Employee engagement is the result of a number of key factors, all of which business leaders need to encourage and nurture. Businesses can’t force a culture in which employees are happy to advocate their brand.
Below are 7 key elements of employee engagement and how brands can encourage them among their workforce.
1. Strive for happy and content employees
In order for employees to become engaged with your brand, they need to be happy in their current role.
Happy employees work harder, improving personal productivity by 12%, while unhappy employees can be up to 10% less productive.
In other words ‘turning those frowns upside down’ can improve employee productivity by as much as 22%!
“The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.”
– Dr Sgroi – Department of Economics at the University of Warwick
There are a variety of strategies and practices that can improve the morale of your workforce, including:
- Fair salaries
- Career prospects
- Openness and trust
- Healthy working environments
Starting at the earliest stage, optimising your talent attraction strategy will help to attract applicants who are aligned with your messaging, company culture and already have a familiarity with your brand.
Utilising social media to interact with passive talent enables a business to engage like-minded individuals and share their vision, even before advertising vacancies within the company.
‘Aligned talent’, who fit your company culture, will integrate quickly, engaged with the business, prove more productive, will often become brand advocates and be more likely to stick around long-term.
Your employees should also find the office environment a pleasant place to be for their working day.
Ergonomic equipment, the correct type of lighting, establishing the right temperature and facilities optimised to encourage wellness and comfort, all contribute to a happy workforce.
2. Ask for feedback (and act on it)
Feedback helps your business to improve, but is all too often overlooked by business leaders.
Open, honest opinion sharing and advice from people involved in all areas of the company, is key to implementing processes and strategies that improve working conditions.
Listening and acting upon feedback from employees enables business leaders to discover and provide what their business requires. Communication also builds trust and creates a culture of transparency.
Pooling the knowledge and experience of your workforce is an effective employee engagement strategy, which will set your brand apart when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, as well as staying one step ahead of the competition.
Strategy ideas, product improvements, marketing campaigns or employee initiatives can all be the result of open discussions with staff.
Employee feedback can be acquired in a number of ways, including:
Conducting regular employee satisfaction surveys is a great start when asking for open feedback about any aspect of the business. Unless you already have a culture with a strong element of trust, anonymising such surveys is a must if you want to receive honest answers and opinions from your employees.
Regular one to one reviews offer an effective way to have a private conversation with an employee about their role. A common problem when asking for feedback in a group environment is that employees are often reluctant to offer an opinion in front of their peers and business leaders.
In a one-to-one situation, trust can sometimes be a concern; questions should be about non-sensitive subjects, such as ‘how would you improve this process?’ or ‘is there anything the business can do to make your day more pleasant?’. Queries regarding individuals should be avoided.
Company group discussions are great for promoting cohesion and asking for feedback from everyone all at once. However, they’re not always practical due to company size or logistics, and some employees may not be comfortable speaking up in such social situations.
One solution is mixing employees from different departments into break-out sessions to discuss, offer opinion and provide feedback regarding business processes.
Social platforms, such as the company intranet or brand forums online, often allow employees to offer their feedback without having to physically stand up in front of their colleagues to do so. It’s often easier for someone to type a message, offering thoughts and advice, than it is to stand in front of people and do the same.
Another benefit of this form of interaction is that employees can think about and tweak their answers, ensuring that they’re getting their point across clearly, before sending their message. This removes the apprehension associated with providing feedback verbally and potentially not vocalising their point effectively.
3. Tap into advocacy
Advocacy results in free marketing and enhanced talent attraction. It’s in the business’s best interests to nurture it wherever possible, however, advocacy has to be earned by a brand and is one thing that employees will only offer if they feel truly engaged with the business.
Advocacy is also one of the most beneficial elements of employee engagement that a brand can take advantage of, but often don’t.
Encouraging employees to spread your brand messaging and contribute to improving your employer and talent branding can be achieved in a variety of ways.
- Offering your employees the freedom to use social media and their own devices while at work makes it easy for them to share updates about the company culture while it’s fresh in their mind. Expecting an employee to wait until lunchtime or when they get home in the evening before sharing your brand stories just isn’t realistic. There are even dedicated social tools that can be used to spread the word about your business and what a great place it is to work
- ‘Gamifying’ advocacy can provide an incentive for employees, as well as some healthy competition between colleagues. Different awards can be presented, dependent upon what tasks the employee completes. This could include referring a friend for a vacancy, sharing the latest company blog post or posting a photo of the company stand at an event to Facebook or Pinterest
- Creating useful and relevant content, which is likely to be shared by your employees, will increase the probability of advocacy. Infographics, guides, tips, fun photos and interesting articles are all highly shareable.
- Recognising an employee for their advocacy will not only encourage them to continue in the same vein, but also serve as an advert to others to follow suit
Providing the means, motive and reward for advocacy is key to embedding it in the company culture and benefit from the rewards it offers the business and employees.
Advocacy also depends heavily on trust between employees and business leaders.
