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In 2021, the term ‘The Great Resignation’ was circling around the UK, as it was uncovered that 1 in 4 people were leaving their jobs. With the Covid-19 pandemic giving people a renewed search for purpose and flexibility, many people assessed their satisfaction within their job. Employee retention is one of the biggest challenges any organisation faces.
What is meant by keeping employees engaged?
Keeping employees engaged is a core element of ensuring job satisfaction and drive towards organisational objectives, and can be done in a number of ways. An engaged employee is someone who expends their cognitive, physical and emotional activities to strengthen to progress towards collective organisational outcomes.
What does an engaged employee look like?
An engaged employee is someone who typically matches the description below:
- They are enthusiastic about the work that they do and immerse themselves in projects they are working on. This means that they do their best to complete their work to the highest of their capability.
- They often feel a sense of purpose in their job role and their work, and may speak about their role with pride, seeing their work as vital to the wider organisation.
- They report that their strengths and their job role are aligned, feeling that they use their strengths in their work.
- They seek opportunities to grow within their role, and within the company.
- They make independent efforts to expand their knowledge and skill set to fulfil their job role, perhaps through courses, books or networking sessions.
Overall, an engaged employee is an asset to an organisation, thus keeping employees engaged should be at the forefront of an employer’s agenda, with an agenda of events and techniques that could be used.
What does an unengaged employee look like?
An unengaged employee might be identified through the following description:
- They have low levels of enthusiasm and energy in the workplace, and a negative attitude towards their work or their role.
- The quality of their work has declined.
- They are frequently found avoiding their job role, for example, by using social media, socialising with different departments, and taking coffee breaks.
- They are often absent, which may have increased over time.
- They express that they are not happy in their role and do not feel fulfilled, either to their manager or other colleagues.
- They do not show signs of learning more about how they can engage with their role.
How to keep employees engaged
Keeping employees engaged is not a single task. Instead, it requires planning, consistency and insight.
There are a number of ways employers can improve and maintain employee engagement:
Encourage and invest in their personal development
Whilst professional development is important, showing consideration towards your employees’ personal development is an integral part of getting the best out of them in the workplace. This begins by having an understanding of their interests outside of their job role. For example, they may be a talented illustrator. Whilst this might not be a part of their job currently, there may be scope for them to exercise this interest in other departments, by collaborating on different projects.
Give employees the resources they need to thrive
Employees should be able to access the tools they need to allow them to be competent and productive at work. This includes physical tools and digital software, and these should be suited to their job role. They should also be given appropriate training in using these tools, so that they can use them to the best of their abilities.
Make the environment feel safe for employees to share their ideas
Employees should feel that they can share their ideas and thoughts, and that those thoughts will be heard and considered. They should be given frequent opportunities to share their thoughts, and should not be made to feel that their ideas are not valid. If employees feel as though their thoughts are not listened to, they will simply stop sharing them. Employees often have a very good insight into how other employees feel, and into different areas of the organisation.
Praise employees and commend them for their work
Everybody likes to be recognised for the work they have done, and when they are not, it can sometimes feel disappointing. They may feel that their efforts are not being noticed, or that their work is not significant enough to be commended. If they feel this way, they may lose the motivation to work hard or to complete work to a high standard. To make sure this does not happen, regular recognition of team members should occur. This can be done in small gestures, such as shout-outs and/or through email, or it can be with larger gestures, such as promotions, performance based bonuses, or paid leave.
Have regular one-to-one catch-ups
Employees should be able to have protected one-to-one meetings with their line manager, where you focus on the needs of the employee and their development. Catch-ups can be led by the employee, with guided questions from the manager.
Provide opportunities for team building
Team dynamics is an important part of whether employees remain engaged at work. A close team, with strong bonds, understands that they all have a part to play, thus, they depend on each other to achieve good results. Inevitably, they will feel that others in their team are relying on them, and work to the best of their ability. A close-knit team with a fostered culture of honesty, sometimes termed an ‘open-door policy’, will be able to hold each other to account and give constructive feedback on each other’s work. Team building should be intentional, but can also be done indirectly through organised social events.
