Getting the best from your people
With companies wanting to secure commitment from their workforce in the wake of economic hardship, employee engagement is the buzzword of the minute. But what does it really mean, and how do you actually achieve it? In the words of the CIPD, employee engagement is all about ‘creating opportunities for employees to connect with their colleagues, managers and wider organisation. It is also about creating an environment where employees are motivated to want to connect with their work and really care about doing a good job.’
It’s common sense that committed employees are much more productive and act as great ambassadors for the brand. They’re also less likely to take sick leave and far more likely to remain loyal.
In this guide, we provide you with a no-nonsense list of things to consider when crafting your own employee engagement programme.
Leadership is key
Effective leadership is vital if you want engaged employees: a boss has to make its staff feel valued if they are to expect commitment.
Career progression is also a key retention tool, as employees are far more likely to feel engaged with their job and the organisation if they are given career opportunities. However, for employees to understand the vision of a company and the importance of their role in achieving it, communication is key. This also applies to the recognition of success and achievements.
What’s more, with evidence to suggest that working in teams can be far more productive than working on an individual basis, leaders need to be team builders and must create an environment that fosters both trust and collaboration.
Show that you have a plan
Whether in good times or bad, employees must be made aware of company strategy. It’s very difficult for a workforce to feel engaged if they don’t truly understand the direction that the organisation is moving in, or why.
Maintain transparency around your plans and communicate your company’s long-term strategy. Not only will this enable everyone to work towards a common goal, but you will also demonstrate your confidence in the organisation’s future – particularly vital in these times of economic uncertainty.
The result will be a committed and confident workforce who sees themselves as an integral part of your long-term plans and vision.
Create a sense of purpose
Employees need to feel a sense of purpose for being at work - a motivation to work for somebody else and to remain committed everyday. The public sector is often hailed as a flag-bearer for getting this right, as it naturally attracts employees who want to make a difference to the wider community. But the private sector can achieve the same level of commitment from its employees, as long as the company’s values and purpose are clearly defined and communicated. By understanding and believing in what the company stands for, seeing the value in its goods or services, and seeing these services delivered ethically and to a high standard, employees will develop a clear sense of purpose. Instilling a sense of purpose amongst your employees will ultimately give them the desire to contribute and to make a real difference, which in turn will lead to higher motivation and productivity levels.
Values and culture
An organisation’s values are its DNA: they define how the business behaves and what it stands for. If your employees share these values, they will be more likely to believe in the organisation. Recruiting professionals that identify with your corporate values is a good start, but your organisational culture must empower them in practice. For instance, a firm that prides itself on teamwork is likely to stifle its people if collaborative working isn’t actively encouraged, recognised, or if barriers to it aren’t removed.
Know what success looks like
It’s human nature to aspire. Personally, socially and professionally, we all need clear goals to aim for in order to progress and to feel satisfied. It’s therefore vital to communicate the vision of where your organisation wants to be, and how every member of staff can help to achieve that goal. Painting a picture of what success looks like - at an individual, team, divisional and corporate level - will help to keep it real, and ultimately achievable. Set key milestones for employers and make these even more tangible by showcasing individual and corporate successes along the way.
An ongoing programme for recognising employees can be effective in creating a culture of appreciation,. This sort of reward and recognition scheme doesn’t have to be expensive: the personal touch often makes the greatest impact. However you do it, it should always be linked to your company’s vision. It is also important to encourage employees of all levels to openly and visibly recognise their colleagues’ achievements, and not to always rely on the management team to do so.
Your employees deserve to know where they stand and how they are doing, so providing regular feedback on both an informal and formal basis is essential. Good performance management should be supportive to bring out the best in people; all too often it is seen as a remedial action – and in some cases even a rather blunt tool for weeding out poor performers. Using performance management to expose under-performers is likely to scare off your best performers too.
People flourish in environments that build independence, self-belief and personal achievement. Giving your employees the leeway to succeed is an essential building block of engagement. But focus on the results, rather than detailing exactly how the work should be done. Helping others to reach their true potential doesn’t come easily to every manager, but micromanaging is a sure fire way of discouraging employees. Learn to strike the balance between giving your people enough space to use their abilities to the best effect, whilst still monitoring and supporting closely enough to ensure that the job is done correctly and effectively.
What to communicate
It is reasonable for employees to expect communication and information; even more so in times of economic uncertainty and change - the unattractive alternative is a rumour mill. But employers need to think carefully about what to communicate. Show respect for your employees by not covering up bad news or giving it a positive spin, as most people will be able to see straight through it. Employees will not be able to help their company to embrace change proactively if they are not made aware of the situation, or the chosen course of action. A manager must be able to tell their employees what is expected of them, sympathise with their situation, and publicly recognise individual and team performances. In short, communicate as much as possible about as much as possible. And don’t worry about repeating yourself - constant reinforcement of key messages improves memory and understanding.