Think about it for a minute — employee engagement is impossible to force, and without engagement, most long-term corporate initiatives are doomed. This is an existential matter for a company, not a mere HR fad. Businesses today are rushing to reimagine strategies to acquire, manage, and develop teams, regardless of the company’s size and stage in development.

Starting the Journey

To foster an environment of engagement, organizations need systems that can help promote and support one. Building a truly engaged workforce is a long-term journey. If you are serious about engagement, buckle up for a long ride. In the end, the rewards will be plentiful. In this e-book, we will look at some of the key drivers of employee engagement, each bringing you closer to launching a structured employee engagement program and achieving the ultimate goal of creating a competitive advantage with an engaged workforce.

An engaged workforce is your only true competitive advantage.

It is a fact: The higher the level of engagement, the better the performance of the company. The organizations with a high percentage of engaged employees outperform their competitors in critical areas of profitability, productivity and customer satisfaction. Employees who are passionate about their organizations, though, are few and far between. An alarming 10 to 20 percent of all employees in the United States are actively disengaged; they do not generate more than what’s considered “good enough” or they undermine their organizations altogether. The economic impact of such disengagement is a staggering $550 billion a year, according to Gallup.

1. Communication Done Right

Engagement means passion. But how do you reach into your employees’ hearts and minds? How do you pull the discretionary effort out of them? Start by developing the right communication strategy. The launch of a structured engagement program should be thoroughly planned and continuously communicated throughout the company, setting the stage for future success. Generate more excitement and buy-in from your team by shining a spotlight on what’s to come. A letter from the CEO expressing personal commitment to the initiative is a great way to start.

If you already have a company portal where you post news and company updates, consider it a perfect platform for such communication. The CEO and Senior Leadership Team should champion the initiative while local managers should act as partners and owners of the program on the ground.

Get the word out by promoting the program at the all-hands meetings, ask your team leaders to discuss it with their respective teams, and put up promotional signage around the office as you prepare to roll it out. Don’t forget to make the engagement program fun. Employees get excited about things that emphasize the fun factor. Encourage your teams to brainstorm unique ideas that will work with your company’s culture, and gather results via a simple survey. The reward possibilities are endless. Let your teams brainstorm these fun ideas. They will instantly feel like part of the initiative.

Keep employees updated on the status of the program, as well as the goals and accomplishments to date. Showcase your top performers and position them as role models. Use weekly and monthly digest emails to summarize all achievements. The key to the program’s overall success: communicate more, keep it current, and stay on top of it by acting promptly on the findings.

2. Implementing a Culture of Recognition

Employees begin to care when they feel the company cares for them. Get to know your team members as individuals. Give them an opportunity to share what they are passionate about outside of work. Learn about their hobbies and interests, and use this information when setting up your rewards and recognition program. We are quicker to identify and address issues than recognize excellence. The right recognition program is a secret weapon for boosting your team’s loyalty and engagement.

Devote extra energy to creating systematic ways to praise members of your teams for good performance. When employees feel emotionally connected to their team and the goals of the organization, they are more likely to go the extra mile.

Accomplishments come in all shapes and sizes. Set a dynamic culture of appreciation that makes recognition fun and meaningful. Celebrate exemplary behaviors publicly for your entire workforce to aspire to.

Here are some such ideas:

These public signs of appreciation are powerful and highly effective motivators that will help you build a winning culture of recognition.

Remember: employees want and need to be recognized for their contributions.

3. Hiring for the 360-Degree Fit

If any are misaligned, the employee’s long-term outlook with the company becomes hazy at best. It is unrealistic to expect continued performance from someone whose interests and personality traits are mismatched with the job specifications, even though technical competence may appear on point.

The negative impact of employee turnover and the positive value of employee retention cannot be understated. Employee replacement costs can climb as high as 50 to 60 percent of the employee’s annual salary.