Be understanding of individual circumstances
Employee engagement can decline when an individual is experiencing a personal situation or has significant obligations outside of work. Employers can help their staff by providing a workaround under particular circumstances, or just generally providing a flexible working framework where possible. Employees will feel that their lives outside of work are valued and give their all to completing their jobs to a high level.
Why is keeping employees engaged important?
Data has shown that, on average, the majority of employees are either partially unengaged or fully unengaged. This means that the majority of organisations are not operating at their full potential, and a large number of people within the organisation are not happy or fulfilled.
What are the benefits of keeping employees engaged?
There are several benefits to keeping employees engaged:
- Engaged employees can help other employees to feel fulfilled in their roles. It has a knock-on effect, where already engaged employees can offer support and advice for their colleagues, thus improving their job experience.
- Engaged employees lead to better outcomes. Whether your organisation is customer or client facing, an engaged workforce will lead to increased consumer satisfaction. Engaged employees act quickly to make sure that the organisation is operating at a high level, and to resolve any issues. It is highly likely that with a more engaged workforce, your organisation will be more profitable.
- Engaged employees often want to continue to work for the organisation they are in. Loyalty comes about when employees feel invested, valued and proficient, thus an engaged workforce will lead to fewer job vacancies and increased staff retention.
- Engaged employees lead to a decline in absenteeism. Employee absence is extremely expensive for employers, and whilst some absences can be attributed to unforeseen circumstances, a company with a large absentee issue is usually seen to have unresolved problems concerning employee engagement. An employee who loves their job and their place of work typically wants to attend work. An employee who does not feel that way, and does not share a sense of collectivism, may not make work a priority. Additionally, unengaged employees may feel depressed in their job, and they may not want to attend.
- There are also personal benefits to increased employee engagement. Engaged employees may feel happier in their personal lives too, meaning at home and in their relationships, and in themselves.
- An engaged workforce will lose fewer employees to burnout, and the entire workforce is collectively working with a shared sentiment of accountability. Even during lengthy, difficult projects, a workforce with high morale will be more able to maintain energy levels.
How to increase employee engagement
Whilst there may be circumstances that fall outside of an employer’s control, there are many things that an employer can do to improve engagement. Some of these include:
- Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This means ensuring that unless it is necessary by way of the nature of the job, the employee should not be contacted about work after working hours. If they have taken a holiday, or it is a weekend, they should be allowed to switch off. Neglecting to respect their personal time can make them feel undervalued.
- Focus on employee wellbeing. You could create different initiatives that put the wellbeing of your employees at the forefront. For example, you could decide that they will be able to work certain days remotely, or even give them Friday afternoons off. Assess any company benefits package that is included with employment at the organisation.
- Make employees feel valued and confident from day one. The induction process should be a time when new employees learn from other employees and are included in social events and team projects, so that they feel as though they are part of the team.
- Provide regular professional development opportunities. This might be online or day courses specific to their job role, or it could be workshops hosted by the organisation. When an employee is trained in how to do their job better, they will be better engaged in their role.
- Provide opportunities for employees to have a social impact. Many people are seeking to make sure that their job is not simply to be sitting behind a desk for 8 hours each day, but to directly or indirectly impact the lives of others. Recent studies show that social impact is a high priority for the majority of employees in younger generations.
How can you track employee engagement?
There are a number of ways to track employee engagement, including:
- Carrying out employee satisfaction and engagement surveys. These should be anonymous. Surveys can help to give a quantitative overview of how employees view their role and the organisation as a whole.
- Analysing staff absence records for patterns of sick leave. You may notice that there are periods of burnout, or that during particular projects, a certain number of people did not attend work. You may notice that an employee’s attendance improved once they were promoted and recognised for their work.
- Create working groups and forums, where employees can come to air their views in a safe space. Departments can elect a representative to speak on their behalf.
- Speak regularly to different members of your team and ask for feedback.
A number of different organisations work towards helping to keep employees engaged:
Who can help with employee engagement?
- People Insight provides employee surveys that can help to gain insight into your employees and their challenges at work, and give you an understanding of what you may need to change and adapt to create a more engaged workforce.
- Engage For Success is a voluntary organisation that seeks to improve employee engagement to benefit companies, teams and individuals. They offer resources and advice on a range of different elements of employee engagement.
- WWF offers different fundraising activities that can boost employee engagement.