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When’s the last time you went above and beyond for a friend you felt didn’t really appreciate you? Or someone who wasn’t all that interested in your friendship? Probably a while ago. The same logic applies to work. Although employee engagement is often undervalued as a way to boost profits and increase growth, a whopping $7 trillion of productivity is lost every year as a result of poor employee engagement.
The most successful businesses share one thing in common: engaged employees. Unfortunately, the key barrier holding companies back from improving employee engagement long term is a mainly reactive approach from senior management.
Too many companies wait for a poor employee engagement score before acting to increase employee engagement, leading to a company that’s always one step behind, and valued staff members disengaging from their work and leaving before anything improves.
In this article, we will be exploring why HR teams and senior management should instead adopt a proactive approach and give employees the ability to share their own ideas to drive engagement. Let jump into it!
To win the marketplace, you must first win the workplace.
----- Doug Conant, CEO Cambell Soup Company -----
Simply put, engagement equals profits, as engaged teams show 21% higher profitability. Employee engagement isn’t only the basis for a happy, fulfilled workplace - it can clearly impact your bottom line.
When employees don’t feel engaged, productivity and staff morale can decrease, leading to issues with staff retention.
Getting employee engagement right from the start and implementing it long-term is the best way to drive productivity and improve your company’s profitability.
Most big organisations run yearly surveys to measure engagement levels. Some of the key questions in these surveys give us a good insight into what drives feelings of engagement at work.
From these, it’s obvious that communication has a key role to play, and so it’s no surprise that listening to employees and their ideas is a powerful strategy.
Did you know?
Employee engagement is a relatively new field of study. Appearing first in an academic paper in the 1990s, companies have slowly moved from "employee satisfaction" measures used in the 70s and 80s to "employee engagement" as the link between staff engagement and company performance became more pronounced.
The emergence of COVID-19 and the decrease in employee engagement have gone hand-in-hand. Contributing in part to ‘the Great Resignation’, many employees have struggled with mental and physical health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, and workers in particular industries have gone above and beyond but don’t feel adequately rewarded by their companies for doing so.
Lack of employee engagement worsens productivity, profit and staff retention. The less engaged staff are, the less likely they are to put their full potential into a job, and the more likely they are to look elsewhere for employment, leading to a rise in staff turnover rates.
Excessive staff turnover alone can have serious consequences, with research showing that the estimated cost of losing one employee in a retail environment is between $3,500 and $25,000.
Plus, without employee engagement, strategic transformations won’t happen. Employees are at the centre of any company’s performance, and without buy-in from your staff, making organisation-wide changes will prove difficult.
Organisations should also take into account the shifting workplace demographics. Gen Z and Millennials now make up nearly half of the workforce, and research shows that they want to feel they’re making an impact at work. To future-proof your workplace for future generations, putting employee engagement and well-being at the centre of your organisation is non-negotiable.
Low Employee Engagement
Research shows that disengaged employees are less likely to work hard, feel motivated, or meet expectations for their role, and they cause 60% more errors and defects in work performance
Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Increasing employee engagement isn’t an overnight process, but it’s undoubtedly worth investing in if you want a future of strategic and financial growth for your company. It’s a win for your employees and a win for your bottom line!
The key to engaging employees lies in taking a proactive approach. Rather than waiting for a worst-case scenario, adopting strategies for employee engagement now can help you build a better business tomorrow.
These methods will drive employee engagement on a deeper level for long-lasting results. Here’s how.
You are what you do, not what you
say you’ll do.
----- C. G. Jung -----
You’ve established that increasing employee engagement is crucial to your company’s success, and you’re probably already thinking of ways to better engage your employees in the goals of the business.
Traditional employee engagement methods like regular surveys are absolutely necessary, but the world’s best companies and their leaders (like Google’s Sundar Pichai) know how to take things a step further. Check out the six ways to take engagement to the next level below!
If there’s one thing employees want, it’s to feel heard by their company. Employees are the ones who know how the company works day to day and subsequently know the finer details of what is happening at the business.
This deep and granular knowledge is incredibly valuable, and companies invest heavily in knowledge management tools and professionals to ensure the inner workings of an organisation are not just stored in the minds of employees.
