Finding the right people for a job is one of the biggest challenges businesses face. And we all know what happens if they don’t succeed. ;)
But as surprising as it may be, it’s not the most difficult thing. According to new research of more than 600 US businesses with 50-500 employees, 63.3% of companies say retaining employees is actually harder than hiring them. Especially today, when companies are tempting potential employees with ever-so-special benefits and dream working conditions.
With every reliable employee who decides to part ways with their employer, companies lose much more than “just” an experienced staff member. Taking into account the cost of hiring a new person and the onboarding process as well as the potential delays in delivering projects or services to customers, they also lose money and experience a decrease in productivity of the whole team, since the loss also hurts other team members and might lower company morale.
Having in mind the cost of losing a valuable employee, companies should do their best to make the staff want to stay. Offering a good salary and a nice choice of benefits is one thing they can do. Let’s admit it – we all like to brag about a gym membership or free massages we get as part of an employee benefit scheme at work. ;)
But a crucial factor that can decide whether a staff member wants to stay in a job is their whether they feel committed to what they do. Therefore, it’s crucial to be able to maintain employee engagement – apart from retaining valuable employees, it helps achieve much more.
It turns out that employee engagement results in increased customer satisfaction – the most committed employees are, according to Quartz, “more inclined to put in the effort that translates into buzzing productivity levels, a happier sales force, and a more credible product pitch.” Why is it so? Well, an employee who likes their job also cares about it more and puts much more effort into providing customers with high quality service. Customers, in turn, notice the commitment and passion, which increases their satisfaction and maintains brand loyalty and that’s the key to success.
Another benefit of increased employee engagement is a considerable rise in productivity. According to a Gallup poll, engaged employees are 21% more productive than those who do not feel committed to their work. Simple as it is, if someone likes their job and enjoys the work environment, they want to deliver better results and are therefore more productive. And the struggle to increase employee productivity can be a real pain in the neck, so why not try this way.
Although it may seem difficult, it’s certainly possible. As a manager, you just need to make sure that several good practices become part of your company culture for good. Let’s take a look at what you should take care of.
Effective communication is an absolute must in any team and a driving force for employee engagement. It keeps everyone up to date with the progress and helps avoid potential misunderstandings. When you look at the advice the best leaders in the world give when asked about the secret of great leadership, communication is always at the top of the list. And it’s not surprising at all. So make sure regular communication is a habit in your company or team and an element of your everyday work. Organise brief meetings on a regular basis, provide employees with efficient communication tools, encourage them to communicate with one another and be there for them when they need you, to respond to potential questions and clear up their doubts. It will work wonders for their level of engagement and you’ll see the results right away.
Confusion and lack of visible results of work are some of the biggest enemies of employee engagement. To make sure it’s not the reason your team doesn’t feel committed to what they do, you need to take care of clear and efficient workflow. The worst thing a leader can do is give vague or conflicting instructions and set unclear goals. Employees should always know what they are expected to do, where it’s placed within the process and how it will contribute to the project they’re working on, as it gives them a sense of progress. On the other hand, you should avoid micromanaging and give them space to organise their own work whenever possible. Do ask if anything is unclear and offer support when needed – they will certainly reach out when they feel they need a helping hand.
Talking about micromanagement… Even if you know it’s not something you should do, you might have started to wonder how much flexibility you should give your employees, at the same time being able to have everything in check. Well, too much flexibility is not a good thing either, but too little of it may have a very bad influence on employee engagement. So rather than giving employees too much freedom with organising their work, maybe you could offer flexible working hours or the possibility to work remotely from time to time? It will definitely increase their engagement and job satisfaction at the same time.
As a leader, you often give your employees feedback about their work, the progress they’ve made, and the like. If you don’t, you should definitely start! Without regular feedback, employees easily get discouraged or may not be aware of areas they need to improve, while it’s extremely important to give them a chance to do so.
However, it works the other way around as well. Think about how many times you’ve had something to say about the work process or a project you were working on. And how did you feel when there was no one to listen to your opinion or when everyone ignored what you had to say? Probably frustrated and discouraged, to say the least. You need your team’s feedback just as much as they need yours. Their input can be extremely valuable for your business and for you as a leader. In turn, given a chance to voice their opinions, your employees will feel appreciated and valued, which can work wonders for their engagement.
Although it’s understandable that you want your employees to be committed to their work and stay productive, you need to have in mind that nothing improves productivity as much as regular breaks. Of course, moderation is key, just as with anything, but a 5 minute break in regular intervals is an absolute must to keep their minds clear and foster creativity. Encourage your employees to use apps that will help them see when they need a break to recharge their batteries and get back to work with even greater enthusiasm.
If an employee is to stay engaged, they need to have a clear understanding of their duties and be aware of how they contribute to the company’s success. Even if it sounds obvious (who doesn’t know their duties?), it not always is. That’s why you should take care that employees have a clear list of responsibilities and a well-defined career path. This may obviously change along the way, but again – make sure it’s always clear to them how their role is changing and where they fit in the company’s mission.
Not only do employees need to know their duties and responsibilities, but they also need to feel appreciated for their efforts. According to research, 84% of highly engaged employees were recognised the last time they went above and beyond at work, compared to only 25% of actively disengaged employees. It doesn’t mean you need to praise employees all the time and never give negative feedback. You should always be honest with them, but the importance of giving recognition when it’s well-deserved is not to be overrated. It gives employees a boost and motivates them to keep up the good work, therefore increasing their engagement and bringing noticeable benefits to your company. And what’s equally important – make sure the person actually feels recognised, which is by no means obvious, as we’re all very different and have different expectations.
The possibility of professional development is on top of the list of reasons why people choose a job offer. When an employee is eager to learn and wants to make progress, you should definitely provide them with possibilities to do so. You might worry that investing in their development will not pay off if they decide to change the job at some point, but there are plenty of ways to protect your company against such situations. On the other hand, as much as an employee who keeps developing is a perfect target for your competition, one that doesn’t develop becomes much less valuable for yours. Try to help your team achieve their professional goals and you can be sure they will not want to leave you for the competition.
A transparent company is one that gives everyone equal opportunities to stay up to date with the situation and updates the team on a regular basis. It fosters employees’ trust and makes the company credible, therefore giving employees a sense of belonging and stability. What helps ensure transparency are regular updates on the current situation, the progress it’s making or the changes it’s undergoing. There are various forms you can choose from – a video chat, a monthly newsletter or regular meetings where everyone can ask questions and expect an honest answer. Whatever works for your company culture, but make sure it’s there.
We’ve started with communication as the very first and most important factor and so the last piece of advice will only highlight its importance. Being honest always pays off, so remember to talk to your employees about their engagement. Be clear about your expectations and don’t be afraid to tell them if their commitment is not sufficient. Ask them for their feedback and listen to what you as the employer can do to increase their engagement. Or maybe their feedback will be positive and you’ll know what makes them committed to their work and what they appreciate the most. Do it regularly and you’ll see the results.