How Employee Engagement Will Make – or Break – Companies Now

January 11th, 2022

The level of employee engagement could determine your organization’s success this year.

Whether employees are together all the time, some of the time or none of the time, HR needs to keep them engaged. That’s because engaged employees do more than like their work and workplace. They care about both things, plus their co-workers and team performance.

That spells success for any organization.

But only about 35% of employees say they’re engaged, according to research from Gallup.

Naturally, HR leaders and front-line managers want to increase that number. When employees care, they’re more productive, create higher quality work and are loyal to their employer, Gallup researchers also found. So here are five ways to increase employee engagement in 2022.

Set better goals

  • Have managers work with employees to set goals so they can determine feasibility, bottlenecks and deadlines
  • Align employee’s professional goals to organizational goals so they have personal interest in overall success
  • Establish clear expectations around processes, time lines, feedback, rewards for execution and consequences for fails, and
  • Require regular goal monitoring, progress reports and coaching, as needed.

Show the love

Companies and leadership will want to show a new level of care to keep employees engaged this year.

“What we’re seeing is that care is rising to the forefront and becoming the center of decision-making, reducing burnout and boosting happiness at work,” said Mark Lobosco, VP of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn.

In fact, employees who feel they’re cared about at work are three times more likely to be happy working for their company, LinkedIn research found.

“This means that managers will need to continue to adapt their styles and build soft skills to attract and retain talent in the future of work,” said Lobosco.

And many managers may need some refresher training on soft skills after not working side-by-side with employees for nearly two years. A few tips:

  • Show some vulnerability. Leaders who share struggles give employees a comfortable space to open up and feel like their emotions matter, too. But beware: There’s a line between showing vulnerability and complaining or condescending. You don’t want to make your struggle bigger than employees’ struggles. And you don’t want to take a “you have to toughen up” approach. Say what’s wrong and why. For instance, “I’m stuck on a problem, and I feel frustrated and stressed.”
  • Talk, connect intentionally. When you talk informally with employees, be fully present: Put aside screens, ignore alerts and listen closely. For formal one-on-ones, note priorities and key questions you want to ask before you meet.

Re-think well-being

HR pros and company leaders have discussed, and we’ve covered, mental well-being more than ever since the pandemic started.

Now that it’s an important topic – if not “the” topic – HR will want to be far more proactive about overall well-being to improve employee engagement.

“As many seek to grow and evolve with the new perspective that the pandemic has brought, they will look with renewed vigor to enhance their physical, mental and spiritual health,” said Adam Perlman, MD, Chief Medical Officer and co-founder at meQuilibrium.

One key, Perlman said: “Work-life integration,” which used to be called work-life balance. Now we need to re-imagine what it can be, he said.

How can HR do that? First, recognize the scale tips toward life one day and work the next day. That’s why it’s about integration – bringing them closer together rather than drawing a line between work and life. Very seldom is there an even balance nowadays.

That’s why flexibility is a critical element to employee engagement. Even if hybrid or remote work – which offer the most flexibility – don’t work for your culture, you can weave more flexibility into employees’ experiences. Give front-line managers tools and authority to bend schedules when employees must tend to other demands.

Train managers to intervene

Beyond giving front-line managers tools and power to build engagement, train them to step in with tact and grace.

Employees are busier than ever and overwhelmed. Fewer people were tasked with more work when colleagues quit, were laid off or chose not to come back to on-site work.

A yoga class or meditation session can’t fix that kind of pressure. But managers who know when to talk to employees about important subjects can.

Team interventions help, according to Erin Kelly, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, whose research appears in the book Overload: How Good Jobs Went Bad and What We Can Do About It.

Kelly found employees whose managers were trained to check in on personal and professional well-being were significantly less burned out and stressed. The training also helped those managers understand how to be more flexible. So the employees were also 40% less likely to quit than their colleagues whose managers didn’t know how to help.

Another elixir: well-being workshops. Employees could talk about what stressed them, discover common stressors in the workplace and then work together to find superfluous practices and policies to let go.

The key is to train hands-on managers to recognize early signs of burnout and how to intervene.

Double down on culture initiatives

In a remote or hybrid work environment, many company cultures have become diluted. That’s especially true (and complicated) for new employees hired during or right before the pandemic.

“In a remote-first working environment, employees may begin to feel dissociated from their organization’s mission and values,” said Ken Schnee, General Manager of Sterling’s Technology, Media, Entertainment, and Hospitality Group.

You’ll want to continue – or ramp up – culture initiatives. Send a regular cadence of messages, including reminders of your values, where they came from and why they’re important.

In addition, work to build or improve a culture of collaboration. Create opportunities for employees to work across job functions and with different groups. “In this day and age, we are lucky enough to have technological advancements that can enable us to communicate and connect in unique ways,” said Schnee. “Using these tools to interact with different people across your organization can create a sense of togetherness and help people feel more connected to your mission and values.”

This article was originally published in HRMorning.

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