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How to Improve Employee Engagement

by Stephanie Neal

Ready to learn how to improve employee engagement? Here’s a hint: the top 3 drivers are the ones that employees are currently least happy with.Employee engagement is a topic that continues to trend upward this year, having just been highlighted in several sessions about how to improve employee engagement at the HR Tech Conference last week.

There’s good reason this evergreen topic is getting new life. In a strong job market with high turnover, there’s greater urgency for companies to evaluate their approach to improving employee engagement. Plus, they must consider how their efforts create better experiences that will attract, grow, and retain top talent.

Not only is it desirable for companies to learn how to improve employee engagement and have an engaged workforce, but it’s critical to their longer-term performance. Satisfied employees who feel like their job is rewarding are motivated to stay and perform well, and, as a result, drive better financial performance for their companies.

The good news is that the outlook for improving employee engagement is also trending positively. Recent research by The Conference Board revealed that 54 percent employees are currently satisfied with their jobs, a 20-year high. Among all engagement factors, employees reported that they were most satisfied with their coworkers, their workspaces, and their commute.

What they were most satisfied with, however, were not the factors that most impact satisfaction overall. The top three drivers of employee satisfaction are the ones that employees are currently least happy with—potential for future growth, communication, and recognition/acknowledgment—all areas where managers have a direct role.

3 ways to start transforming employee engagement today

That the satisfaction level for these driving factors is well below average provides a clear opportunity to companies to improve employee engagement—and boost the likelihood of retaining key talent. Here are three ways companies can do just that:

  1. Develop a core of effective communicators. Leaders are an organization’s core system of communicators. Keeping employees well-informed about the changes that affect their teams, so that they aren’t taken by surprise or confused when those changes are introduced, is critical. More frequent communication will not only keep employees in the know, but also allow them to make the best use of their time and resources, helping to ensure that they are effectively engaged and able to see their efforts pay off.
  2. Create a recognition rhythm. People want to be recognized and rewarded for their contributions, and leaders are in the unique position to ensure their team members feel valued and appreciated. Encourage leaders to own this role with a more regular cadence of recognition. Recognition should not be an annual event, but an ongoing occurrence to show appreciation for good work and to let employees know when they are doing well.
  3. Fuel employee potential by coaching for growth. Leaders play an important coaching role in their organizations. It’s crucial that they provide meaningful, supportive feedback that motivates team members and helps them improve their performance. Coaching for growth is even more critical in a strong job market where individuals can more easily find new work. Employees will look elsewhere and leave their jobs if they find better growth and development opportunities. Leaders can leverage coaching opportunities to help identify and create new growth opportunities within the organization, to help engage and retain talented team members.

Acting on these three drivers for improving employee engagement is also a great place to begin growing the leadership strength that will help create a better place to work. Show leaders they have the organization’s support and a purpose for being better. When they do their part, employee satisfaction will continue to grow, and they reap the benefits of a more productive and happy workplace.

 Learn more about our research into employee engagement.

Stephanie Neal is Director of the Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research (CABER). She leads market and trend research focused on executive leadership and business innovation, and is a co-author of DDI's Global Leadership Forecast.

Posted: 09 Oct, 2019,
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