Engagement and how to create it


Here’s a rather startling statistic. Before the pandemic, a Gallup survey revealed that 67% of the global workforce was either not engaged or actively disengaged at work. 67%! Not engaged means they are turning up for work, doing the bare minimum and going home. Actively disengaged means they are actually blocking progress.

Even more concerning is that since Covid hit, research by HowNow shows that two-thirds of UK employees now feel even less connected than before, with only a fifth of workers having spoken to their line manager in the last ten days.  

Why is this so worrying?

According to Achievers.com research, disengaged employees have up to a 60% higher rate of errors. They can cost their employer a third of their salary each year in errors and lack of productivity. What’s more, they lose customers. They have high levels of absenteeism. And of course, they are more likely to leave, raising an organisation’s recruitment overheads. In other words, there are cold hard cash reasons for addressing the issue.

The majority of leaders do recognise that creating an environment that engages their people is a top priority – but disappointingly, only a third of them actually do anything about it. 

There are four key areas at the heart of most problems. These are:

· Poor management

· No work/life balance 

· A misalignment between the person’s skills and their role

· A lack of recognition

What is engagement?

Before we look at how to create engagement, we had better define it. Engagement is the way individuals feel about their job, their employer, their boss, and their co-workers. It’s a reflection of their motivation to impact positively on their company and how their own emotions, hopes and personal values align with what the employer offers. 

So, we can see that engagement is a bit of an intangible. But that doesn’t mean that steps can’t be taken to improve levels of it. Here are some suggestions at areas that can be looked at.

Encourage input and listen to it

Technology is your friend when it comes to gaining honest input and feedback from your people. You can regularly survey staff on any aspect of their employment, and this works best when you ask for input on specifics. Rather than ask ‘how can we improve?’ ask ‘how can we improve our promotion of inclusivity?’, ‘how can we improve development opportunities?’.  

Gaining feedback is the easy bit. Properly assessing it and feeding back the input and what you are doing about it is where it can improve engagement. This can be done through regular communications that share the responses and detail what the management team is doing about it.

Anonymous surveys will give you honest answers, but the downside is you can only ask general questions. To find out how you could improve an individual’s development opportunities, of course, you have to speak directly to them. This leads us on to our next suggestion.

Foster a culture of trust

Micromanaging kills engagement. Innovation, creativity, and enthusiasm is worn down through constant interruption and correction. Managers become roadblocks when every decision has to be passed through them. Progress grinds to a halt. 

By trusting and empowering your team, you treat them as grown-ups. People work best when they feel they have control over their own work – but also know they can seek guidance, without criticism, when needed. Managers need to lead by example, admitting to mistakes and explaining what they have learned from them, telling the truth, communicating well and being supportive when necessary.

In a study by Google over two years, the most important factor in creating a successful team was psychological safety. This means staff feeling that they can try new things and take risks knowing they will not be punished if things go wrong.

Invest in wellbeing

A company that takes both the physical and mental wellbeing of their staff seriously is likely to see higher engagement. There are obvious things you can do, such as building a package of benefits that includes access to health professionals or discounted gym memberships. You can ensure your staff café promotes healthy eating or organise a lunchtime walking club.  

But you need to look deeper than this at the culture of your organisation. Are people regularly still in the office at 7 pm? Do managers send emails to their team at the weekend? Do staff turn up when they are clearly ill?  

Great employers don’t expect their staff to work 12 hours a day to cope with their workload or feel terrified of reporting sick. If this is happening, you need to make changes from the top down.

Connect with your team 

When people feel their boss knows them and cares about them as a person, it creates a greater sense of belonging. We are all human, and we all have to deal with personal stuff.

Having colleagues who recognise this and can celebrate the good stuff and commiserate the not so good in both work and home lives brings a sense of community.

Simply asking how your people are doing and then really listening to their answers is a simple way to make them feel valued.

This is very closely related to recognition. Of course, you celebrate the big wins but recognise the small things too. Something as simple as a well-timed comment like ‘you always brighten my day because you are so positive’ in response to a suggestion from a team member can work wonders.

In conclusion, everyone would like to feel as though they are a valued member of a work community and that their efforts help ensure the continued growth and development in their careers. There are many other areas that you can address that will improve engagement, for example, the celebration of identity, being a champion for people who are afraid to speak up, encouraging employee-centric communities, or developing a strong corporate social responsibility. But the key is to align the needs of the people with the business objectives.  

Have you addressed any specific areas to improve engagement – and if so, what were the results?

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