Two ways to boost employee engagement going into 2020

Creating a highly engaged workforce is a primary aim for any organisation and a key indication of culture performance for HR departments too.

By: Paul Heaton on

Highly engaged employees are motivated, productive, less likely to be looking for new employment and are tuned in to the long term aims of the company they’re working for, recognising that their contribution plays a part in the larger success of the company.

Disengaged employees, however, can be disruptive, may only get through the minimum amount of work required each day and will be on the lookout for their next opportunity. In fact, one of the bigger challenges for businesses is managing disengaged employees who aren’t looking for new work and are instead happy to turn up for their paycheque.

And the research into employee engagement paints a pretty stark picture as to the benefits and, conversely, big issues that good and bad engagement levels can present for businesses.

Gallup’s extensive research into the topic has found that employee disengagement costs US businesses over $500 billion every single year.

But engaged workers are putting a real shift in, proving to be 17% more productive, more loyal to their organisation and taking 41% fewer sick days.

And with just 13% of employees engaged in their work worldwide, the scale of the problem becomes apparent.

But there are a number of strategies and new initiatives that businesses can look to put into practice with the aim of increasing engagement in mind.

Here are two big areas to start to focus on moving into next year.

Recognise your employee’s efforts

Employees who feel that their day to day contributions as well as their work achievements are appreciated by the company they work for are far more likely to be engaged in their work for the long term.

This is particularly true of millennials in the workplace for which research has found they require far more frequent recognition than any other age group, including Gen Zers.

However, many companies struggle to get recognition right. Whilst the majority of companies in the USA, in particular, say that they offer a recognition program to their employees, the vast majority only focus on service awards. For younger workers who greatly appreciate and get a boost from being recognised more frequently, waiting a year, two years and perhaps for a Christmas bonus or birthday card isn’t going to generate ongoing engagement.

The key for companies who are yet to formalise a recognition strategy moving into 2020 is to not place the burden on management and team leaders to be the sole distributors of recognition within the workforce. For one, they already have their own workloads and targets to drive their teams towards. And second, one person isn’t going to notice all the great things that go on within a company day in, day out.

Adopting a recognition platform that empowers colleagues to freely show appreciation for each other’s efforts can result in less work for managers, more engagement for staff and a truck-load of data for HR teams to sink their teeth into every month.

Find out more about our own employee recognition programs here.

Allow flexibility in how your employees want to work

You will probably have read numerous times on LinkedIn and in other blog posts by now that employees love the chance to work more flexibly, strike a healthier work-life balance and even work remotely when they get the chance.

And some of the world’s most successful companies, albeit predominantly within the tech world, have taken the remote-work trend and embedded it into their way of working. The parent company behind Wordpress being a prime example, with their CEO saying it affords him the opportunity to hire the best people in the world, not just candidates who live within a commutable distance of an office.

But besides from a wider talent pool to fish from, there are a whole host of other benefits to allowing employees to work more flexibly.

First, work-from-home staff are actually more productive, despite the ‘tea and pyjamas’ stereotypes. A two-year-long study from Standford University found that remote workers contribute what equates to an additional full days work every single week when compared to in-office staff, whilst there was also a 50% decrease in attrition among home-based workers. And more job loyalty = huge recruitment and training savings for organisations.

Businesses that offer employees the chance to work remotely, either fully or from time to time, are also showing a lot of trust in their staff, and this is something which bodes well for long-term engagement and retention levels, too.

Yet one of the big areas where offering more job flexibility can improve engagement is with wellbeing. The ability for employees to spend less time on a stressful commute, spend more time pursuing hobbies, passions and quality family time, as well as being able to live where makes them happy, are all hugely beneficial for both physical and mental wellbeing.

Further research from Gallup found that 62% of employees who are engaged in their work report that their job contributes positively to their physical health, compared to just 22% of actively disengaged staff, over 50% of which even go so far as to say their job is having a negative effect on their health and wellbeing.

Of course, there are many ways traditional companies who require workers to be on-site can create a culture that promotes and supports better wellbeing amongst their workers, and they absolutely should do so. But with 70% of employees wanting to work flexibly in the future, and 65% saying it would improve their wellbeing and work satisfaction, taking steps to start planning for a flexible work future now and into 2020 wouldn’t be unwise.