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Oct 23, 2013

True fact: as the weather gets drearier across America, so do workers’ levels of engagement.

How do you increase employee engagement?

In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll,only 30 percent of workers feel engaged with their current job. And not just that: estimates show that this disengagement costs U.S. companies close to $500 billion a year. Ouch.

Yes, the economy is not in the best shape. Jobs are harder to come by than in the past. People are being overworked and or not utilized in the best ways possible.

But not all performance and engagement issues can be blamed on the economy.

A tricky thing to get right

Employee engagement is a tricky thing; it requires focus from management, to understand their culture, their strategy, their customers, and to create commitment and excitement from employees. Think of companies like Southwest Airlines — with an emphasis on employee engagement and culture, they’ve managed to brand themselves in a way that is win/win for both their employees and their customers.

Yes, we all know of the big guys and the greats in employee engagement; however employee engagement is something that a business of any size can achieve. It just takes dedication from management and a focus on maximizing people –> performance –> profit.

The workforce isn’t full of sad sacks; most employees have the potential to be highly engaged, and thus work at a more productive rate.

So let’s take a look at five (5) ways that businesses can work to increase employee engagement:

1. Mission

Share the organizational strategy and mission and share with employees how the work they do helps to achieve the bigger goals.

Employees are more likely to work hard if they know what they’re working for. It’s easy to feel disengaged if employees don’t understand how they fit into the big picture.

Each employee plays a role in achieving the strategy and goals, and the better they understand how their role and the work they are performing help to achieve that, the more committed, engaged and higher performing they tend to be. To perform our best we all need something to believe in at work, employees need to know how they’re making an impact – no one wants to feel like a drone working towards something undefined.

2. Community

Encourage a community. Supporting teamwork and bonding amongst employees is a big component, increased employee engagement can relate back to employees feeling a sense of camaraderie in the office.

In fact, Gallup lists having a close office friend as one of the top questions in determining engagement. By encouraging employees to bond at work, you’re increasing team performance and engagement, and only helping your bottom line.

3. Recognize

Recognize employees for the work that they do – for a job well done. There are several ways to recognize employees for a job well done; it is not a one size fits all approach.

But when an employee feels they’ve gone unrecognized, it can do major damage to morale. You aren’t gaining respect or increased levels of engagement for this kind of tough love: actually quite the opposite!

4. Learning

Don’t let the learning end with school!

Fostering employee development through learning opportunities is one of the factors that can positively reduce turnover as well as increase engagement and morale. Providing opportunities for learning and growth shows a sense of dedication to employees, which helps encourage them to perform at an even higher level.

5. Communication

Communication is still “King.” How are you communicating with your employees? Are you listening as well as talking?

Employees who feel as though they don’t have a voice tend to feel less valued and appreciated and are often less engaged. They feel as though they aren’t relevant to the success of the organization, so why should they engage?

Conversations shouldn’t just be one-sided. Listen, discuss, and share with your employees!

There is a definite misconception that just benefits and perks are the key to employee engagement. While they certainly can’t hurt, an employee with an incredible benefit package and great perks can be just as disengaged as one without those perks.

It’s more important to take the time to get to know your direct employees and focus on their general well-being and job satisfaction; it’s an approach that will certainly help impact your long-term rate of employee engagement and performance!

This was originally published on the Tolero Think Tank blog.