Cultivating employee engagement is one of the best investments that your company can make. Engaged employees are more productive, less stressed, and less likely to leave their jobs. They’re also more apt to provide higher-quality customer service and have lower absenteeism.
Yet employers often rely too heavily on surveys to cultivate employee engagement. But surveys don’t create outcomes. It doesn’t matter whether your company sends out thoughtful engagement surveys if you aren’t making changes based on employee feedback.
Improving your employee engagement requires more than surveying your people to death. Consider these suggestions when you’re looking to create higher engagement at work.
1. Create Opportunities for Meaningful Feedback
Instead of conducting a dozen employee engagement surveys, create periodic opportunities for meaningful feedback instead. Surveys can be a helpful way to gather initial thoughts about issues. But allotting regular time to check in with employees can make surveys unnecessary.
Consider instituting a standing meeting every quarter to replace employee satisfaction surveys. Providing employees with the opportunity to offer opinions, ask questions, and connect without an agenda can be valuable. In addition, weekly or biweekly one-on-ones can give your direct reports the chance to share their concerns in a less public setting. By creating these in-person feedback channels, you can get a pulse on employee sentiment with nary a Likert scale in sight.
2. Encourage Autonomy
Giving employees decision-making power can also lead to higher employee engagement. When employees have a sense of autonomy at work, it cultivates their personal and physiological sense of fulfillment. The more employees feel like their decisions positively affect their performance, the more invested they will be in the overall outcomes. That will lead to higher employee engagement.
A recent study about hybrid work found that workplace flexibility — being allowed to work from home — isn’t meaningful to employees without autonomy. If employees aren’t able to choose their work times and locations for themselves, they won’t value the benefit of such flexibility. Companies that mandate when and where employees can work — even if some of that is WFH — had lower employee engagement. The purported flexibility mattered less if employees didn’t feel as though they retained the decision-making power.
3. Model Work-Life Balance
It doesn’t matter whether your company policies tout the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance if management doesn’t model them. Encouraging work-life balance isn’t just about providing employees with a gym stipend or yoga classes. Real work-life balance encourages employees to consistently choose what’s best for them to meet their goals. This balance takes effort.
Managing stress and embracing practices that promote physical health is only one facet of a healthy work-life balance. True balance requires employees to manage their time and energy consistently. They have to feel comfortable setting boundaries with their supervisor around their workload and the hours they log.
Facilitating this boundary setting is worth it. A healthy work-life balance reduces employee burnout and turnover and increases productivity. The more managers can model prioritizing their own mental and physical health, the more employees will follow suit.
4. Cultivate Transparent Communication
Transparent communication can dramatically increase employee engagement. Employees who experienced transparent communication reported 12 times greater job satisfaction than those who didn’t believe their company was transparent.
But what is transparency? It’s more than just being honest with employees. Workplace transparency looks like managers freely sharing expectations, wins, setbacks, and revenue projections with employees. And in turn, it involves employees feeling free to share their feedback and ideas.
When employees aren’t clued in to their company’s goals, they experience stress. The more employees understand the business’s objectives and financial picture, the less anxious they feel. Understanding the why behind a change in company policy or tactics goes a long way, especially in times of uncertainty. Employees will be more inclined to support a new strategic direction if they’re aware of the reasoning behind it.
5. Acknowledge Achievements
Recognizing and rewarding employee achievements creates a greater sense of purpose in the workplace. As a result, employees are more motivated to continue to produce quality work and remain engaged. Individuals who feel consistently recognized at work are more likely to generate new ideas; they’re also more likely to believe that promotions are fair.
So how do you recognize and reward employees when it’s not yet time for — or you can’t afford — promotions or raises? Offer timely, specific praise. Telling someone they “did a good job” six months ago won’t feel as significant as outlining how their contribution ensured a recent project’s success. Explaining why the employee’s good work was important to achieving the company’s goals will encourage them to continue the behavior.
It’s also important to recognize employees whose work isn’t easily measurable. That recognition can be as simple as a well-timed thank-you note or a coffee shop gift card. It can also be helpful to know how your employees want their efforts to be acknowledged. That way, you can tailor recognition and rewards so they’ll feel more meaningful to them.
Satisfaction Without (or With Fewer) Surveys
Cultivating employee engagement is about more than sending out survey after survey. Creating a workplace culture that shows employees how much they matter goes much further than repeatedly soliciting anonymous comments. Promoting transparent communication, providing opportunities for meaningful feedback, and modeling the behavior that you want to see will pay off.