Improving Employee Engagement: Actionable Strategies for Success

Oct 19, 2023 | Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has reached the lowest point in a decade, as the Great Resignation has shown. If you’re an HR leader, you already know this has adverse effects throughout an organization.

In fact, maintaining high employee engagement levels may be the challenge of the year. HR leaders and managers find themselves fighting an uphill battle to keep employees motivated, aligned with company goals, and actively contributing to the organization’s success. 

What exactly does employee engagement entail? In a nutshell, it includes four key elements:

  • A sense of commitment to their company
  • Strong identification with their company
  • Satisfaction with their job
  • A high level of energy at work

Organizational success hinges on these four components of engagement. Each of them is crucial for fostering a productive workplace that keeps driving toward more ambitious goals.

We’ll first zero in on the main challenges with enhancing engagement. Then, we’ll discuss actionable strategies that you can implement to improve engagement in your organization.

Table of Contents

1. The Challenges of Increasing Employee Engagement

2. The Positive Impact of Engaged Employees

3. Strategies for Engaging and Motivating Employees

4. Software to Help HR Professionals Boost Engagement

The Challenges of Increasing Employee Engagement

Lack of employee engagement seriously affects companies’ success. Let’s explore how it does this, followed by what causes engagement to decline.

An Ongoing Problem

By the end of 2022, just 32% of employees were engaged on the job. This marks a drop of 4 percentage points since 2020, reports Gallup. Meanwhile, 18% are actively disengaged. This lack of employee engagement has grown prevalent across industries and in all sizes of companies.

Here’s why it matters:

  • Low employee engagement levels dramatically affect an entire team and organization. If just a of couple employees feel disengaged, the morale and engagement of the entire team can quickly plummet.
  • Absences from work also increase with lack of engagement. Even when employees show up, they’re not fully present. Instead, they simply go through the motions of their daily tasks. Innovation and problem-solving decline as a result.
  • Disengaged employees are likely to look for a new job or simply quit. Mass resignations can occur when a workforce grows increasingly disengaged. It can be a vicious cycle—those left to pick up the slack will become more disengaged and burnt out themselves.
  • Safety incidents can increase when engagement drops. Less engaged employees aren’t as focused and conscientious.

In all of these ways, lack of employee engagement has serious impacts on organizational success. “This apparent problem has been referred to as an ‘engagement gap’ that is costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars a year in lost productivity,” write A. M. Saks and J. A. Gruman in an article published in Human Resource Development Quarterly. Engaged employees identify strongly with their work and have high levels of energy, in contrast to those who are disengaged or burnt out, they explain.

Reasons for Declining Engagement

According to Gallup, the following factors are responsible for the drop in engagement:

  • Unclear expectations
  • Lack of connection to the company’s purpose
  • Perceived lack of growth opportunities
  • Inability to leverage their strengths
  • Feeling like their boss or colleagues aren’t concerned about their wellbeing

Having unclear expectations leaves employees feeling completely demoralized. With the rise of remote and hybrid work, that’s an all-too-common situation. And for 83% of employees, the ability to find meaning in their daily work is a top priority. 

To address the lack of employee engagement, organizations need to confront these challenges head-on. In a moment, we’ll discuss how to do that.

The Positive Impact of Engaged Employees

Happy workers in a meeting having a pleasant discussion
Credit: RDNE Stock project/Pexels

Engaged and motivated employees truly care about their jobs. To them, it’s much more than just a paycheck. They’re the people who strive to bring their A-game every day. 

“Companies constantly evolve, and they need new ideas all the time. Engaged employees are a lot closer to the best ideas,” says Jim Harter, chief scientist of employee engagement and wellbeing for Gallup. “They’re thinking about the whole company and how they fit into it, and their ideas lead to better decisions.”

Engaged employees have more loyalty to their organization, too. Because they enjoy their jobs and find purpose in their work, they’re likely to stick around for a long time. This reduces the expense of recruitment and allows teams to maintain consistency by keeping the same members.

Gallup has found the following differences between organizations with the highest and lowest employee engagement:

  • An 81% difference in absenteeism
  • 64% fewer safety incidents among high performers
  • A 41% difference in product quality
  • 23% greater profitability among high performers

For all these reasons, organizational success depends on having engaged employees. According to experts, engagement results in higher productivity returns for shareholders, profitability, and ultimately, customer satisfaction, write Saks and Gruman.

To address the lack of employee engagement, organizations need to confront these challenges head-on. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to do that.

Strategies for Engaging and Motivating Employees

Diverse team of employees working together and are smiling
Credit: Yan Krukau /Pexels

In a report published in Harvard Business Review, researchers cite three critical ways to boost engagement:

  • Help employees connect their work to what they care about, instilling purpose.
  • Minimize stress and make their work more enjoyable.
  • Reward employees with extra time off, as well as monetary incentives.

“Leaders are often not aware of what is most important for driving employee engagement,” the researchers write. “The levers leaders think are most important do not correspond to what is actually most important.” Too often, leaders and HR directors ignore those key factors, instead focusing on less important ones.

