Employee engagement is often easier to sense than define, but it occurs when employees feel enabled and enthusiastic to contribute to their company’s success. Engaged employees focus on their professional futures and are aligned with their companies’ objectives, so they are often more effective at applying their talents to achieve corporate business goals.
Americans are among the most engaged workers in the world, yet less than 30 percent of US workers are fully engaged. Most are not entirely passionate about their work but not ready to walk either. According to one Gallup poll, disengagement causing productivity loss costs U.S. businesses $350 billion annually.
Combat disengagement by rewarding engagement. Measure attitude in the performance evaluation. Disengaged employees will be discouraged from vocalizing their discontent and “poisoning the pot.” Genuinely engaged employees will be recognized and rewarded for their positive attitude and passionate contribution to the organization.
To further improve engagement levels, recognize the essential elements:
Good management. An employee-supervisor relationship is the greatest predictor of employee engagement. Top executives may set broad directives, but an immediate boss has the influence and authority to direct day-to-day work, define roles, establish expectations, provide feedback and reward individual contributions. In fact, praise from a direct supervisor is almost twice as effective at motivating employees as monetary rewards.
Communication. Simply put, managers cannot lead if they don’t communicate. Good communication consists of an open, honest and frequent exchange of ideas.
Rewards and recognition. Interestingly, pay plays a relatively small role in employees engagement, while rewards and recognition can greatly influence engagement. Employees work harder when their efforts are recognized and rewarded. A formal program acknowledging an employee’s years of service or a simple heart-felt “attaboy” can both be effective.
Accountability and performance. Good performers are more likely to feel good about their companies. Help employees reach optimum performance by providing quality coaching and honest, constructive, timely feedback. Immediate praise reinforces good behavior. Prompt criticism helps keep issues from escalating.
Professional development. Talented, high-achieving workers value professional development. Providing opportunities for employees to develop new skills and advance their careers will help keep top performers motivated and engaged. Again, supervisors play a big part by understanding where employees want to take their careers and affording them opportunities for growth in that direction.
Culture and corporate responsibility. A positive corporate culture fosters happy, engaged employees who are eager to come to work. Employees proud of their company’s contributions in the community are twice as engaged as those who aren’t.
Vision and values. Clearly communicated vision and values help align employees with a common goal. When employees feel part of something bigger than themselves, they go above and beyond to contribute to that greater purpose.