Ten Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

9th June 2015

Companies can often adopt a laissez-faire attitude to employee engagement. They’ll say that natural selection will weed out any employee who doesn’t feel inspired by their day job, and that the switched-on ones will stick around and be productive. But it’s not as simple as that.

Without a brutal regime of dismissing employees who don’t meet expectations (which can breed a counterproductive culture of fear), the disengaged staff will usually just subsist in their jobs and do the bare minimum that’s asked of them. They might do an honest day’s work, but don’t expect them to share their ideas with you. When considering such employees, businesses often fall into a secondary trap: blaming the individuals in their employment for their lack of motivation. As with so many things, a candid look at yourself might actually yield some surprising results and raise some big questions, the biggest of which might be: “Are we actually facilitating this disengagement?”

If you do recognise that you might be lacking a little top-down inspiration, we’ve got ten proven tips for getting your employees back on track.

1 Recognise success

One of the primary causes of dissatisfaction in employees is their feeling that all their hard work is going unnoticed, or worse still, that someone else (usually a line manager) is taking all the credit. There’s only so much demoralisation a person can take, and after non-recognition occurs a few times, staff will often slip into minimal working mode – or start looking elsewhere for work. A simple way of solving this is to make sure good ideas and good work do not have to be channelled and reported through a single manager or supervisor, as they can become diluted, or the messenger can sound like the originator. Try using an open forum to discuss ideas, so they can be traced back to their founders. Then if the work produces results, make sure they are recognised and rewarded.

2 Have inspiring leaders

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking sport, military endeavour or business – good leadership inspires people to go the extra mile and to feel they’re part of something bigger. The standard route for picking leaders is to choose experts who’ve risen through the ranks and to promote them to managers. But often, they loved their jobs and are quite happy reaching a ceiling without being forced to manage – and hence they become uninspiring leaders. Sometimes a less experienced person makes a better leader, and the experts are happy with senior or advisory roles.

3 Ask employees why they’re disengaged

Every workplace has them – the ones who trundle in at 9 a.m. and have their coats on by a minute past five. It’s easy to overlook them as hopeless cases, but are you sure they’ve not simply been driven to it by their experiences at work? There’s only one way to find out: ask them. You’ll probably find that their story is repeatable over the entire workforce, and acting on their experience could boost your company no end.

4 Set achievable goals

We all want to push or employees that little bit further, but insisting that they perform tasks well outside their comfort zones will have a negative effect as they will inevitably get frustrated and feel threatened by their inability to cope. Make sure people’s skill sets and the time available to perform tasks are respected when you are allocating work.

5 Encourage fitness and good nutrition

Work can be stressful. Stress can lead to depression. Depression will cost not only the employer his or her happiness but also your company, as absenteeism and demotivation take hold. You can take steps to keeping staff happy and confident by encouraging a healthier lifestyle, which is often the first thing to go when people feel they can’t justify exercise and proper food because they’re pressed for time. Many companies give employers gym membership or encourage team sports and charity fun runs; others offer free fruit or healthy options in the canteen.

6 Make work rewarding

Humans are a curious species, and we thrive on overcoming challenges and obstacles, but can become bogged down with routine, unchallenging work. Why not invite employees into meetings that they’re not usually asked to? A little cross-fertilisation can work wonders, add genuine inspiration and make employees feel that their expertise and opinions are valued.

7 Make offices family-friendly

Nobody’s suggesting total crèche access and high-chairs at every desk, but showing recognition of the importance of people’s family can drive home the message that employees are important to the business. Simple ways of achieving this include allowing flexible hours so that school runs can be completed, making sure work never encroaches onto the weekend and making special allowances for employees with responsibility for sick relatives.

8 Emphasise the link between company success and their own

Employees often feel disconnected from the fortunes of the company, and will turn up from nine to five, do their work and assume someone else is looking after the bottom line. But making sure they recognise their own role in the company’s ups and down can make them feel much more connected, responsible and motivated. It is possible to keep employees informed of the bigger picture while maintaining corporate privacy, and it can really work. Chances are they’ll have noticed the upswings and downturns anyway, but making them feel more of a part of the business usually keeps them motivated to succeed.

9 Offer opportunity

Smaller companies necessarily have limited promotion opportunities, but that doesn’t mean that employees should hit a brick wall when they reach their highest possible rank. To recognise their service, experience, contacts, training and loyalty, offering benefits in lieu of promotions is a great way to assure motivation remains in place for longer. The alternative is employees constantly looking elsewhere for better-paid jobs doing more or less the same thing.

10 Include people

While some employees can feel empowered by being privy to mission-critical information, those outside the clique can feel distrusted and left out. Companies that share more information internally tend to be better at inspiring a sense of belonging in employees, and that increases engagement, dependability and, ultimately, profitability.