In another report, Gruman and Saks describe three core components of increasing employee engagement:

  • Increasing the psychological meaningfulness of their work. This refers to one’s sense of feeling valuable in their role and able to contribute in a significant way.
  • Ensuring psychological safety. This entails trusting their team and manager, which allows them to express their ideas and fully participate at work without fearing that negative consequences for their career, identity, or status may result.
  • Promoting psychological availability—employees’ readiness to engage in their work or sense of confidence about doing so. Levels of physical or emotional energy, security, and worries about outside demands can all affect psychological availability. Researchers define it as “the sense of having the physical, emotional, or psychological resources to personally engage at a particular moment.”

As psychology professor Barry Schwartz says, “The way to maximize performance is to create an environment in which intrinsic motivation, moral commitment, and personal responsibility flourish.” Putting these principles into practice will cause engagement to soar.

In fact, the highest-performing companies average 70% engagement—even during these tough times, Gallup emphasizes. Become one of them by taking the following steps.

1. Create a Value-Driven Mission Statement

Reframe your mission to match employees’ priorities, the HBR researchers suggest. If you aim to become the industry leader, great—but how will that positively impacg society? If you can create a more value-driven mission statement, it will resonate more strongly with employees. 

Then, help employees understand how their work furthers that mission. This will help them identify with the company and its purpose.

2. Centre Intrinsic Motivations

Talk with employees about which elements of their work they find most rewarding. If they can do tasks they enjoy more often, they’ll gain intrinsic rewards from their work, the HBR researchers assert. In turn, you’ll have more motivated employees.

Stress will drop as they handle tasks that leverage their strengths and interests, too. Redesign roles and responsibilities to fit employee interests whenever possible. And involve them in setting their own goals rather than just pursuing goals set for them, which can greatly boost their engagement in their role.

3. Set Weekly Expectations

In today’s agile environment, priorities can shift week by week. Urgent situations come up. Don’t assume that the expectations you set for the quarter are still relevant. Lack of clear expectations causes employees to quickly disengage.

Instead, set expectations on a weekly basis. Managers can discuss expectations with employees on Friday afternoons, for instance. Then, at the start of the new week, they can check in with them to reaffirm weekly goals.

4. Redesign Your Culture

Compare your desired culture with your current one. Consider how workplace environment, leadership styles, and inclusivity all factor in. Reflect on your values and talk about them as a team. Then find ways to live them, like agreeing not to send emails after 6 p.m.

5. Allow for Hybrid Work

Engagement has especially declined among employees who want to work from home but still have to work from an office. So, consider implementing a hybrid arrangement if you haven’t already.

Create a clear schedule for in-office and remote work, too. Clarify which days people can come to the office for collaboration. This will spark both spontaneous and planned group work and brainstorming sessions.

6. Provide Daily Feedback

Encourage managers to give employees daily feedback. Remote tools for sharing input can help. Make sure they’re holding at least one in-depth conversation per week with each employee, too.

7. Discuss How They Fit into Future Plans

Be transparent about how employees will fit into future plans. Transparency about the future brings a sense of security, reports the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). A Quantum Workplace study found this to be a key driver of engagement.

8. Deploy Listening Strategies

Roll out a strategy for listening to employees’ input to understand how employees view their company and culture. You’ll gain insights into the drivers of engagement, like job satisfaction. When you listen to employees and take action on their input, you’ll help them feel more empowered and engaged.

9. Support Managers

Managers are one of the most disengaged groups of workers. If managers feel disengaged, it’s almost impossible for their teams to be engaged. Here’s how to help managers overcome their own engagement challenges.

Give Them the Right Tools

Providing managers with the tools to support their work will greatly improve their engagement. Today’s managers are burdened by heavy time constraints and conflicting demands. They must respond strategically to disruption, while also delivering frequent feedback to employees.

Use goal-tracking software to help them manage employees effectively, for instance. Such tools enhance their ability to coach direct reports, avoiding confusion and wasted time. Leveraging these tools will keep managers up to speed on employees’ progress toward weekly objectives.

Hold Group Workshops

Plan an engaging series of workshops for managers that support their growth, too. As SHRM reports, such “manager boot camps” can greatly boost engagement. And these trainings can help them connect with a cohort of peers who are dealing with the same issues. Together, they can discuss how they handle remote conversations with employees, for instance. They’ll get fresh ideas and build morale together, leading to stronger engagement.

Offer Chances to Level Up

Let managers use their strategic thinking skills, practising for the next level, urges SHRM. This will keep them driven to excel, knowing they have a pathway forward. Give managers the chance to connect with leaders two levels above them, too. They’ll benefit greatly from their mentorship, guidance, and encouragement—and they’ll feel more valued at work.

Next, let’s explore how to use software strategically to enhance engagement.

Software to Help HR Professionals Boost Engagement

Software solutions can help you enhance employee motivation and engagement. Primalogik offers a top-tier performance management suite of tools that covers everything from surveys to performance reviews, for example. These tools help companies keep their employees driven to achieve ambitious goals, bringing more purpose to their work. 

Weekly pulse surveys can help assess engagement. However, you must use other tools that can gather more objective data as well, notes SHRM. Use performance management software to track actual engagement levels using hard data.

By implementing these engagement strategies, you can increase organizational success substantially. Employee motivation, energy, and commitment will soar, bringing a renewed level of productivity and job satisfaction. You’ll notice teams becoming more inspired and driven, and the quality of your products or services will increase in turn. In short, they’ll be fully present in their work, and in turn, they’ll achieve a higher level of excellence week after week.

Learn firsthand how the right software can benefit your performance review process—or even help you revamp it. Request a demo of our product today.

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