How to Cultivate an Engaged Workforce

Talk about your win-win situation; when you make it a strategy to foster an engaged workforce, your company has everything to gain and nothing to lose. Engaged workers make your organization more competitive, more resilient, and more profitable.

In fact, a recent article in Gallup’s Business Journal, Companies Are Missing Opportunities For Growth and Revenue, states that businesses with an engaged workforce can increase their profitability by as much 18 percent per employee.

Employee engagement also contributes to improvements in retention, safety, quality, and customer ratings, Gallup says.

Keep in mind: employee engagement is more than employee satisfaction.

“Employee engagement is a commitment an employee has to their employer and their organization’s success,” states the blog, Why Employee Engagement Matters.
“This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company.”

Basic Courtesies

So how do you foster this kind of respect, energy, and emotional commitment among your employees? In its recent article, 10 Simple Secrets You Need to Know to Increase Employee Engagement, Entrepreneur magazine suggests starting at the top.

“’Walking the walk’ is the single most effective employee engagement strategy any company can deploy,” the article states. “Employees must see the leadership demonstrating the characteristics and behaviors everyone else is being asked to display. In companies where leaders model the desired behavior, employees are 55 percent more engaged, 53 percent more focused and more likely to stay at the company.”

The Entrepreneur article also encourages management to demonstrate flexibility, openness, and simple courtesies like thanking employees for their efforts. “Often, it comes down to the Golden Rule: Treat people as you’d want to be treated,” it says.

Stress Management

Another key to fostering engaged employees is managing workforce stress.

“Among people who report high stress, 51 percent are disengaged from their work, while only 9 percent say they are engaged,” writes Thomas Davenport, a senior consultant with human resources consulting firm Towers Watson, in his recent blog, To Sustain Employee Engagement You Must Manage Workplace Stress.

Primary sources of stress, Towers Watson research has found, include:

• Excessive workload, compounded by inadequate staffing
• Unclear job expectations
• Poor rewards for effort
• Overwhelming productivity demands

While life certainly happens in the business world, and stress is unavoidable, the situations listed above can be managed by effective human resources strategies from proactive recruiting techniques to acknowledging and rewarding employee efforts.

In addition, Davenport writes, emotional support can go a long way in countering workplace stress. “The two items receiving the highest scores in energy-rich workplaces (‘My manager treats me with respect’ and ‘My manager is friendly and gets along well with others’) revealed just how important personal connections are.”

A few additional ways to offer support:
• Offer praise and recognition when it’s warranted.
• When employees go through a difficult time, such as a divorce or death of a loved one, offer encouragement, make sure they know you’re concerned.
• When employees are new, be available to answer questions and make sure they have the resources/information they need to ease into their jobs.
• Be approachable.

Opportunities to Grow

Not only are employees impacted by their day-to-day work experiences, they’re also interested in the big picture. They want to know their work makes a difference. They want opportunities to challenge themselves, to learn, and to grow.

“Engaged employees are given the opportunity to adequately use their skills, and are encouraged to stretch those skills in order to progress,” explains the Michael Page blog, 5 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement.

“Talk to your employees about their career plan,” the blog suggests. “Does their current role make full use of their strengths and abilities? Is their career moving in the direction they desire? Are there new or interesting projects they can work on to expand their skill set?”

Not only do employees want to continue improving their skills and advancing their careers, many also want to feel they’re making a positive difference.

“As a manager, it is crucial to frequently reinforce the importance of your employees’ roles,” the Michael Page piece suggests. “Help them to see the direct connection between their activities and company success. Set goals and challenge your employees to meet them to promote a sense of purpose. Grant them the autonomy to improve the way things are done, and involve them in decisions to help them feel a sense of ownership over the direction of the company.”

Ultimately, few things can benefit your company more than a workforce that shares your goals of seeing it succeed. Your employees simply want to feel they work for an organization that’s worth putting their all into: on organization with leaders who care about their goals, value them, and welcome their contributions. If you let those fundamentals guide your talent management — and your overall company philosophy — you’ll see that kind of win-win employee engagement in your organization.