Engaging a workforce – employees should be your greatest investment

Gone are the days when workers went into a job at 16 and stayed until they picked up their retirement carriage clock. The issue of employee engagement is one that employers ignore at their peril. Today’s workers often view themselves as free agents and the rise of platforms such LinkedIn, which are easily accessible to all, means not only are disengaged employees a risk to your business, the can also be actively pursuing alternative employment directly from their desks.

A disengaged workforce
A 2014 Gallup poll found that only 13% of workers are “actively engaged” in their work and that 26% are “actively disengaged”. A further study by Glass Door found that only 54% of employees would recommend their workplace.

Disengaged employees not only lead to decreased output, but can also germinate a culture of disengagement across the workforce, as they tend to spend their time complaining and or gossiping which can erode team morale. Not only that, but disengaged employees can be subject to missing deadlines, being late for work and often find excuses for their lack of commitment. Disengaged workers are also likely to be stagnant workers, with little interest in career development, showing no signs of growth, which then reflects back directly onto the growth patterns of the business.

Salary is not the cure-all for disengaged employees
Although it may seem a simple solution, offering a competitive salary to employees has been shown to have very little impact on engagement and commitment. Quite simply, money cannot buy engagement. Salary is clearly a factor when it comes to recruitment, but it is much less of a player with retention and engagement. Instead employers need to look at other ways to get employees actively engaging with their work and the business, and businesses need to focus on being more employee centric, giving their workers the same kind of rewards and incentives that have previously been saved for customers and shareholders.

Work is meaningful
Studies carried out in recent years have shown that workers are motivated when they feel that their work is meaningful and that they are a valued part of the team. It is important that they are aware of the bigger picture as far as the company’s objectives are concerned and can easily pinpoint where their own contribution fits into these objectives. When workers cannot see the point of their work, they will simply not care.

Employees feel valued and understood
Allowing people to work flexibly, where possible, is a huge motivating factor. It signals to employees that you are aware and respectful of their other commitments outside of work and value them as a whole person, not just as a part of the company’s system. When employees are allowed some flexibility in their work hours this not only gives them the mind-space to focus on the job, but it also makes them feel more valued and more inclined to give back to their employer.

Rewarding effort and results
The economic crisis of 2008 changed many people’s perspectives of their employer and this has not been re-addressed in subsequent years. even though employment rates are now back to pre-recession levels. During the crash, employees witnessed their rewards and incentives being taken away and also sat through numerous rounds of redundancies, watching as colleagues who had once considered themselves valued were suddenly out of a job., Employees became disillusioned, why should be they make sacrifices for a company which had so little time or respect for their efforts?

A business with a clear system of rewards and incentives will increase engagement in a way that salary doesn’t seem to. This has an even more positive effect when the rewards are team-based rewards, as this fosters a culture of unity and synergy between employees.

What does an employee-centric workplace look like?
Google is often considered to be some kind of employee Nirvana: with kitchens stocked with free gourmet food, a free laundry service, a $5000 pay out towards buying an environmentally friendly car and $500 dollars paid towards takeaways during maternity leave, there are certainly a lot of perks. But these perks are the tip of the iceberg, it is the culture at Google that incentivises employees. With an emphasis placed on valuing the individual contribution, encouraging employees to get involved in the company’s innovations at every level, whilst also blurring the lines between play and work, Google presents employees with an irresistible cocktail, which is hard to not to engage with.

But it’s not just young tech companies who are getting it right, a joint study by Deloitte, Serota and The Conference Board, found that one of the companies with the highest rates of engagement amongst its workers was Detroit based mortgage company, Quicken Loans. Quicken Loans, was found to engage employees through a culture of valuing the individual, including a whole day orientation programme for all employees, a clear system of rewards and incentives and also a culture which fosters kindness and understanding from the top down.

Clearly your average business does not have the budgets that Google are working with, but finding creative ways to increase employee satisfaction is the way forward. Maybe you can’t offer a free hairdressing salon, but you may be able to offer a reward of a spa day. A gourmet cafeteria may be too much of a stretch, but a scheme where employees can earn vouchers to top restaurants may work.  You might not be able to build an onsite gym, but perhaps you could run to semi-regular sports days where employees could try out new activities. There are plenty of innovative rewards and incentives to choose from, which will show your investment in your employees.

A supportive boss who demonstrates a genuine interest in their employees, who treats them as equals, offers them a clear scheme of rewards and incentives and who helps them to develop their own career paths, makes a business an extremely attractive employer and one where workers want to do their best.