How to increase long-term employee engagement

It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful organisations on the planet can boast high employee engagement level scores. Engaged workers are hard-working, they’re focused on the long-term aims of the business and align themselves with the culture of the organisation too.

By: Paul Heaton on

So what is employee engagement, and why is it so powerful as a driving force for overall business success?

The term itself covers a wide range of employee factors which are in-turn influenced by numerous business and workplace factors. But at its core, employee engagement is very much the extent to which workers feel passionate about their jobs, how committed they are to the business and its goals and their intrinsic willingness to contribute towards the goals and success of the organisation.

However, Gallup suggests that just 15% of workers worldwide are actively engaged in their jobs, with twice as many only showing up to get paid at the end of the week or month.

So what can businesses do to drive high engagement within the workforce? Whilst there’s no golden bullet, here are five critical areas which can have the biggest impact on driving employee engagement.

Employee recognition

Increasing employee recognition has been found to be the primary driver of employee engagement. Research from OC Tanner found that 37% of employees note recognition as being the most important thing a company or manager can do to help them be more successful. And, conversely, a lack of appreciation has been found to be one of the key reasons why employees quit.

However, only 11% of managers say they have the right tools to adequately and easily recognise their teams in a timely and transparent way. Learn more about how peer-to-peer recognition software can help organisations supercharge recognition in the workplace.

Working with purpose

The view of work has changed a lot of employees. Whereby during economic hardship and post-war staff were simply happy to have a job, the last two decades has seen a definite switch towards requiring work to be more meaningful, have a purpose and want to contribute. This is particularly true of younger generations in the workforce where simply not being told you’re not doing a good job isn’t enough to feel that they are doing well, belong at their organisation and share a common purpose and goal with that business.

Organisations with strong shared goals and purpose all work to the same set of principles and values and, as a result, have more engaged workforces.

Opportunities for growth and development

Career advancement and personal development have always been key factors in long-term employee engagement, but now it’s even more critical for employees. SHRM’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report found that less than 30% of workers ranked themselves as ‘very satisfied’ when it came to career advancement opportunities within the current workplace.

But that’s despite there being a clear link between engagement and professional development, especially within the millennial age group, where increasing knowledge, understanding and skills drive passion, motivation and commitment.

Flexibility

The world of work is irrevocably changing. The increase in remote or distributed working looks set to remain and even increase over the next decade as companies lose the office in favour of offering a more flexible working lifestyle for employees (and enjoying some substantial cost benefits along the way too).

And giving employees the freedom and flexibility to work when and how they want is an extremely powerful draw within the recruitment process, a benefit which for many workers is worth sacrificing a few extra £1,000’s in pay packet for every year.

But that’s the extreme side of flexibility, but being flexible also exists within a more traditional work setting but striving to offer a more flexible work/life balance (or integration) is just as important.

And research has shown that making conscious steps to help employees achieve a greater balance between work and personal time drives greater productivity and decreases stress. Plus, critically, it supports longer-term engagement levels, too.

Getting employee input

Whichever program or initiative your organisation plans to put in action as a means to boosting long-term employee engagement, it’s important to get the input of employees to see what they’d value and what will deliver the most cultural bang-for-its-buck for the company.

For example, creating a recognition program where employees themselves are empowered to freely recognise their own colleagues is greatly favoured by some, with appreciation shared in a digitally social setting.

For target-driven workforces, see which rewards they’d prefer to receive. It could be company swag, or it may be a digital rewards card which they can spend when they’re out shopping with the family. Or it could be the choice to decide which perks or internal rewards they’d like to receive. For younger workers, support for additional training could be important. For older workers, perhaps an extra day off to spend with family would prove more impactful.

Read more: Two further ways to boost employee engagement going into 2020

The most critical takeaway from this article though is to understand that engagement cannot be left to chance. If creating a culture where a workforce is highly engaged happens by chance or with little maintenance, then the body of research showing the extent to which employees are disengaged worldwide wouldn’t make for such pessimistic reading.

It takes a strategic, long-term view to infect real change, and it takes the buy-in from all senior managers to ensure that change takes place every single day.