It can be easy to boost employee engagement for a short period of time, but how do you sustain it over multiple years? Here are five "big picture" things you should be doing over the long term to keep your employees engaged.
Here at Outback Team Building & Training, we get lots of customers looking for quick and easy solutions to their employee engagement problems. If your colleagues aren't feeling happy at work, or there's low energy in your office, then you might think a fun team building activity is the "magic solution" you need to make things better.
The problem? Team building is just one piece of the employee engagement puzzle.
Realistically, there's no way that a single day of team building, no matter how fun and exciting, is going to fix all of your problems. To sustain high levels of employee engagement, you need to be willing to put in consistent effort over time to improve your workplace culture. You might even need to make some big changes to the way your team operates and communicates.
So what exactly does that look like? Keep reading for five "big picture" strategies to build long-term engagement.
1. Show Your Appreciation Regularly
According to Aon's 2018 Trends in Global Employee Engagement, the number one driver of employee engagement is "Rewards & Recognition." While in previous years "Fair Pay" has been a crucial deciding factor, researchers found this year that recognition beyond pay and benefits were more important to employees.
So, how should you show your appreciation? There are all sorts of different things you can do, including:
- Call out good work in one-on-one meetings - Try to do this immediately whenever you notice an employee doing good work, and sincerely thank them for the impact they are making.
- Shout-out appreciation in team settings - Public displays of recognition can go a long way towards building a more positive workplace culture.
- Offer small rewards for employees who go above and beyond - This can be a great way to show that you really notice when someone puts in extra effort.
- Celebrate your teams success on a quarterly basis - Anytime you reach your quarterly targets, you should celebrate by doing something fun, like going out for a meal together or taking part in a team building activity.
The most important thing is for you to make sure these rewards and recognition are a regular part of your operations. The managers at your organization need to shift their mindset so that it's not just a random or one-off thing that happens whenever they remember to do it - this needs to become your "business as usual."
2. Build a Foundation of Mutual Trust & Respect
When most people think about improving employee engagement, they tend to think about things like creating new work perks or increasing compensation. But none of those things will matter if you don't have a bedrock of trust and respect between your leadership team and employees.
According to Deloitte research, employees who reported a high level of trust in their corporate leadership team are 62% more likely to stay with an organization. On the flip side, one out of every four employees looking to leave an organization said "lack of trust in leadership" was a key factor for their decision.
So mutual trust and respect is obviously important, but what does it look like in practice?
For leadership teams, this means that you should try to "assume positive intent" when speaking with employees. If someone makes a request that is within reason (for example, working from home one day out of the week, or adjusting their hours so they can avoid rush hour) you should try to be empathetic and accommodating. If the trust is there, employees will reciprocate by respecting the decisions made by your leadership team, and trusting them to have the team's best interests in mind.
3. Be Transparent About Career Opportunities & Growth
If you're not transparent about what career opportunities are available at your organization, then employees might start to look somewhere else to fill those needs. For the ambitious 'A Players' on your team, you want them to know that there are reasons to stick around long-term, even if that means changing positions within your company. Be transparent about how you see their role evolving over the next five years, and how their pay scale might be affected, in order to keep them engaged for longer.
Worried that discussing salary might negatively influence employee turnover? It turns out that the opposite is actually true. A 2015 study by PayScale showed that companies who are more transparent about salaries typically have employees who are less likely to quit. Dave Smith, Chief Product & Strategy Officer at PayScale writes in the Harvard Business Review: "We discovered that transparent conversations about money can actually mitigate low pay. So if an employer pays lower than the market average for a position, but communicates clearly about the reasons for a smaller paycheck, 82% of employees we surveyed still felt satisfied with their work."
4. Invest in Training & Development
If you want to keep employees around for the long term, you need to show your commitment to them by investing in their personal development and growth. According to Gallup, 87% of millennials say that professional development and career growth are very important to their engagement at work.
So how can you encourage a culture of learning at your organization?
- Create personal development plans - Every year, have employees create an action plan for their learning and development, including goals and accountabilities.
- Facilitate mentorship opportunities - Encourage employees to find mentors either within your workplace, or outside of it.
- Bring in a training facilitator - Host semi-annual group training programs for your team to help them develop their skills and become more effective in the workplace.
Your managers can also learn how to drive greater employee engagement with a half-day interactive workshop on Active Employee Engagement.
5. Don't Quit While You're Ahead
Employee engagement levels can drop just as fast as they can rise. Keep up with the strategies that have been working for you and your team, even if employees are now in a good place.
You can also download A Manager's Guide to Improving Employee Engagement for more resources, tools, and strategies to help you tackle common issues. Simply click the button below for access to your free copy of this all-in-one PDF document.