Struggling with employee engagement? You are not alone. In 2012, Gallup found that only 13% of employees across the world are truly engaged in their work, and this lack of engagement costs companies billions of dollars every year. The question of how to make employees engage is commonly discussed in management meetings in all sectors. And it’s not always a question of money.
Leonard J. Glick, professor of management and organizational development at Boston’s Northeastern University, said, “I think managers or companies get into trouble when they view money as the only motivator and overlook other aspects of the organization.”
If you asked ten people what they loved about their jobs, it’s unlikely that anyone would mention the pay as something that makes them happy. Even great competitive pay can’t overcome a miserable work environment. But how to you inspire and motivate employess and boost engagement, other than with money?
People find it exciting and motivating to work when they feel like they’re doing something meaningful. A prime workplace example was Steve Jobs‘ way of motivating his employees at Apple. His attitude that he made loud and clear was that they were there to make awesome products and change the world, and anyone who wasn’t there for that same purpose could leave. The money was not the motivating factor in the work of Apple employees.
Making people feel that their work is important is pretty easy at non-profit companies with a vision of service. However, for-profit companies can establish a powerful mission and goals of innovation and accomplishment that feel meaningful and motivating as well, just like at Apple. By focusing on making an impact and not just money, employees become more dedicated to their work.
LinkedIn surveyed over 10,000 people about why they switched jobs in 2015, and one of their findings was that employees today are more likely to switch from a large company to a small company. The reason? People felt that the work at smaller companies was more challenging and that they could make more of an impact. However, even at a large company you can make people feel they are important and that the work they do improves the world in some way.
Employees today, especially millennials, want to work for companies that will help them advance in their careers. They want to feel that their skill set is used well and that they are continually learning and making themselves more marketable and experienced.
Therefore, in order to help employees be excited about their jobs, employers need to communicate with them about how they can grow at their companies, and then actively support them in their efforts to progress. There are a variety of ways for people to make progress professionally, and there are multiple things employers can do to assist.
Look to promote internally before looking externally. Create opportunities to take on greater responsibilities, offer ways to increase knowledge and skills such as training programs, mentorship programs, online courses, or tuition reimbursement. Give them opportunities to network and meet people who can help them climb the ladder. Once your employees have a vision for their own career future, they will automatically engage in the work you give them.
When your employees do exceptional work or have done good work consistently for a while, let them know they’ve done well. Be honest and sincere, and your compliment will go a long way in motivating an employee. Don’t get in the habit of handing out frequent compliments for day-to-day work; overdoing it leads to your words not meaning anything or an attitude of entitlement. However, everyone appreciates being recognized for a job well done once in a while. Engagement comes when your employees feel valued.
Studies have shown that people who use their vacation days are less stressed at work and therefore perform better than employees who never take a day off. Like any other organ in the body, the brain gets tired if it is overused. Not only do people get tired, but they often become more negative and less effective without ever taking a real break.
Very few people enjoy working just to work. There is almost always a grander plan for them and their families. They want to work hard in order to get a bigger house or take their children to Disneyland or Hawaii. If they aren’t taking any time off, they aren’t being reminded of their primary motivation, their lifestyle and families.
Long vacations (a week or more) are more effective than short breaks (like a 3-4 day weekend). Whatever your vacation plan, encourage and support employees in taking time off and rejuvenating their minds and bodies. Let them disconnect while on vacation (meaning no work calls or emails). Then, when they get back, you will have rested, energized, ready-to-go employees.
Many jobs can get monotonous and lead to boredom at work. If you never switch things up, employees will have a tough time maintaining a high level of engagement and productivity. Take your employees bowling, hold a chili competition for lunch one day, do a push-up competition, or have everyone fill out a March Madness bracket. These are inexpensive ways to change up the routine.
Encourage a moderate level of comradery amongst your employees. When they start feeling they can “live life” at work as well as at home, they are more content and engaged during work hours. Start traditions that employees can look forward to, for holidays, birthdays, or otherwise. Whatever they may be, do things to make your employees look forward to work a little more and feel like they’re part of a team/family.
Engagement matters in almost every aspect of your company’s operation. Employee engagement means happier people, higher production and more revenue. It means less turnover and expensive hiring and training, it means a safer and cleaner environment and high quality innovation. Winning the hearts and minds of your employees should be your highest priority.
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