One of the big problems for businesses today is that fewer than 20% of employees are fully engaged at work. This is, of course, a huge waste; for the individual, the team and the company.
As a company, you pay for 100% of employees agreed work time. If your employees are not fully engaged, this means you are only getting a small part of their paid-for capability – and they are not fully valuing their own time.
So how can you improve employee engagement in your business and what benefits will it bring?
Engaged employees are interested in their work, they are motivated and committed to doing a good job, they are involved in what goes on, they are willing to go above and beyond if needed, they do what it takes to contribute to something that’s bigger than themselves. They feel good about themselves and their contribution. They behave as if it’s their own business; they are the owner of the company mission or task, rather than a passive observer. Enthusiasm is shown in behaviour as well as in words.
Employee engagement ultimately increases revenue and profits
Employee engagement drives customer engagement, which in turn drives revenue. This is not something to take lightly.
Lack of engagement can be seen and felt, it’s apparent to all. It can create resentment between team members, it doesn’t feel good, it erodes the team’s self esteem (how the team feels about itself) and it can create uneven workload.
It’s not enjoyable to work in a low engagement environment and unfortunately it’s often those who are engaged who are proactive about leaving to get another job in a more rewarding climate.
Lack of engagement is contagious, it can spread like a virus. But the good news is – so does engagement, it can become a driver of success. And there are many, straightforward solutions to improving employee engagement. We’ll get to them in a minute.
Here are some of the common reasons for low engagement (or in bad cases, apathy);
- Not feeling important
- Holding a grudge
- No career/growth opportunities
- Lack of control
- Not celebrating successes
The impact poor employee engagement can have on teams and businesses
Let’s look at an example of how poor employee engagement can damage a business:
A company’s finance department had experienced internal conflict for quite some time, which had not been properly dealt with by any of the people involved. One of the accountants was so hurt and angry that she could not properly focus on her job. She was more engaged in her anger and looking at what her colleagues were doing or not doing, than she was in her own job.
She started making mistakes in her job, which included not paying out customer credits on time, which in turn affected one of the biggest clients several times. Eventually the client got tired of the bad treatment and removed their business from the company.
This backlash was a big wake-up call for the manager who had allowed conflicts to fester. He knew people didn’t enjoy working together, but had still just put his head in the sand and hoped the problem would just go away.
When he finally took action, the first thing he did was to sit down with each team member individually, talking to them, being genuinely interested in how they were finding their work and work situation. This was first met with some hesitation, as it was not what they were used to, but little by little the team members began to open up and this gave the leader the insight he needed to continue to build engagement.
Leaders need to use their ‘engagement radar’
Everyone owns their own engagement. It’s not the manager’s sole responsibility, but leaders and managers need to have their “engagement radar” on, to assess how engaged team members are at any time. The first step is awareness, the second step is doing something about it.
Solving the engagement issue
Here are some of the solutions you can use to reboot your team’s engagement;
Role model personal responsibility
You need to start with yourself. You need to be engaged in order to give others the “engagement bug”. When faced with challenges, you need to show others that it’s possible and necessary to stay engaged and solution-focused.
It may not always feel like you have a choice at that particular point, but you do. Take a moment and ask yourself how you could respond to what has happened and remind yourself that you value your own time enough to make sure your choice is productive – and engagement is more productive than disengagement.
Clearly communicate the team’s purpose
Talk with the team about what they are here to do. Without that clear reason for being, it’s hard to be engaged.
Focus on the individual
Take a genuine interest in your team members. Have regular development discussions and make them meaningful. Tell people how they are doing, give helpful feedback. Everyone needs to know what they’re doing well and what they could do better.
If job monotony and boredom is a driver of disengagement, have a brainstorming session on how to invigorate the job. Wherever possible, challenge processes that don’t add value. Could any tasks be swapped? A new task owner could bring new ideas.
Build team self esteem
Make the team feel good about itself and what its doing. Reflect regularly on the achievements of the team. Celebrate achievements and success, let team members see the impact of their work on customers and the bottom line.
Talk to your team about engagement
Here are some discussion questions that you can use to further explore how your team can be as engaged as possible;
- Does my team believe in the team’s ability to achieve its purpose?
- Does my team have high team self-esteem?
- What impact am I having on my team members through my actions and behaviours? How do I effect engagement in my team?
- What can I do to increase my engagement even further?
The actions on their own will only take you so far. With the right behaviours you can more effectively create employee engagement. So be positive, inspiring and enthusiastic, trustworthy, conscientious, caring, curious and open-minded – and stay engaged to reboot your team’s engagement.
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by Mandy Flint and Elisabet Vinberg Hearn, authors of the new book, “Leading Teams – 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions,” published by FT Books, priced £14.99. Employee engagement is one of the 10 Challenges the book explores in detail.
More help on motivating and managing staff
For more tips and ideas on how to get the best out of your staff, read these guides;
- 5 ways to motivate your staff without spending a fortune
- A 5-Step Guide on how to motivate and retain employees with staff benefits
- How setting up a salary sacrifice scheme can reward staff and mean lower tax bills for employers and employees
- How to attract and retain the best employees
- Can you fire an employee and get thanked by them for doing it?
- A Guide to mindfulness in the workplace – how it can help staff wellbeing and boost productivity
- How to prepare for and handle an employee grievance
And for more guidance on employment issues, try some of ByteStart’s other guides;
- The ‘Fit for Work’ scheme – what it means for employers
- Health & Safety compliance for small businesses – where do you start?
- Disability in the workplace – what small businesses can do to manage it
- The real cost of hiring your first employee
- Flexible working rights for all employees – what small businesses need to know
- Anxiety and depression – how to manage them in the workplace
- Employers liability insurance – if you employ anybody you are legally required to have cover