How to Increase Employee Engagement in 3 Easy Steps
How do you increase employee engagement? This question is on the minds of every internal communications professional. And while it might seem like the solution is elusive, the truth is, cracking the code on engagement can be quite simple. In this guide, we’ll break down the three fundamental steps you need to take to improve engagement with your internal communications.
What is Employee Engagement & Why Does it Matter?
Employee engagement is linked to countless other key performance indicators (KPIs). Gallup research has linked high engagement with:
- Lower absenteeism
- Fewer safety incidents
- Lower turnover
- Less shrinkage
- Fewer quality defects in products
- Improved customer loyalty and engagement
- Higher productivity
- Greater profits
That’s a lot of reasons to take engagement seriously. But what is it exactly?
We define employee engagement as how committed employees are to their work. It’s a measure of literally how they show up to work and feel about their jobs and employers.
Some talk about engagement as an employee issue—and that disengagement is somehow a failing of employees. But we think this is a flawed way to look at it. When employees aren’t engaged, organizations and employees are equally responsible.
Kevin Finke, the CEO of Experience Willow, said, “It’s a choice to work where we do. Engagement is a choice. Employees own a lot of their experience.”
We totally agree. That’s why organizations with a poor employee experience see higher turnover. Employees choose not to engage in that kind of environment and eventually quit.
So this means it is up to organizations to create environments and work cultures that attract and retain employees.
What Factors Increase Employee Engagement?
Before we can create a strategy to improve employee engagement, we need to understand what engages employees in the first place.
Gallup has conducted a lot of research into what makes employees engaged—and also what makes them thrive. And we think that these two concepts are deeply linked. Gallup has found that there are five key elements that lead to an employee thriving or not. Within each of those categories, there are factors that are within your control, and by focusing on them, will improve employee engagement over time. Let’s break it down.
1. Career Wellbeing
Career wellbeing, perhaps, is the most obvious factor within a company’s control. The concept is simple: do your employees like what they do every day? If your employees aren’t fulfilled in their jobs, it’s unlikely that they are engaged.
Here’s what you can do about it:
- Invest in employee training. This increases employee engagement because it shows your employees you are willing to invest in them. Developing their skills helps them in the long run and helps them be more productive.
- Focus on manager communication. Despite communication being a critical role of a people manager, they are notoriously not great at it. Helping your managers be better at communicating and supporting their teams will help them create better day-to-day experiences, run better meetings, and give better performance reviews.
2. Financial Wellbeing
This might seem obvious, but how you compensate your employees has a huge impact on how engaged they feel. When an employee doesn’t feel fairly compensated, it’s easy for them to check out and feel taken advantage of.
The solutions are pretty obvious:
- Pay your employees fairly. Fair pay goes a long way towards making your employees more content and engaged in their work.
- Invest in great employee benefits. The actual salary or hourly rate isn’t the only way you can improve your employees’ financial wellbeing and engagement. The benefits you offer also make a big impact. Avoid anti-perks like pizza parties and unlimited PTO—these don’t really move the needle. Instead, figure out what your employees really need. Better healthcare plans, clear paid time off policies, etc.
3. Social Wellbeing
We spend a lot of our lives at work. So, if our social experiences at work aren’t positive, that can take a toll and cause employees to check out.
You’ve likely seen a trend lately about the rise of the “work bestie“. That’s all about improving social wellbeing.
Of course, you can’t make your employees be friends. But you can improve your work environment to foster more positive relationships. Here’s how:
- Focus on psychological safety and workplace belonging. This all comes back to your workplace culture. If your employees don’t feel safe to speak, express themselves, ask questions, or even fail, you do not have a psychologically safe workplace. And this goes hand-in-hand with whether or not your employees feel like they belong at work. Neither are good feelings and can cause your employees to disengage to protect themselves.
- Consider Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). An employee resource group can be sponsored by a company, but should be led by employees. These groups allow different groups of employees to come together to create safe spaces to talk about issues that matter to them. This can be a great way to create more support systems at work.
4. Physical Wellbeing
Gallup defines physical wellbeing as having the energy to get things done. While a lot of that may be up to an individual’s life choices, there are many ways that you can create work spaces that don’t further detract from an employee’s physical wellbeing.
- Employee Benefits. Yep, your employee benefits come into play here as well! You can invest in better benefits and perks for employees—like healthcare, gym memberships, healthy eating perks, etc. This can make it easier for employees to have access to resources outside of work that contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
- Workplace safety. Especially for logistics and manufacturing employees, your safety culture can save lives and limbs. Take this very seriously and make sure your employees know that their safety is a priority.
5. Community Wellbeing
The last component of whether or not your employees are thriving is community wellbeing. They define this as whether or not an employee likes where they live, but we think this goes much deeper.
