A key factor in every organization’s success is employee engagement. Often confused with job satisfaction, employee engagement is the degree to which employees are motivated and passionate about their organization and its goals. It refers to individuals’ investment in their everyday work and the business’s success. Engaged employees with a positive emotional connection to their company feel a sense of purpose in their jobs. In addition, employee retention and performance are higher when employees are more devoted, motivated, and productive.
According to a Gallup article, a highly engaged workforce increases productivity by 17% and reduces absenteeism by 41%, making employee engagement essential to business success. However, many companies need help implementing suitable employee engagement methods that are still cost-effective and budget-friendly. Let’s look at the main benefits of employee engagement and the top eight employee engagement strategies you can use to foster a more engaging workplace without spending a fortune.
1. Increase productivity
Employees’ commitment to their jobs increases when they are engaged. The Society for Human Resources (SHRM) states that the greater the employee’s engagement, the more likely the employee will go the “extra mile” at their job. Engaged employees look for creative ideas, go above and beyond the basic requirements of their position, and take responsibility for their work. Employees are also more likely to put in the effort and concentration necessary to do their jobs efficiently and excel in their roles when they feel an emotional connection to their work.
2. Higher retention and less turnover
According to a 2021 Pew Research survey, 57% of workers quit their jobs because they felt mistreated at their workplace. Leaders that invest in creating a supportive environment where employees appreciate one another and have better connections with their coworkers tend to see higher retention rates because these employees feel respected, rewarded for their efforts, and motivated to work harder. Implementing positive recognition, encouraging work-life balance, and improving communication can help you develop a culture of motivation leading to higher retention and less turnover.
3. Stronger teamwork and collaboration
Employee engagement increases the likelihood of working well as a team and providing a cohesive environment. By actively supporting team objectives, encouraging peer support, and building a cooperative workplace environment and work culture, employees are more likely to lean on one another and collaborate in a space that makes strides to improve peer-to-peer connection. Team settings offer a steady flow of ideas from different perspectives and promote innovation, giving a company an advantage over competitors in its industry.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. A goal must be defined to be successful. What tasks need to be completed? Who is in charge? While being specific is a good start, quantifying your objectives makes it simpler to monitor your progress and determine when you have completed your task. You should give yourself a reality check and decide if your goals are attainable or too ambitious. These goals should also be relevant to your company’s needs and make sense in this current environment. Think about the big picture; why does this goal matter to you? You and your team must agree on how you can measure its success effectively and have a realistic deadline so everyone knows how to stay on track.
Setting objectives is essential in an engagement strategy to provide employees with a clear direction, organize their efforts, and promote engagement and motivation. When people have specific goals to strive toward, they’re more motivated, which boosts their satisfaction and output. In general, SMART objectives provide the goal-setting process with structure and clarity, which makes it simpler to track progress. Organizations should ensure that goals are clearly stated, significant, and quantifiable by adopting the SMART framework into an employee engagement plan.
Using SMART goal-setting, businesses can implement many initiatives to improve employee engagement, including employee recognition programs, cross-departmental lunches, and skills development workshops. Let’s take a cross-departmental lunch, for example. Using SMART goals, we first identify the specific goal, which is a lunch between different departments to foster a greater sense of cross-departmental community, foster communication, and overall company engagement. Next, we add criteria to make our goal measurable by aiming to have at least 70% of staff and employees attend. Then make it achievable and relevant by scheduling the event when most employees can take their lunch breaks and doing a pre-lunch survey to find out some interesting topics and activities employees would like to be a part of to feel like they are interacting with other departments. Last but not least, make it time-bound. These lunches should start within the next few weeks to not delay any benefits toward employee engagement. At the end of the lunch, do a quick survey to see how effective the lunch was and how they feel about their connection with the other departments now that the lunch has taken place. You can then use the survey results to see what worked, what didn’t, and set a new goal.
An employee engagement survey is one of the best and most efficient ways to gauge engagement. You can get a more precise picture of how engaged your staff is and adequately assess what strategies your team needs the most. Surveys shared quarterly or yearly can measure how employee feelings have changed after you make some changes. These will assist you in monitoring employee engagement as your company expands and its culture changes.
Encourage an inclusive workplace where all workers feel welcome and appreciated. A company culture that prioritizes teamwork, respect for differing viewpoints, and open communication among team members of all backgrounds creates stronger workplace connections. You can implement employee resource groups (ERGs) representing various demographics or interest groups within your organization. Employees can interact, exchange experiences, and create initiatives that support diversity and inclusion through these groups. Don’t forget that language can be a good part of a DEIA strategy. People who learn languages are more accepting of other cultures. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, speaking more than one language increases one’s ability to respect linguistic and racial diversity. When English as a Second Language, Spanish, American Sign Language, or even Mandarin, this means language should be part of a larger DEIA initiative.
Give employees the time and space to balance work and home obligations. Staying late at work leaves less time for employees to enjoy the rest of their day and free time; frequent late nights can leave staff feeling drained; and working on weekends means less time spent with family. Although overtime is available to ensure staff are compensated for their time, prioritizing the overall well-being of your employees is most important. The key here is making sure you set the right company culture that encourages good mental health and time disconnected from work. Encourage hobbies, free time, and ways to pursue interests that are non-work related. This is balance. Think about it—after a rejuvenating time away from work, doing something they enjoy, employees would be more motivated and have more energy to work diligently and productively.
