51% of American workers are disengaged according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workforce. Only 33% of U.S. employees are engaged, which means there’s room to improve engagement with nearly two-thirds of your workforce.
If you genuinely want to improve employee engagement, focus on improvements that will stand the test of time. Make engagement a priority by providing time and resources so managers and leadership can make necessary changes. For example, if having monthly one-on-ones with employees is part of your engagement strategy, you must ensure managers have clear directions, expectations, and time resources to complete that task.
One-off projects may nudge the needle, but as with any initiative, it takes constant care and nurturing to retain engagement. With that in mind, here are five ways to improve employee experience throughout your organization.
1. Connect work to a purpose
It is difficult to be fully engaged with your work when you don’t understand the end goal or how it connects to the organization’s larger purpose. According to a report by LinkedIn, 73% of purpose-oriented people are satisfied in their jobs. There’s a strong correlation between employee satisfaction and engagement. Connecting the day-to-day tasks of your employees to a larger, organizational or even global purpose can help you improve employee engagement.
Most employees are excited when they begin a new job. However, as time passes, they may forget why they were excited to join your team. While you can’t give an employee a reason they should feel purposeful, you can create programs or initiatives to inspire them to find their passion and purpose again. Medtronic shares stories of how their devices have improved the lives of patients. These stories are a great example of how an ongoing corporate initiative can help employees find passion and purpose for their work.
2. Pull back the curtain
Remember the line “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” from The Wizard of Oz? Toto had the right idea about how to improve the employee experience. By removing obstacles that keep employees and leaders separated, you can help employees understand and align with business purposes and goals.
Allow your leaders–your C-Suite leadership or any other manager in your organization–to lead conversations about strategy, direction, and purpose with employees. Encourage leaders to share news and events directly with frontline employees as often as possible to encourage more transparent conversations. While some messages must be refined to answer all questions before sharing with the entire company, many types of messages don’t require this level of review. Managers and leaders can share industry articles they are reading, bits about their personal life, or behind-the-scenes information about why a particular decision was made to create the transparency that builds trust and engagement.
Related: Around the Bonfyre: Les Landes on Engagement in the Workplace
3. Build trust
Trust is a critical aspect of relationships. Trust is also an essential foundation for innovative and collaborative teams. Building trust among employees and with the organization requires time, effort, and opportunities for interactions not only among teams but across the organization to enable employees to find shared interests and commonality.
“To build trust, you need to be comfortable with being transparent with others, which can be difficult,” says Rob Seay, Bonfyre’s Director of Employee Experience. Transparency, authenticity, and active listening are three ways to build trust in the workplace. “Once employees have built relationships, they don’t view each other as just their titles or their positions, but instead see them as individuals,” says Seay. As you build trust among employees and with the organization, you can begin to improve employee engagement.
4. Listen to improve employee engagement
When was the last time you conducted an employee engagement survey? More importantly, what did you do with the feedback you received from that survey? Did you share any results of the survey with employees?
Engagement surveys can be an excellent diagnostic tool to help you understand employee sentiment. However, if employees give their feedback and leaders don’t take action, your engagement survey may do more damage than good. Employees want their opinions heard, so be sure when you receive their feedback, it doesn’t just sit on a shelf for months. Feedback needs to evolve into a two-way conversation to truly improve employee engagement. Close the loop by acknowledging common issues or suggestions and implementing a few as soon as possible after you’ve received the results of your latest round of employee feedback.
5. Encourage an attitude of gratitude
According to a Gallup analysis, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. Encouraging gratitude and recognition is an excellent opportunity to improve employee engagement. Neither appreciation nor recognition requires a huge investment, but both can have a significant impact on employee sentiment.
By implementing processes, technology, or initiatives that allow employees an easy way to acknowledge coworkers’ efforts you can move the needle on employee engagement. The key here is to make sure leaders and managers model the behavior on a regular basis so that recognition becomes an integral part of your company culture.
While there is no single program or initiative guaranteed to improve employee engagement in a week or even a month, these five tips can help you build ongoing processes and initiatives that can begin to increase engagement step by step. Once you have improved a few of these areas, you’ll gain trust with employees and the momentum necessary to improve employee engagement in time.