By Jaime Gonzales

The benefits of an engaged workforce are huge—from better employee retention to increased performance and higher organizational profits. But many organizations struggle with the big question: How do we improve employee engagement?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for how to best improve employee engagement. What drives employee engagement depends on an organization’s culture and industry, as well as the individual employee—their job function, career path, and so much more.

However, there are a few best practices all organizations can consider when it comes to improving engagement.

Employee engagement surveys

Pulse surveys give organizations the ability to collect valuable analytics and insights across the employee lifecycle. Up-to-date data provides a dynamic look at sentiment and engagement in specific roles and departments, and across the entire organization. This allows leaders to spot (and prevent) problems in the organization, and offer recognition for successes in nearly real time.  Leaders are able to extract insights that can guide projects, processes, interactions, profitability, and employee engagement.

Managers’ crucial role

Employees are more engaged when their leaders are engaged and transparent. How can organizational leaders make this a reality? By communicating the vision and empowering their managers. Managers are the conduit between employees and organizational leaders because they truly know the local-level needs of their teams. So it’s critical that leaders equip their managers with the right information to build trust and authenticity between employees and leaders. 

This means that, generally, leaders need to provide clear expectations to managers and then enable them to lead their teams by example. In practice, this could take shape in a number of ways, like frequent pulses that help managers understand what matters most to the team; ongoing manager-led conversations with all team members to build trust and connections; and regular manager and employee one-on-ones to discuss priorities and support needs. 

Frequent conversations

Conversations are so central to improving employee engagement that it’s worth spending a bit more time on them. Pulse surveys are just one way to collect and understand employee feedback. For maximum effect, frequent conversations (for teams and one-on-one) are a critical element in learning about what drives and motivates employees. Conversations are a great opportunity for leaders to learn about and discuss potential problems or troubling trends; identify solutions and related actions; and celebrate key wins and accomplishments. To improve engagement, leaders should practice clear, honest, and transparent communication with employees.

Learning and personal development

Employees are more engaged when they feel equipped and empowered to do their job, and have opportunities to build skills for the future. Learning is an essential part of meeting that need. To ensure employees get the most value out of learning opportunities, you should align them to employees’ interests or strengths, put structure around them, and keep them ongoing. Remember that learning does not always have to happen in a formal environment. It can happen (and is most effective) on the job through new experiences, stretch assignments, mentoring, or coaching. Classroom learning, online learning, or on-demand training can also be used. 

Tools to enable employee success

Simply providing employees with the right tools can help them increase their own efficiency and performance. For instance, self-service analytics tools can give employees more insight into customer expectations and trends so they can take their service to the next level. Additionally, tools that simplify and streamline necessary work processes—such as a single customer database or CRM—make it easier for employees to do their jobs, which in turn has a positive impact on employee engagement.

Employee recognition

Sometimes boosting engagement is as simple as recognizing those who are already performing well. Consider ways to recognize employees that work well for their job role, location, and schedule. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because recognition preferences can vary by individual. Ideas include informal praise in an email or a meeting, or a shout-out in more formal settings such as organizational or departmental meetings. Some organizations may benefit from an employee recognition system, in which peers or managers can nominate others for outstanding work. This type of system can improve engagement and strengthen relationships. Employee recognition helps employees feel their work is contributing to the organization as a whole and encourages them to keep doing so.

Inclusive and diverse workplaces

A workplace culture that fosters a sense of belonging translates to a more engaged workforce and a greater competitive advantage. To create a sense of belonging, many organizations turn their attention to strategies and tactics that support diversity—the variety of differences between people in their workforce —and inclusion—helping those employees feel a greater sense of belonging. A Deloitte study found that organizations that focus on both diversity and inclusion can see up to a 2x increase in feelings of engagement, as compared to organizations that focused only on diversity (1.2x), or only on inclusion (1.7x).

Creating a more engaged workplace

Engaged employees are more willing to contribute time and effort to their work—and the organization’s overall goals. Improving employee engagement really comes down to following people-centric best practices: effective management practices, solid communication, relationship building, etc. It’s not enough to simply implement changes; it’s important to understand their impact through measurement and then translate those insights into continual improvement.

Are you interested in learning about how to improve employee engagement at your organization? We’d love to talk to you about it.