All of us are involved in many different communities, where we live (e.g. our neighborhood or apartment building) is just one of many communities. Other communities we are involved in include:
- Our places of work
- Friend groups
- Cultural groups
- Places we volunteer
But that’s good news because companies can have a big impact on the communities we operate within. And investing our time and energy in making our community better can mean a lot to our workers. Here’s how you can make an impact:
- Invest in a company mission and purpose that is meaningful. How does your company purpose give back to the world or, at least, your community? Make that a focus and help your employees see how they contribute to something that matters.
- Create philanthropic opportunities. Many employees may want to have opportunities to volunteer or donate to causes that matter to them. Sponsoring that kind of activity can be a great way to show your investment in your teams and the community you work within.
How to Increase Employee Engagement
Although developing the right strategy to boost engagement isn’t rocket science, it can take time. That’s one of the main reasons companies are struggling with engagement.
The other reason is that they aren’t tailoring their content strategy to their specific audience. Although some best practices can be applied anywhere, every company is unique. We need to really understand our employee segments to engage them.
So, let’s review the three steps to increase employee engagement at your company.
Step 1: Conduct Audience Research
Like we already mentioned, you have to tailor your communication strategy to your specific audiences. What works for some companies might not work for yours. And that’s because each organization has different goals, cultures, shared values, workplace challenges, and people.
While we all share a desire for recognition, stimulation, and meaningful work, how we deliver that might look very different.
An employee from the midwestern United States might have a very different set of values and work philosophy than an employee from California. Or another country. Organizations have to consider that geographic differences really do have an impact on how employees wish to be communicated to.
The age of your employees can also have an impact. Generational differences do exist. And understanding exactly how that is manifesting at your company is important.
Employee tenure. Roles. Whether or not an employee is a manager. Socioeconomic factors. All of this can impact what your employees will engage with. So, it’s important to conduct demographic research, survey your employees, and conduct focus groups to really get a sense of who your employees are, what they want, and how they prefer to be communicated with.
Step 2: Adopt a Goals-Focused Mindset
If you really want to increase employee engagement, we have to better define what the outcome of high engagement looks like.
Some companies think that content opens, likes, and comments mean engagement. But does it? At theEMPLOYEEapp, we think that is actually a very passive form of engagement. A truly engaged employee is one who takes the desired action as a result of receiving content.
That’s why it’s so important to have more meaningful goals and not only look at vanity metrics like clicks and likes. Adopting this goals-focused approach will help you actually drive those KPIs like improving safety and quality.
But what does that look like in action for internal communication?
Good social media marketers do this really well. They:
- Have consistent cadences they stick to.
- Tailor their messages based on the channel.
- Diversify the type of content they share so it’s a mix of text-based, video, audio, images, etc.
- Use metrics to continue adapting their strategy for maximum impact.
- Don’t try to make each message achieve every single goal.
That last one is really important. You have many goals as an internal comms team, but you can’t expect every single message to drive a meaningful impact on each of those goals.
Some messages may be about driving awareness. Some might be about getting employees to change a behavior. And others might be to slowly shift a mindset. And that’s okay. The most important thing is that every message has a goal, that you’re measuring more than just vanity metrics, and you don’t try to accomplish everything with one single communication or campaign.
Simplifying the purpose of each message will help you drive the right kind of engagement.
Step 3: Embrace the Employee Voice
By embracing the employee voice, we really mean two things:
- That you create en employee listening strategy where you regularly gather employee feedback and act on it.
- That you amplify employee voices in your communications.
Both of these tactics are critical to increasing employee engagement. Employee listening is essential because if you want to engage your employees, there’s no one better to ask than your actual employees. You might be surprised how often your teams will have solutions to the challenges you’re facing with engagement and communication. Not to mention, they may even point out issues you didn’t even realize were there.
But amplifying employee voices is equally as important. Ultimately, employees really like hearing from their peers. Although executive communication is also important and employees want to hear from their leadership, that’s not the only voice that matters to them.
Sharing employee stories, interviewing your people, and letting leaders and teams across your company be the voice behind communication can be a huge driver of engagement. That’s because these messages often feel more authentic and transparent. But doing this also signifies that you value the perspectives of people across the organization. That their voice and input matters. And if you build a culture where you lift up employee voices and opinions rather than hide them, you are more likely to continue getting that invaluable, honest feedback from the frontlines.
Why Choose theEMPLOYEEapp to Improve Employee Engagement
Once you have the strategy in place, you need the right internal communication tools. We developed theEMPLOYEEapp to help support you in your efforts to engage your deskless workforce. If you don’t already have sufficient channels to reach your non-desk employees, that automatically creates a negative employee experience and discourages engagement.
So, we recommend conducting an internal communications audit to learn where the gaps in your comms strategy are. If you discover that you don’t have sufficient ways to reach, engage, and connect your frontline workers, let’s talk.