Employee engagement is a hot topic in the business world and it has been touted as one of the ways in which the UK can tackle its productivity slump.
However, with the recent news that just 12% of SMEs are prioritising employee engagement strategies, it’s time to start thinking about how your employees feel about their work and what you can do to improve engagement levels.
Why worry about employee engagement?
Engagement means improving the way that your colleagues and staff interact, both with their work and with each other. Highly engaged employees are generally more productive, and “engaged business units tend to deliver better performance, as measured in terms of revenues and profits” according to the Harvard Business Review.
Additionally, engaged employees are more likely to stay with their employer, according to research. If retaining top talent is important to you or your businesses, then improving engagement should be on your agenda.
Finally, engaging work has been found to be central to our overall happiness, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report 2017.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can help you to understand what drives happiness. Work broadly meets the base-level conditions needed; security and safety (providing a stable job with a steady income), but to see improved performance from employees, it’s important that work meets other psychological needs.
These include the need to belong (in a social and professional sense) and the need recognition or validation (labelled self-esteem on the pyramid, this can be thought of as confidence or self-belief). The higher up the pyramid an employee is, the more engaged they are.
The idea behind increased engagement is that it will lead to employees making greater “discretionary effort” in the work. Discretionary effort is that which goes above and beyond the minimum needed for certain tasks; working in a more impactfulway.
If employee engagement aims to increase the level of discretionary effort made by employees, this raises an important question: are your staff currently underperforming, and if so, why?
There are several factors that may be to blame. Common themes include pay, management, rewards packages, as well as personal circumstances, workplace culture or alignment with career goals.
When faced with a dissatisfied workforce and several possible causes, figuring out precisely what the issue/s are. Smoothing out any issues can help to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable.
One of the best ways to understand any issues is to create a communicative atmosphere.
As highlighted by Glassdoor, the online job search and recruitment company, “increasing employee engagement starts with giving people a voice”. By fostering a workplace where staff can feel comfortable communicating, you can get feedback about what your staff value, what works for them and a chance for them to air any concerns or ideas.
Once you have the feedback from your staff, you can begin to implement changes. Employee engagement is perhaps best understood as the “perks of the job”, the rewards that are separate from salary.
Companies like Perkbox have helped to highlight what matters to employees, and large companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook have long offered their staff a range of benefits: on-site (or subsidised) childcare, flexible working hours, unlimited holidays… the list goes on.
Workers across the world are increasingly benefitting from these flexible benefits. These perks go above and beyond the basic requirements of a job (providing a stable job with a steady income). These perks can keep morale and motivation high, helping employees to feel valued and driving engagement.
What can you do?
If you’re interested in offering a flexible benefits package for your employees, you can consult with your employees and see which benefits are the most appealing to them. You can then engage with a provider (such as Perkbox, or similar) to implement a scheme.
The cost of a scheme will depend on the number of employees you have and the type of benefits that you choose.
Recognising the importance of your employees to the success of your business – and rewarding them with something a little bit different – could be the best decision you make.