Successful organizations know that talent is the key to success, which makes supporting employees through each stage of their lifecycle critical to achieving goals.
When employees are supported at every stage of their career growth, they feel valued and appreciated by their leaders, confident in their ability to achieve their goals, and are more likely to stay with the organization. All of this translates into higher job satisfaction, productivity, and engagement.
While the benefits of employee engagement are clear, it remains one of the biggest struggles for companies of all sizes across the country. In analyzing aggregate data from our E3 Engagement Survey™, we found that engagement is typically highest during the first year of employment and tends to drop during the next few years, not rebounding until year five.
To understand this trend, we analyzed the survey responses to identify the top factors that correlated to employee happiness and engagement. Our results found the most common challenges that impacted engagement were related to:
Once hired, employees want to continue to learn, develop, and grow throughout their career with an organization. As an employer, it is not enough to just provide your employees with the tools and resources to support their career and development ambitions. To attain strong engagement levels, your organization must view employee engagement as a strategic business objective and implement strategies that will develop and retain your workers. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your top employees to the competition.
Below are five engagement strategies that will help develop and retain the employees in your organization.
1. Cultivate a Culture of Communication and Transparency – A culture where employees are included in all aspects of the company (i.e., its goals, plans, strategies, and challenges) and where they feel safe to ask questions or give honest feedback builds trust. Establishing open communication between employees and management also fosters a sense of community and a shared purpose.
Consider holding monthly “all-hands” meetings to keep your employees in the loop on company plans, strategies, and challenges. This can also be an opportunity for employees to ask questions and offer their opinions.
In addition to company-wide meetings, managers should dedicate time each month for one-on-one meetings. A 30-minute or hour-long meeting gives managers and employees time to discuss what’s going well, identify areas of improvement, get clarification or support on upcoming projects, and track goals.
2. Recognize Good Work – One of the easiest yet often overlooked ways to strengthen employee engagement and retention is by recognizing your staff. In a study conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, 91% of the respondents said management’s recognition of their job performance is almost as important as the work itself (92%).
Employee recognition is about showing employees you notice and appreciate all the hard work they are doing and confirming that they are making a meaningful contribution to the company’s success. While many leaders often relate recognition to rewards such as monetary bonuses, tickets to sporting events, or fancy awards, employee recognition doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant.
Whereas rewards tend to provide a tangible and financial benefit to employees, recognition is intended to provide a more intrinsic, psychological benefit. It can be as simple as giving an employee a pat on the back for a job well done; acknowledging their work anniversary by showcasing their company contributions over the years; thanking them for putting in extra hours on a project by giving them the afternoon off; or highlighting their outstanding performance in the next company-wide meeting. Employee recognition is most effective when it’s personal, aligns with the purpose, brand and culture of the company, and is a regular practice that applies to every employee.
3. Invest in Managers and Leaders – Leadership can make or break employee happiness and retention. Results from our global employee engagement survey found that “poor leadership” was one of the primary factors keeping employees from being engaged.
Leaders and managers need to be able to inspire and engage employees; however, not all leaders possess the skills and behaviors that drive employee engagement. For starters, many employees are often promoted to management positions without receiving any prior leadership training. Executive coaching can help fill in the gaps and teach both new and old leaders how to be more effective. Specifically, coaching can help managers lead with greater impact and influence by strengthening their communication skills, increasing their emotional intelligence and ability to empathize, and enhancing their capability to provide and receive feedback.
4. Create Individual Development Plans – An individual development plan (IDP) is a great tool that benefits both employees and the organization. Individual development planning gives employees the opportunity to develop professionally by identifying the skills and behaviors needed to achieve their short- and long-term career goals. It also conveys to employees that their work is appreciated and that the organization is genuinely interested and invested in their professional growth, which helps cultivate trust and loyalty.
While the primary purpose of the IDP is to provide employees with opportunities and clear direction on how to acquire or enhance their skills, it also provides important benefits to the organization. Some of those benefits include:
5. Provide Cross-Training Opportunities – Cross-training gives employees the opportunity to learn new skills outside of their normal day-to-day role, which can keep them stimulated and reduce boredom. Furthermore, cross-trained employees feel more valuable and secure in their role within the organization, resulting in increased morale, productivity, and engagement.
The benefits of cross-training extend to the organization as well. When employees are more aware of how the entire business operates and can perform a wide range of functions, the organization becomes more agile. Employees can step in and handle an absent employee’s workload and help the company maintain productivity in the event of an unexpected departure or when workers in one department are overburdened.
Your employees are your company’s most valuable asset. Making recognition, development, and communication a part of your company’s culture will go a long way toward building an educated and emotionally invested workforce that sticks around for years to come.
Director of Marketing
This post is part of a series on building engagement throughout the employee lifecycle.
Read part 1: The Power of Pre-Employment Engagement
Read part 2: How to Drive Employee Engagement During Onboarding