Employees who fit their jobs well and enjoy the environment in which they work are more likely to stay. We tend to receive more satisfaction from jobs that match not only our skills but also interests and personality traits. The process by which we match candidates is the most critical (and controllable) part in developing a well-functioning team. Although the right skillset may seem like the most critical factor in determining a good fit, it is not the case. Skills can be acquired, but personalities cannot.

When making hiring decisions or determining optimal internal alignment, companies are beginning to assign equal weight to these three critical matches:

An extrovert who enjoys constant interaction and being part of a team may not be suited for a solitary role that doesn’t require communication. Similarly, an employee who excels in a well-structured, predictable work environment may not thrive in the chaos of an early-stage startup.

If misalignment is not recognized and corrected, the employee is unlikely to perform up to par. They may eventually become disengaged, bored, or frustrated, possibly even leaving in pursuit of a better alignment altogether. Companies are beginning to look at new hires and internal mobility through a 360-degree lens: asking if the candidate has the necessary skillset for a job is becoming equally as important as determining if the job is the right fit for the candidate.

When it comes to current employees, structured training can have a positive impact on the development of skills if you know which skills need to be developed. The difficulty arises when training is introduced via a blanket approach, without consideration of job match or without proper knowledge of the current skills the employee already possesses. It can be frustrating for the employee – and expensive for the company – to engage in training for a skill the employee may already have expertise in.

Making the right hiring decisions and determining optimal internal alignment is really about making great 360-degree matches — finding the perfect mix of attitude, interests and technical ability in relation to a role. New technology, like HelloTeam’s platform for comprehensive employee engagement and talent management, can offer instant insight into the skills, interests, professional aspirations and job alignment of your teams to help avoid such dilemmas. Hire, promote and align employees with the organizational skills, and job match in mind.

4. Employee Engagement: Know Where You Stand

An engaged culture tends to bring greater productivity, higher customer satisfaction levels, less absenteeism, less employee turnover, more unsolicited employment applications, and a greater share price increase.

There is a distinct correlation between a culture of engagement and a company’s performance. According to a recent Gallup poll of almost 50,000 workplaces, those with the highest levels of employee engagement outperformed others in a number of critical areas.

Knowing the correlation between engagement and performance, businesses should act promptly if they want to boost their output and gain a competitive edge. You can’t design and implement an employee engagement strategy, though, without knowing where you stand first. When faced with subpar results, take the time to survey your employees before selecting a new option to increase engagement.

You might be surprised at what you discover. Creating a culture of continuous feedback will ensure employees feel heard, recognized and valued. Connecting with your employees beyond the annual performance reviews and acting on their feedback will transform them into advocates for your business. Before rolling out your employee engagement program, make sure to assess your team’s pre-launch engagement levels to establish a baseline. You will later measure the impact of the initiative against it. 

After launching the program, continuously measure and adjust the parameters while comparing them against the baseline. Measuring employee engagement is relatively simple, reliable (when done consistently) and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of your team’s time via a pulse Engagement Survey.

As you track the aggregate engagement score over time, look for deviations and sudden dips. Check the score’s average variation to see if you are doing better or worse compared to the average. It’s that simple: instant insights, timely action. Open up a conversation with your teams, uncover hidden issues, and address them before they start affecting your business outcomes.

An Investment that Always Pays Off 

No matter how good your product is, or how solid your business strategy appears to be, you need a great team to design the product, continuously develop it, aggressively sell it, and deliver exceptional customer service for repeat business.

Your team is an indisputable driver of your company’s long-term success and your true competitive advantage. Your people will determine how far you go, how fast you grow, and how successful you become. They will make the difference between surviving and thriving. Invest in your people. As employee engagement begins to grow and become part of the heartbeat of your company, the positive impact will be significant.

If your organization is currently exploring comprehensive employee engagement platforms that integrate seamlessly with other HR tools, help align company goals, offer structured recognition programs, and help your teams stay connected, take a look at HelloTeam. It just might be the last such platform you’ll need to look at.

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