Four Steps for Increasing Employee Engagement

You know a disengaged worker when you see one: the receptionist balancing her checkbook, the nurse bad-mouthing a doctor to her patient, the manager who doesn’t take action to correct a customer complaint. It’s obvious that these characters would rather be anywhere else but at work, and are only doing their jobs because someone’s watching them. While these obviously disengaged types are easy to spot, do you know how much their disinterest is costing your organization?

According to the Center for Talent Retention, such completely disengaged workers only contribute 55 percent of their capabilities to their jobs. That means that 45 percent of their time on the job is “lost time.” That amounts to 18 hours out of a 40-hour work week; what are those 18 hours worth at an RN’s salary? And that’s only the salary ramifications of a disengaged employee. In addition to the lost productivity, a disengaged individual isn’t delivering a desirable level of customer service, nor are they making a contribution to the team. The entire environment is affected by disengaged employees.

Even “slightly more solid” workers who seem somewhat engaged in their jobs are still only performing at 75 percent. When you take into consideration the numbers of “somewhat engaged” or “genuinely disengaged” employees and calculate what they are costing your organization, you begin to see the importance of cultivating a fully engaged workforce.

Three Characteristics of Engaged Employees

Almost everyone is able to intuitively recognize employee engagement--an employee who is fully involved in, enthusiastic about, and inspired by his work. The fully engaged employee will choose to act in ways that benefit the organization:

  1. Engaged employees have an emotional attachment to their work. They are passionate about their work and feel connected to their employer. They believe they can have a meaningful impact on the organization’s goals and customer service.
  2. Engaged employees are involved in problem solving. They feel like a true “owner” and strive to find innovative solutions to problems. They believe they have a voice in the organization and feel empowered to use that voice to improve their workplace.
  3. Engaged employees are committed. They will do whatever it takes to deliver consistent, high-quality results. In addition to being committed to superior performance, engaged employees are committed to their employer and are much more likely to stick with the organization.

Factors That Influence Employee Engagement

There are numerous factors that contribute to an employee’s feeling of engagement; four of the most vital include:

  1. Feeling Valued: Does the employee feel that his job is valuable to the organization? Employees who feel they’re “just a number” or “just another aide” may inadvertently pass that feeling along to their customers as well.
  2. Understanding Expectations: Does the employee have the knowledge and information to do the job effectively? Do they know what is expected of them? Unclear expectations or a lack of basic training place an employee at risk for disengagement. Pair that with a scarcity of materials and equipment and you will generate negative feelings. In such a case, the employee focuses on just getting through the day rather than thinking about how he is contributing to the greater good of the organization.
  3. Supportive Relationship with the Supervisor: What is the employee’s relationship like with his supervisor? Supervisors who listen and regularly provide feedback and seek out ideas and concerns are more likely to generate employee engagement. Engaged employees respond well to rewards and gestures of appreciation from their supervisors; such gestures often mean more than the financial compensation because they reinforce that the supervisor recognizes and rewards what is important.
  4. Feeling "In the Know": Do employees know what’s going on throughout the organization and how it affects their job? Communication is essential to bolster employee involvement and commitment. Clear, consistent messages communicated regularly through a variety of channels serve to foster engagement on all levels of an organization.

Encouraging Engagement at All Times

Is there a magic formula to ensuring employee engagement? It starts with hiring the right kind of employee, one whose values are aligned with the organization’s and who is committed to being successful. However, even the most promising of new hires can quickly disengage within the first few months of employment. This is a critical time for the organization and the employee’s direct supervisor to be in constant contact with the employee to ensure that expectations are being met and questions are answered.

Most organizations hold an employee orientation for new hires to introduce them to policies, procedures, and, hopefully, corporate culture. Organization-wide orientation doesn’t last much more than a few days, though, before the new recruits are absorbed into their individual departments. Consider holding an orientation reunion after about 30 days and again at 90 days of employment. Gather the orientation group together to talk about how the organization is meeting their expectations, how well you are living up to the culture that was introduced during the orientation, how communication can be improved, and, finally, their perceptions of their work and co-workers.

Beyond the first months of employment, managers and supervisors can take action to ensure employee engagement. It’s even possible to get some of those disengaged employees performing at a higher level of engagement. It starts with knowing each employee as an individual. Do you know what makes each of your employees tick?

If you know what each individual values, how she prefers her communication, and what motivates her to come to work each day, you have the foundation for building a coalition of engaged workers who will go the extra mile for their organization and their customers.

Want to learn more about how to diagnose your employees’ level of engagement? Are you eager to find solutions for increasing engagement and building a stronger team? Start with our full-day workshop for your managers on site and customized to your organization’s needs. Contact us today at 920-563-4684.

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