by Shayne Thomas
02 Jan 2020
Employee Engagement Doesn’t Require a Huge Budget
A few ideas for making engagement an active part of your company’s culture
Employee engagement is critical for the success of any business.
Typically speaking, the more engaged employees are in their day-to-day work, the more productive, happy, and successful they are in their jobs. In fact, highly engaged business units have been shown to generate a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% boost in sales.
While the productivity benefits of engagement clearly speak for themselves—and there are a lot more stats to show for it—there’s also a more personal side to this equation that’s oftentimes forgotten, yet worth keeping in mind as well. That work today increasingly consumes more of our “free” time is less of an exception than a rule. The boundaries between “work” and “play” have become blurred. Technology is a big reason for this. (But that’s a conversation for another day…)
The reason why it’s even worth underscoring this point here is that because this seamless intermingling of our personal and professional lives contributes to this engagement equation as well. People who have more positive workplace experiences tend to have a more positive outlook on life in general. And this, in and of itself, creates a positive cyclical effect.
Now, here’s why this is so important: happy employees are less likely to job hop. Recent research has shown that teams scoring in the top 20% in engagement have seen absenteeism and turnover drop by as much as 41% and 59%, respectively. For any HR professional, employee retention is always the goal, especially in light of the costs and time that go into recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new employees to fill vacant spots.
However, there’s something else at play here. Knowing that work plays such a central part of our lives today, many employees no longer tolerate a workplace that doesn’t prioritize engagement. Another way of looking at it is like this: employees want their employers to make their happiness and well-being a part of the job. Businesses must heed this call, or accept the fact that their employees will leave to another company that does.
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways you can boost employee engagement—and, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to break the bank to do it either. Here are a few ideas to get you going. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it’s a good place to start.
How to make engagement a part of your day-to-day culture
Engagement doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, in many ways, it’s simply another way of saying “show your employees you care.” Here’s how you can do it, easily:
- Celebrate the good stuff: A lot happens over the course of a work day. Some of it good, some of it challenging. That’s just the nature of the beast. Whenever you have the option, try to seize every opportunity to shine a spotlight on the high points. Whether it's recognizing an important milestone in one of your team’s projects or setting aside time to celebrate a team member’s birthday, making positive recognition a part of your day-to-day can go along way. If you want to take this a step further, why not transform a whiteboard into a “celebration board,” where you team can collaboratively celebrate each other’s accomplishments in public. It’s a constant reminder to your entire team—and pretty much everyone else around you—that there can be a more “human” side to the workplace experience, too.
- Spend time together: When work gets busy, it’s easy to hide in your own “cone of silence.” (Good on you for staying focused on your work!) However, sometimes it’s nice to change things up ever so slightly. So, why not trade-in lunch at your desk for eating lunch together as a team. You don’t necessarily even have to buy the team lunch—though, if you do, a sandwich platter is always an easy and cost-effective way to go about it. Just invite your team to take an hour away from their computer, emails, devices, meetings, and all of the other things that stress them out during the day to do a little organic team bonding. If nothing else, it builds a good amount of comradery and a more positive team dynamic.
- Be empathetic: This ties directly into the “show your employees you care” idea above. The big thing to remember here is that, at the end of the day, we’re all only human. We need to treat each other with respect at all times. And this must come from the top down; the behaviors exhibited by senior leaders will trickle all the way down. Building a culture that values empathy doesn’t cost a cent, but it doesn’t happen overnight either. If you need additional convincing as to why empathy in the workplace is so critical today, here’s a stat worth keeping in mind: 96% of employees believe that showing empathy is strongly linked to employee retention.
How to make engagement a strategic company priority
This is what you’d call the more “institutionalized” approach to engagement. It’s about building processes and practices that support, maintain, and grow engagement in the workplace.
- Don’t underestimate the value of feedback: We’ve talked at length about the importance of ongoing and regular feedback—as part of a broader continuous performance management program. What you should know here is that feedback matters and can make a huge difference on employee productivity, satisfaction, happiness, retention, and the list goes on. In fact, 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing feedback and check-ins are critical for driving successful business outcomes. It’s also been shown that providing feedback daily can make employees three times as engaged at work (vs. simply relying on annual performance reviews to have those feedback-driven conversations). The long story short: by making feedback a natural part of the day-to-day, you can give employee engagement a serious boost.
- Communicate a unified sense of purpose: Employees feel much more engaged when they understand how their individual work or their team’s work contributes to a business’s broader goals and objectives. And while communicating a sense of purpose really isn’t tangible in any way, it’s a great strategy for helping everyone in a company understand the big picture. In other words, it’s a way to remind people why their work matters. When companies lead with a sense of purpose, they create a vision and an idea that employees can truly latch onto. This can also be a strong recruitment tactic, especially today when more and more employees want to do work that makes a difference.
- Invest in learning and development: Obviously, your employees come to work to do the job that they were hired to do. However, no one wants to do the same thing for the rest of their lives. As humans, we are motivated by a desire to advance in our personal lives, in our careers, and in all other facets of our life. Therefore, the workplace can and should become a place of ongoing learning and development. Not only does this help you create better, more effective, and more productive employees, but it also tells them that you are invested in their future growth. And this, in turn, will give them more reason to stay. The truth is, everyone likes to learn—even if you high school years say otherwise! So why not build a robust learning library filled with on-demand courses, focused on job-related skills, soft skills, and beyond? It’s a great way to provide added value—and a free education—that your employees will appreciate and, ultimately, love. Not that we’re biased in any way, but Cornerstone Learning is a great solution for this!
As you can see, most of these employee engagement-boosting ideas don’t require a hefty price tag. In many cases, it’s completely free. The most important thing to remember is that employee engagement is critical to a business’s long-term success. When you invest in your employees and show that you actually care about their development, growth, happiness, and overall well-being, you will be amazed by the results that follow. Employee engagement doesn’t have to be overly complicated; it just has to be top-of-mind all the time. After all, when push comes to shove, companies aren’t really anything without the employees that make them tick. So, take the time to show them that you truly care. It will make a huge difference.
If you need some more ideas, the team at Cornerstone is here to help. Reach out to us today!