Addressing the Challenge: Employee Engagement

April 29, 2023by Jennifer Murray0

Employee engagement is a mysterious concept for a lot of organizations. They know they want it and need it, but don’t know how to measure or change it. Some leaders believe that bringing people back to the office will increase employee engagement. Others feel that they can’t force people to come in, but don’t believe their team members are fully contributing when they are working remotely. They have a sense that their team members are disengaged based upon response times and activity levels.

Gallup publishes annual employee engagement data based upon over 57,000 U.S. employees. The survey results indicate that employee engagement has hovered around 30% for two decades. Approximately 70% of our workforce has been disengaged. Imagine how increased employee engagement could impact your organization! Given its influence on driving business results, it is surprising that the statistic has been stagnant. Your data may be different, however national trends are likely to impact all organizations to some degree. Turnover rates increased rapidly enough to coin the phrase, “the great resignation.”  Mental health and burnout trends have risen, as well. In a 2022-2023 AFLAC Workforces Report, 46% of U.S. workers said their mental health negatively impacted job performances.

Inflated prices, rising interest rates, and volatility in the banking industry have created financial stress for all generations. Young people have become frustrated with the housing market. Boomers are contemplating retirement age targets and determining if they need to re-evaluate their plans. Others are returning to the workforce.

Tony Ferraro, Senior Executive Coach and Director of Training Services at Floyd Consulting shared, “When you help your people engage in their personal lives, their engagement at work will increase. $7.9 trillion is lost annually to employee disengagement, but companies with high engagement see a 23% increase in revenue.” Given the myriad of external pressures, many of which are outside our control, Tony’s theory is worth consideration.

Creating opportunities for human interaction and connection opens the door to building trust. In a trusted relationship, employees are more likely to have discussions about personal goals and dreams. In addition to coaching, there are several ways to establish connections across your team.

Workplace policies are a common area of focus. Some team members are experiencing stress and anxiety due to isolation and the desire for human connections. Providing the option to come into the office may appear to be accommodating on the surface, but if it isn’t widely adopted, it is unlikely to address the feelings of isolation. Instead of an option to work in the office, create opportunities to bring people together for a purpose. Some organizations have annual goals for giving back to the community. Bringing your team together to provide an act of service to a non-profit organization is an easy solution.

Does your organization work on large projects with firm deadlines? Developing a response to an RFP may require printing, collating, and assembling binders for large client presentations. Pre-Covid, some clients brought people from multiple business functions together in a conference room to assist with the final packaging process. They were all working on a common goal which supports the business and personal fulfillment.

Brainstorming and planning sessions can be energizing and effective when everyone comes together and uses whiteboards and sticky notes to capture ideas. Coupled with a group lunch or fun activity, it can be a meaningful and engaging experience. Ensuring that all of the participants are seen and heard is likely to drive innovative ideas and better solutions.

Recently, Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco Systems described site redesign projects with a combined purpose of customer experience and employee collaboration. He acknowledged that he didn’t anticipate bringing all employees back to the office 5 days per week again. He suggested that the Town Hall meeting was one worthwhile reason to bring people back together.

Instructor-led training is another reason to come together. Not only does training help to develop and retain employees, the in-person option can provide a welcome change to the virtual routine. It can also broaden employee networks.

Many employee handbooks include childcare policies. If your organization does not require a childcare solution, planning in-person events and setting participation expectations in advance will help employees make arrangements that will allow them to attend.

Geographically dispersed teams that don’t have the option of coming together on a regular basis can create trusted relationships in different ways. These environments make frequent check-ins even more critical. Daily team huddles, weekly one on one meetings, office hours, and team meetings will help to stay connected and create a sense of inclusion. The Gallup poll reported that one of the top issues was  people want to feel cared about. Hosting one on one meetings with remote team members can meet that need if the agenda includes topics beyond work deliverables and the leader displays empathy and genuine interest.

Offering a 10-minute wellness break with a breathing exercise or physical movement can boost energy and attitudes. There are apps, Employee Assistance Programs, and wellness programs that provide multiple options.

Creating a more engaged team starts with connections. Perhaps it is time to place a higher priority on creating opportunities for meaningful and trusted relationships to drive engagement and business results.

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Headquarters
230 Hampton Woods Lane, Suite 101 Raleigh, NC 27607
Satellite Office
2929 Breezewood Ave. Suite 101, Fayetteville, NC. 28303
Where to find us
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