Listening leaders are organisation leaders who choose to make actively listening to the ideas, opinions, and insights of their employees a key part of their leadership style.
Having listening leaders at the helm of a business is not only one of the key drivers of employee engagement and retention, but it can actually make your employees perform 74% better at their jobs.
Listening leaders make employees feel heard by launching processes and creating a culture where employees can directly connect with leadership on a regular basis. They ask for employee input in and out of meetings, and, most importantly, find ways to implement employee feedback in decision-making.
Nobody knows a business better than employees, so leaders that get their input on logistics, marketing, internal culture, customer or whatever have a positive impact on the company’s success. You can check out our Top 50 listening leaders list if you want to see any of these leaders in action.
What makes this even more powerful is the fact when leaders listen, employees have something to say. Research shows that 82% of employees already have ideas to improve the business they work for. By pointing this creative energy towards the goal you want to achieve, employees are empowered to take part in the building of a better business. Nice.
No other mechanism exists that has so much power to engage employees in business transformation. It's why the world's best CEOs are listening leaders.
When we have personally contributed to something, we’re more likely to care about it. This is true in the workplace as well.
To create a culture of ownership with employees, emphasise your company’s biggest goals and how your employees can contribute to them. By seeing the impact their own input has on the larger goals, they are more likely to feel ownership of the goal and engaged in the business.
Once you’ve shared your goals, a great way to cement staff buy-in is to encourage freedom and creativity in achieving them. Establish where you would like to go, then trust the ideas and methods of your greatest asset (your people!) on how to get there.
Without your employees, your company likely wouldn’t have experienced the level of success it has. Recognising that fact and rewarding your employees accordingly is one of the key ways to engage your employees. In fact, praise directly impacts turnover, with employees who feel unrecognised being three times more likely to quit in the next year.
If employees put the effort to drive the company forward without receiving adequate recognition, praise, and reward, they’ll probably conclude it’s not worth doing and revert to doing the bare minimum or, worse, look elsewhere for employment.
Forgetting to celebrate success can lead to low morale, burnout, and dissatisfaction. Recognising and celebrating success, on the other hand, boosts morale, increases staff loyalty, and creates a sense of accomplishment. Celebrating success is also an excellent method of team building. Highlighting how an individual or a team has helped the company reach its goals will encourage collaborative efforts in the future.
In an increasingly digital workplace, it can be even more challenging to engage employees. Companies must adapt their collaboration methods to suit remote working and make sure remote workers aren’t left out for working away from the office.
In fact, research shows that businesses with a collaboration strategy were twice as likely to outgrow their competitors.
Did you know?
33% of employees say the ability to collaborate makes them more loyal - The Economist
With the rise of collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, Workplace By Meta, and Viva Engage, employees are now able to hold meetings and collaborate virtually, no matter where they’re based.
Collaborations platform can also be used for more than just video and chat. Platforms like Microsoft Teams can be turned into a one-stop-collaboration-shops when furnished with line of business applications. Bringing existing workflows into platforms like Teams means that more people have more visibility of what is happening in the business.
The more you can take advantage of digital tools and listen to employee feedback on how best to collaborate remotely; the more engaged your workforce will be.
Asking for feedback or ideas from employees is one thing, but putting their insights into action is even more effective because it shows employees that their ideas matter.
Transforming the ideas and feedback into action will not only improve the business but also demonstrate to employees that you are truly listening. You boost engagement by demonstrating action based on employee insights, feedback and ideas.
Research shows that employees can suffer from ‘feedback fatigue, which is what happens when they continuously give feedback that simply isn’t implemented, leaving them feeling disengaged. Avoid this negative cycle by taking meaningful action whenever possible.
Not only will they feel more engaged, but they’ll also be more likely to share their valuable insights with you again and again. It’s a win-win situation!
Employees feel the most engaged when the internal culture of a business matches the goals and external face of the company. Plastering posters on the break room wall calling your company a ‘collaborative space’ means nothing if employees have been ignored in the previous five meetings where they’ve tried to share their opinions and ideas.
To build trust, engagement and loyalty from your employees, don’t just speak about your company values - implement them. Even better, involve your employees in developing internal values and culture. That way, they’ll feel more invested in the company and its wider purpose!
