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How to Increase Employee Engagement

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post Irma Hunkeler -Head of Operations with BlueGlass. Her opinions are her own. 

How many of your employees are truly engaged in their work? Perhaps 50 percent, or 75 percent if you’re lucky?

Unlikely.

Research from Gallup shows that a staggering 87 percent of worldwide employees are not engaged in their work. The truth is that businesses of all sizes are experiencing a disengagement crisis and many are not even aware of it.

As a small business owner, things might be trundling along quite nicely. Profit margins are reasonable, sales are on the up and the business is growing, so just imagine what you could achieve if your staff were engaged…

A highly engaged workforce is the difference between a business that remains under the radar and one that disrupts the sector and gains a competitive advantage. Not only are businesses with engaged employees innovative and creative, but most importantly, they make working life fun.

So what steps can you take to turn your small business from somewhere no one wants to be to a company employees are desperate to work for..?

1. Make sure your employees know how to do their jobs

 That might sound like the most obvious employee engagement tip you’ve ever heard, but it’s actually incredibly important. Anyone who has ever had a job where they’re not sure what to do or how to do it will testify that there’s nothing more demotivating than being left confused, frustrated and unable to meet your responsibilities. That’s why proper on-boarding and ongoing training is essential.

A successful on-boarding and training programme will give employees the skills they need to master their workload so they can do their job effectively and take pride in what they do. This is also a time where they can engage with superiors, ask questions, offer ideas, voice concerns and actually feel like you care.

On-boarding and training also gives employees the chance to develop a connection with co-workers and the company, two factors that further boost engagement.

2. Communicate the company’s goals

Employees want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to know how the work they do impacts the business as a whole and how the success of the business will help them achieve their personal goals.

To do this, you need to create a business plan with a set list of realistic goals you want to accomplish. To really engage employees, they should be involved in setting these goals and be told how they’ll benefit if they’re achieved. Potential rewards include:

  • Bonuses
  • Opportunities for progression
  • Training
  • More responsibility
  • Perks and rewards
  • Flexible working arrangements
  • Team events and celebrations

Setting and communicating the company’s goals is an ongoing process that should take place on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Company-wide goals can be set for smaller businesses, while those growing in size may need departmental goals or even targets for specific teams.

3. Give employees incentives they really want

One size does not fit all when it comes to putting employee incentives in place. If you really want to motivate and engage your team then you need to offer a variety of rewards so they can choose which are most beneficial to them.

While salary increases and promotions can be hugely motivating, rewards for smaller achievements such as gift cards, additional time off, wellness incentives and educational opportunities can be effective. Speaking to your staff before putting an incentive scheme in place will make sure there’s something for everyone. Here are some more rewards that don’t involve a pay rise.

4. Formalise the reward and recognition process

Choosing which incentives to offer staff is really only a small part of a successful reward and recognition scheme. Done wrong, the scheme can be extremely demotivating. For example, if only ‘pet’ employees are recognised or the criteria for receiving the rewards is arbitrary or kept secret then you risk alienating employees.

Instead, small business owners must:

  • Ensure all employees understand why incentives are being offered
  • Communicate the specific criteria for winning rewards clearly and make it available to employees
  • Share examples of the type of actions that are deserving of rewards and put a timeline in place
  • Reward every employee who meets the criteria
  • Announce reward recipients at company meetings

5. Empower employees to make decisions

Every small business owner is extremely protective of their baby. It’s only natural when you’ve grown a business from the ground up and have experienced the many sleepless nights that entails. However, when it comes to managing your team, it’s essential you take a step back and allow them to use the expertise and experience you hired them for.

Micromanagers can inadvertently do serious damage to their own businesses, simply by caring too much. In fact, many micromanagers don’t even know they’re doing it. While micromanaging may help you achieve short-term results, in the long-term, it has a damaging impact on your team, stunting their development, damaging their confidence and building an organisational culture that lacks trust. The result is a workforce that’s not only disengaged but also less productive.

Instead of micromanaging, dedicate your time to focusing on the bigger picture and give employees the space and freedom they need to make decisions about how to do their own work. Being on hand to answer any questions employees do have and operating an open door policy will help to boost engagement.

6. Provide cost-effective company cars

Company cars were once the employee perk of choice, but increasing Benefit-In-Kind (BIK) taxation means that it’s not always the cheapest way for employees to use a car for business and personal use. However, company cars still make a lot of sense for employees who cover significant mileage during the course of their work.

To keep the costs down, an increasing number of employers are choosing to buy electric and hybrid vehicles. They attract reduced levels of company car tax as well as lower road tax, fuel costs and general running costs, all of which are savings that can be passed onto employees. The best electric cars have also improved massively over the last couple of years in terms of their range, their performance and their charging time, making them a much more practical option than they ever were.

7. Make employee development a priority

For many employees, the ability to develop their skills, progress their careers and challenge themselves is a priority. There are a number of different ways you can boost employee development in your organisation. Giving employees new duties, allowing them to grow within the team and even letting them choose their own training based on the skills they want to develop shows you value their career growth. That, in turn, will help to keep them engaged.

The engagement of your employees has a direct impact on your company’s productivity, profitability and growth. As a business owner, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day chaos and forget how important your employees are. Making their happiness and development a priority will ensure your business is a healthy, rewarding and engaging environment for everyone involved.

Irma Hunkeler

Irma Hunkeler is Head of Operations with BlueGlass.co.uk, a digital marketing agency. Her work allows her to get in touch and collaborate with experts across different industries including travel, retail, recruitment and technology.

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