“EY surveyed approximately 9,800 adults, aged 19 to 68, who are employed full-time across a variety of companies in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the UK and the US. EY also surveyed more than 3,200 younger adults — Generation Z, aged 16 to 18 — to understand how these soon-to-be professionals’ perceptions of trust might influence their future employment decisions.
They found that less than half of global respondents have a “great deal of trust” in their current employers (46%), boss or team/colleagues (both 49%) and that the top five factors leading to respondents’ lack of trust in their employers were: unfair employee compensation, unequal opportunity for pay and promotion, lack of leadership, high employee turnover and a work environment not conducive to collaboration.”
4. Encourage mentoring
Mentoring is a great way for business leaders to convey, to people both within and outside of the organisation, that management is willing to invest in its employees. It helps to create a more engaged and skilled workforce, which leads to a reduction in turnover, recruitment and training costs.
Mentoring also helps to create a positive working environment, while nurturing leadership skills, collaboration and inter-departmental communication.
Inviting employees to become mentors can be carried out via the company intranet, email, during team or company meetings, or even using posters around the office(s).
The business should explain the benefits, both in terms of the brand as a whole and on an individual level, to encourage buy-in from employees.
Offering support to those individuals who volunteer is crucial for the success of such a scheme. Simply abandoning a mentor to get on with things won’t encourage them to repeat the process and may damage their trust in the business to support them.
5. Find your champions
In order to build and nurture any type of positive influence within a business, it’s often the case that ‘champions’ will prove beneficial. These are the employees who are happy to advocate change, who understand the rationale behind it and its objectives, whether it’s a new policy, procedure, product, service or brand message.
Identifying the right employees to become champions is key. These employees should be aligned with your brands vision and culture, as well as enthusiastic about its values and confident enough to spread its messaging.
These individuals should have the trust and respect of their peers and management, which is crucial if they are to influence the culture and drive engagement and change within the business.
It’s important to appoint numerous champions throughout the company who can help to embed messaging and encourage enthusiasm. Having a team of champions also creates a natural support network from which advice can be sought and ideas shared.
6. Reward initiative
You want your employees to share great ideas and take the initiative to help improve the business – right? Quite often, individuals won’t speak up when they have an opinion regarding improvements that could be made, either because they don’t think that they’ll be listened to or simply because they don’t see the benefit to them of doing so.
Creating a culture where employees willingly share information, and feel incentivised and motivated to do so, will benefit the business as a whole.
Offering a platform for employees to share ideas, such as a forum on the company intranet or social group, will often encourage free speech and idea sharing between individuals.
Rewarding great ideas and including employees in decision-making processes will also improve transparency and trust, while making those individuals who offer their thoughts feel more engaged.
7. Look after the wellbeing of employees
The cost of ill health in the workplace is already high and is rapidly becoming an issue that employers can no longer afford to ignore. Poor health in a workforce increases absenteeism and lowers both job performance and productivity.
- The HSE estimates that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) were responsible for 9.5 million lost working days in 2005/6
- Approximately 13.8 million working days were lost in 2006/7, due to work-related stress, depression and anxiety
- Employees suffering from stress are also more likely to report depression and other psychosomatic complaints, resulting in a greater need for recovery, due to exhaustion and fatigue, compared to workers without a high level of work-related stress
- Research shows that smokers cost employers 64 minutes a day in lost productivity
Stress and back pain alone are estimated to cost the British economy nearly £9,000,000,000 (£9 billion) per year, while accidents cost a further £512,000,000. With public sector organisations experiencing an average of 8.1 days absence per employee and private-sector services organisations losing 5.1 days per employee, the cost to business is high.
The wellness of employees not only improves morale, motivation and engagement, but also helps to reduce absence and improve productivity.
Temperature, lighting, comfort and the general facilities provided to employees, all contribute to their wellbeing on a daily basis.
There’s a variety of incentives and schemes that business leaders can implement to encourage employees to lead a healthy and happy life, both in and out of the office. These include:
- Gym membership
- Healthy food deliveries
- Health screening
- Lunchtime walks or runs
- Sports clubs
- Dental cover
- Health cover
“In the new survey, 20,501 respondents had a Vitality Age that was higher than their actual age. The average actual age of the respondents was 36, yet their average Vitality Age was 40 years. And about one in seven (13pc) of all the workers surveyed were found to be more than eight years older than their chronological ages.
The gap was found to be worse among males in the workforce than in their female counterparts, with the Vitality Age gap of males an average of nearly 11 months higher.”
- The Telegraph (2014)
8. Shared vision
Matching the vision of your employees to that of your brand will help to create a culture where all individuals within the business are working towards a shared goal and are motivated to do so.
If your employees don’t believe in what you do as a company, and therefore what they are doing on an individual basis, then they won’t be 100% engaged and striving to achieve the business objectives for the right reasons.
Finding the right fit for your organisation starts at the recruitment stage, but listening to existing employees and working with them to agree the best way forward as a team will build a more cohesive and collaborative culture, resulting in a successful business.