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Explore the potential for online language training sessions led by an external language company that specializes in working with organizations like yours. Consider online classes, which will allow employees to log in from anywhere. These courses can vary from languages like Spanish or French to ASL. They can also tie into your specific industry or company, which will make employees even more engaged in their work. Learning a language also stimulates the brain and enhances cognitive processes, including memory, problem-solving, and multitasking.
Language Programs for Companies
Sixty three percent of workers who quit their jobs do so because of lack of opportunities for growth and advancement. Offering employees the chance to expand their skill set and grow within the company keeps them interested and gives them something to strive for. Learning and development initiatives show your employees that you appreciate them as people and want to continue investing in them rather than replacing them with candidates that offer the skills you are looking for. In addition to offering a path to promotions and advancement, offer the right type of professional development opportunities. Rather than simply offering a gym membership, for example, offer perks that are meaningful and could tie in to their jobs or personal interest. One perk that companies are using to encourage growth and advancement is allowing staff to learn a new language during their work hours. It is not just a fun thing to do, but also a respite from their workday, and staff are learning valuable skills they can apply in the workplace or while going about their lives. Employees see that companies are investing in them, and their growth brings a newfound appreciation for their work and team.
Regularly demonstrating your appreciation for workers’ accomplishments is a small but meaningful gesture that helps employees feel valued. Rewarding your employees for their achievements with a lunch, gift cards, gift vouchers for a massage, or even a simple “We appreciate your work” goes a long way. Additionally, encourage staff to recognize their colleagues’ wins. When staff members feel respected and valued by their colleagues and higher-ups, they are more motivated to continue to do well and improve at every opportunity.
A very successful employee engagement technique is to include workers as much as possible in the behind-the-scenes of the company they work for. One way to do this is to consistently request feedback and then listen and make changes as needed. Your employees will only be able to give their all to the business if they are aware of the long-term goals of their work and that what they say and how they feel actually matters. Additionally, if they feel purposefully cut out of the loop, they could distrust management and lose faith in leadership.
Team building is an activity or set of activities designed to encourage improved communication among colleagues. These might range from lighthearted icebreaker games to more formal problem-solving exercises to hone particular business skills. Whether online or in-person, team-building exercises can improve communication and increase understanding of each person’s unique and group contributions to the business, allowing people to grow trust and respect for one another.
Set realistic objectives, consider limitations, and realize that not all initiatives will have immediate or significant effects. Be realistic about the problems, resources, budget, and timescales involved in employee engagement allows you to build a practical, doable strategy with a greater chance of long-term success. Keep in mind that creating a highly engaged staff takes time, and persistent efforts are more likely to produce successful results over the long term.
Employees feel more empowered and accountable when they know their responsibilities and what is expected of them. Employees concentrate on their tasks more efficiently, experience a stronger sense of purpose, and better understand their position in contributing to the success of the business as a whole when tasks are clearly defined and understood. Clarity increases engagement and promotes a productive workplace.
The company’s core values should be clear on what is most important to your team and the principles you respect. To be fully engaged, employees must develop a sense of belonging at your organization, and having a set of guiding principles can aid in this process. You can foster a healthy work environment and inspire employees to develop a sense of connection at your company by continuously communicating your company’s core values to the whole team. Make sure these values are communicated in a way that is effective and crystal clear, such as on your website, policies, contracts, and email communication, and even everyday conversation. It needs to be ingrained in the spirit of the organization.
The Human Resources (HR) department, especially HR professionals, is often responsible for managing an employee engagement strategy. Employee engagement is key to corporate success since engaged workers are more dedicated, motivated, and productive. In addition, it’s crucial to remember that while HR should take the lead in developing an employee engagement strategy, every department must be involved for engagement initiatives to be effective. Employees themselves should be encouraged to actively participate and offer feedback on the strategies that are being implemented. Everyone in the company must work together to increase employee engagement.
To build a more inclusive workplace, starting a new DEIA initiative, like offering online language classes to staff, would be an ideal way to increase employee engagement. There are two ways to do this. One strategy is to make these classes a bonding space for employees to connect over something they are not good at yet. Together they will face the challenges and glories of mastering something new and practical, such as a language that other employees speak at the company, a language that’s spoken in one of your organization’s target markets (e.g. Latin America), or a language that some of your clientele speaks, or a language based on the geographic region of the U.S. where your company is located (e.g. California, Texas, New York).
This will focus on language as a way to help staff see other cultures through new eyes. A second option is English classes for employees who are limited English proficient. Cultural and linguistic barriers can impede efficient communication and collaboration, so these sessions eliminate these barriers and promote improved teamwork and idea sharing. Furthermore, these employees will have greater access to social and financial mobility within the organization if they improve their English language skills.
Conduct frequent employee surveys about the workplace environment, relationships with coworkers and managers, possibilities for advancement, and the overall employee experience.
These brief, repeated surveys aim to gather immediate responses to certain problems or occurrences. Pulse surveys can offer more up-to-date information regarding the working environment.
To get comprehensive qualitative input, set up small focus groups or one-on-one interviews or meetings. This can help contextualize the survey results and help understand the factors that contribute to particular involvement levels.
Implementing cost-effective employee engagement techniques benefits both employees and the firm. Companies can develop a healthy workplace environment, increase employee morale, productivity, and retention, and achieve considerable cost savings by concentrating on worthwhile engagement strategies. Remember that improved performance, new ideas, and overall organizational success stem from an effective and efficient employee engagement strategy plan.
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Irma is a trained linguist, native Spanish speaker, and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of Diáfano.
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