Leaders today talk about having an engaged workplace. They’ll boast about their team’s work ethic and synergy, something right out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. And yet, there is less talk about how to become an engaged workplace. It’s not something that happens at the snap of your fingers. It takes time to build and commitment to maintain day after day.
Before going any further, what does the term employee engagement actually mean? Simply put, employee engagement is when employees feel connected to the team and its mission and thus committed to reaching the organization’s goals. They are invested in their work and want everyone to succeed.
As more companies turn to remote and hybrid workplaces, what it takes to engage employees has shifted. While you could once send out a spontaneous email at 4 p.m. for an onsite happy hour, that’s no longer the case. Events and get-togethers take a bit more planning and, arguably, more work too. But even though it may look a bit different these days, employee engagement is still critical to workplace success. Below are three reasons to emphasize employee engagement this year.
1. Boost Productivity
First of all, an engaged team will be more productive than an unengaged one. Think about a classroom setting for a moment. A teacher who focuses on collaboration through group work is more likely to engage students than one who delivers the same rote lectures daily. As active participants, students are more apt to focus on the material and get better grades.
This example can be translated to workplaces today. A strong manager who is charismatic and open to constructive feedback is going to create a space that welcomes team members’ input. Employees who feel encouraged to offer something to the group will demonstrate their engagement. In contrast, a manager who just doles out tasks like homework isn’t going to get the same kind of productive work in return.
This is where the concept of strategic alignment enters the conversation. This term describes a scenario in which internal stakeholders are focused around a particular goal or intention. As in a school group project, everyone knows that if one person is slacking off, the whole team will suffer. A common goal, on the other hand, produces synergistic energy between team members, sparking motivation and higher performance.
2. Increase Happiness
You can tell when someone is excited about their work. Their eyes may light up when they speak about a new project or an upcoming work event. They talk about their teammates and refer to them as friends. They may even try to get you to work for their company as well. Happiness is another direct outcome of employee engagement.
Unfortunately, happiness is not the norm for the U.S. workplace. As the Great Resignation demonstrated, employees who were unfulfilled decided to find work elsewhere or take a pause on working altogether. This disruption led to many leaders thinking once again about engagement. As employees worked from their home offices or kitchen tables, many companies started thinking of ways to further engage them. Fun Slack channels were created, for instance, for employees to swap movie recs and share photos of their beloved pets.
You may be wondering why you should focus on engagement for the sake of happiness. After all, if someone is getting their work done, who cares if they like it, right? Wrong. A study conducted by Saïd Business School at Oxford University found that employees who considered themselves happy at work were 13% more productive. An engaged, happy workforce can get more done and feel good doing it, too.
3. Better Retention and Longevity
Another critical outcome of employee engagement is better retention and longevity. An employee who is engaged is more likely to stay at the company for the long haul. Leaving the team would almost be like breaking up with a romantic partner, something nobody wants to go through. When an employee believes they have a direct impact on the success of the business, they feel more tied to their work.
Conversely, when a company experiences high turnover, current employees will start to feel unsettled. They may start looking around to see why others are leaving. This can lead to workplace dissatisfaction and create a mass exodus of employees. Not only does employee disengagement prompt more frequent turnover, but it can also decrease overall morale.
One way to increase engagement with an eye toward retention is to provide learning opportunities. By offering training and other educational programs, you show employees that you’re investing in their professional futures. You might bring in outside experts for presentations or offer stipends to employees who pursue another degree or certification. Whatever your approach, the important thing is to demonstrate that when they stay with your company, employees can continue to grow.
As a leader, keeping employees engaged should be one of your biggest priorities. Fortunately, employees want to be engaged, too. They crave the satisfaction of working productively toward common goals, feeling happy in their work, and blooming where they’re planted. Given the productivity and employee retention benefits to your business, there’s really no better time to focus on employee engagement.