Enter.... listening to employee ideas! By going out to employees and asking for their ideas you are automatically installing and nurturing listening leaders. Listening to employee ideas means that employees can share their ideas with management on the things that management is focusing on. The mechanism of generating ideas from employees positions leadership as the listeners which are perfect for boosting employee engagement.
Asking employees for their ideas can also help to create ownership of company goals. By giving your employees the freedom to contribute to those goals through their own ideas, you’ll encourage the sharing of new insights that you can then implement on your road to success. Once employees have contributed towards a goal by sharing their ideas on how to reach it, they will take more ownership of that goal. Check out the Ikea effect in this article to find out more!
Celebrating success can’t be separated from a listening culture. Managers aren’t always present for moments of success, so encouraging employees to share stories of excellent team building, hard work, and impressive outcomes with management will ensure that all employees are recognised and rewarded for their input - a method that retail company, Kingfisher, has found beneficial (see below). When employee ideas are implemented, this is a great time to celebrate success and drive employee engagement.
When it comes to collaborating using remote working tools, collecting ideas in a shared digital space allows for further collaboration and connection between employees and leadership. Employees can support each other's ideas with likes and comments and leadership can give feedback on which ideas are being taken forward. Collaborative platforms help create a whole company culture around idea sharing and feedback. This openness helps boost employee engagement across the board.
By taking forward employee ideas into solutions you are demonstrating directly to employees that ideas that their input matters. Creating ways for employees to share insight will equip you with a ton of valuable ideas that you can turn into reality whilst more deeply engaging employees.
Finally, it's your employees that represent your company's values so asking for their ways of achieving something will help cement the values you want to see in your business every single day.
In short, by listening to employee ideas you are baking engagement into your company's day-to-day and are taking a proactive (not reactive) approach to bring employees closer to the business.
The pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, improved its employee engagement by involving employees in developing its 2025 business strategy. AstraZeneca invited all company employees to share ideas their ideas on what the strategy should look like and implemented a process for managing the submissions to find the ideas and themes that would be taken forward into the strategy.
AstraZeneca is an excellent example of walking the walk and creating ownership in company goals. By involving employees in developing a future strategy, AstraZeneca is cementing employee buy-in and taking into account ideas from the people who know it best, all with the help of the listening leaders at the helm of the company.
AstraZeneca used existing communication platforms like Workplace From Meta to collect ideas from employees from all around the world. They then managed a whopping 23,000 ideas with 77,000 likes and comment with the help of Sideways 6’s. It's a great example of a global workforce all collaborating remotely.
AstraZeneca then demonstrates action based on employee feedback by using its employees’ ideas to shape the next business strategy.
It’s simple. We couldn’t have done this without Sideways 6. Without their level of support and flexibility, running a campaign at this scale would have been impossible
----- Robert Albert @ AstraZeneca -----
The retail company, Kingfisher, sought to improve employee engagement with the help of Sideways 6 by recognising employees’ efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to a culture of listening leaders, Kingfisher wanted to hear from employees how they’d impacted the business throughout the challenges of the pandemic.
Kingfisher achieved this goal with its ‘Amazing Stories’ campaign, which helped employees share examples of outstanding contributions to colleagues, customers, and the community. Sharing these stories helped to create ownership in company goals since employees were able to see the impact they’d had on Kingfisher’s wider purpose.
By creating the ‘Amazing Stories’ campaign, Kingfisher became a great example of celebrating success as it aimed to recognise the global efforts of Kingfisher colleagues during the COVID-19 crisis. Kingfisher also ‘walked the talk’ by practising what it preaches when it comes to celebrating employee success.
The result? An engaged workforce that feels valued and recognised for their incredible efforts during the pandemic.
Knowing how to drive employee engagement is crucial for the longevity of any business. Thinking about and building upon your employee engagement strategy is a worthwhile investment.
Engaged employees are the cornerstone of any successful business, so improving your engagement strategy now is an excellent way to future-proof your workplace.
By involving employees in decision-making, listening to ideas, and giving them the tools to contribute to long-term strategies, companies see an increase in employee engagement of over 28% per year.
Ready to take your employee engagement strategy to the next level and maximise your growth? Contact us today to find out how.
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