Do a Google search for “employee engagement” and you’ll discover an overwhelming amount of definitions, most of them filled with superfluous jargon.
This variety of opinions adds to the challenge of defining engagement for your employees and your organization. Since there is no single understanding of “employee engagement,” you have to determine what it means for your company and make sure your leaders and employees understand the concept.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines engage as “to draw into, involve; attract and hold; keep busy; involve oneself, be active.”
If you want your employees to view your company the way you do, you must draw them into your values and keep them busy in fulfilling your company’s purpose. Keeping your employees engaged will strengthen their passion and commitment to you.
Why is employee engagement important? Because, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work, and if employees sense their value to you is low or meaningless, they will find purpose elsewhere.
Can you afford that loss?
According to “Engaging employees to bring their best to work,” an article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the benefits of employee engagement include improved safety, higher job satisfaction and employee retention, increased customer satisfaction, and reduced absenteeism.
Employee engagement and productivity
Companies should not focus on making employees happy to keep them engaged and thus increase productivity and satisfaction. That is because happiness is subjective, and it’s up to individuals to find their own happiness. A focus on happiness alone does little to improve employee engagement. Happiness is a feeling; engagement is an operation or function.
Companies are better off focusing on employee satisfaction because satisfied employees are happier employees. Employees enjoy satisfaction when they find meaning in their work, and satisfied workers become involved, active stewards within the company’s purpose and framework.
Satisfaction and happiness contribute to emotional and mental well-being. Employees who feel valued for their work and contributions are healthier emotionally, and when they do not suffer from an underlying fear of job loss, they are more focused and motivated to perform well at work.
Organizations know that engaged employees boost productivity, and engaged employees will also be more loyal and become further engaged because they have purpose. That sense of purpose will allow them to feel more focused mentally, and mental focus boosts physical health and also encourages them to be more safety conscious both for themselves and their co-workers.
Encouragement from leaders
Leaders who are actively engaged with their team of employees and support them in various ways will receive a positive response from their motivated employees.
True leaders first and foremost lead by example. The way they treat others, for example, can affect morale for better or for worse. Low morale lowers productivity and engagement. Kindness and empathy increase it.
Leaders adhere to company values in both their professional and personal life. While they set high standards for their team, they also set higher standards for themselves. And they take responsibility for their decisions.
Employees desire to develop on personal as well as professional levels, so good leaders consistently seek opportunities to help their team recognize their strengths and build on them. Good leaders encourage their employees to achieve their potential and then set new goals. They also encourage them to target advancement opportunities within the organization and to reach out for more training to enhance their skills and development.
Verbal appreciation and recognition from leaders boost employee morale and encourage workers to give their best. Feeling needed and valued enhances an employee’s sense of purpose. When leaders show appreciation and acknowledge employees’ contributions, employees are motivated further.
Work as a team
Teamwork provides important social connections within the workplace, allowing employees to develop relationships that can boost their emotional and mental states. Teams act as advocates for one another’s ideas, efforts and skills. Teams take advantage of members’ individual strengths, especially when they complement each other.
Your employees’ job satisfaction will intensify when they are involved in creating and sharing desired outcomes and are allowed to see the benefits of their hard work and innovative ideas. The team strengthens as it becomes more unified, and you will soon discover that you have high-performing “partners” who share your vision and your goals.
The takeaway: Seek greater employee engagement in order to deepen loyalty, create a positive work environment and increase productivity, which will allow your business to thrive.