
Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it, get it done. Happier employees are not free, but they’re worth every penny.