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Imagine that one of the best performers in your team suddenly starts making mistakes, is late for work and calls in sick over a period of a few weeks.

This is unusual behaviour and you are just about to tackle it when your colleague hands in her notice. She has been offered a new job with a competitor and leaves in a month’s time.

This comes as a shock, but could you have done anything to prevent her course of action?

The answer is probably yes because this is what can happen when an employee becomes disengaged at work. According to research by Gallup, the UK is home to one of the most dissatisfied workforces in Europe with only 9% of workers feeling enthused by their jobs.

While a lack of engagement doesn’t lead to us all packing in our jobs it certainly affects our overall productivity in the workplace which, in turn, is bad for business growth.

With official figures suggesting that the UK’s productivity has all but come to a standstill, how can organisations buck the trend?

This latest guide looks at ten ways organisations can improve the engagement of their workforce, a strategy which if successful, will lead to raised productivity, increased profitability and reduced staff turnover.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a core area of HR. The CIPD describes it as an umbrella term relating to a broad area of people management covering four key areas:

  • Work engagement – whether people feel passionate and invested in their work.

  • Organisational commitment – employees’ psychological feelings about their role.

  • Organisational identification – workers’ commitment to their business.

  • Work motivation – factors that lead people to be interested and committed to their job.

Employee engagement is likely to fluctuate over time for many different reasons, so it is important to measure it regularly to stay on top of your team’s needs.

For example, engaged employees may quickly become disengaged if they don’t recognise or share the company’s vision.

If your business goes through frequent reorganisations, people may feel a sense of uncertainty and look outside the company for other opportunities. Equally, workers who feel financially unrewarded or don’t see a definite career path are more likely to jump ship.

So, what can employers and people professionals do to improve employee engagement?

1. Share the vision

Does your workforce know the goals of the business? Do you have a mission statement and a list of company values which your employees understand? Are team members aware of the strategic and operational objectives of the organisation through monthly or quarterly meetings?

Sharing the vision will help your employees realise how their job relates to the overall success of the business.

2. Communication is key

Whether you work for a large or small company, it’s easy to become disconnected from colleagues when many people work remotely.

Simple steps such as making full use of digital tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom for regular check-ins and online get togethers along with internal newsletters and WhatsApp groups will help keep people in the loop wherever they are based. Where you have a hybrid or part-time workforce, remember to ensure that meetings whether online or in person are accessible to all.

3. Feedback is your friend

Right behind providing effective communication comes giving regular feedback as an important way of keeping your workforce engaged.

Whether it’s part of a performance review or simply congratulating a team member on a particular project, feedback should be personal to the individual and provided throughout the year. Talk to your direct reports about their preferred methods for receiving feedback.

Prepare well for any difficult conversations. Work together to come up with a solution or create very specific metrics that can be checked to improve performance.

The culture of giving feedback in the workplace as part of performance management is generally viewed as positive but, says the CIPD, it can be detrimental to performance if not done in the right way. Remember to invite upward feedback on the performance of those in leadership positions.

4. Make work feel personal

In the words of Richard Branson, ‘If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.’ Work and life are interconnected so if you get to know your team well, then you will learn what really matters to each one of them.

The best leaders and team players do this naturally. By making those around them feel that they genuinely care about them, personally, they can inspire, gain trust and command loyalty.

So, learn about your employees, their interests and their families. Know when it is a birthday or a special event. Invest your time into understanding their motivations and help them to get even better.

5. Reward your top performers

Highly engaged employers invest extra time, effort and energy into their role so their contribution should be recognised, appreciated and rewarded with an incentive. This could be a financial bonus, public recognition or a simple thank you done in a personal way.

Leaders can at times be drawn towards fixing problems because of poor performance but it’s the high achievers who are your organisation’s most important asset and they shouldn’t be neglected.

6. Health and wellbeing matters

We spend a large proportion of our time at work, so it’s only natural that our jobs and the people we work with can have a major influence on our health and wellbeing.

As well as affecting us as individuals, health and wellbeing at work is important from an employer’s perspective. Healthy workers are more productive, more motivated and take less time off due to illness.

The CIPD believes that employee health and wellbeing should be a core element of any HR strategy and central to the way a business operates.

Many organisations accelerated their employee wellbeing policies after the pandemic, but research suggests that activity in this area is starting to slip. CIPD recommendations to redress the balance include:

  • Consider health and wellbeing throughout the employee lifecycle to highlight the potential health challenges individuals experience as they age.

  • Develop a supportive and flexible approach to absence management.

  • Take a proactive attitude to employee wellbeing. Create the working conditions and environment that mitigate the main health risks and provide ‘good’ work

7. The importance of learning

According to a LinkedIn report, 93% of organisations are concerned about employee retention. The study goes on to cite that the number one-way employers are working to improve retention rates is by providing L&D programmes for their staff.

Expanding people’s skills and knowledge not only improves the chance of them staying with the company, but it might prevent them from finding a new job elsewhere!

Knowing that their skills are appreciated is a motivating factor for employees and will allow your business to thrive.

Outlining a career path for development will help you to retain your talent and build organisational success.

8. Be a good manager

Many of us drift into management roles with little experience. Yet managing others can be one of the toughest challenges your managers and team leaders will face at work. At the same time, effective management is essential to driving employee engagement.

One of the main contributing factors to high performance working is people who have great relationships at work tend to perform much better than those who don’t. Having good relationships with your own line manager and the people you lead is key.

Offer training and leadership development programmes to equip your managers for their roles. Help them develop new skills so they can gain an understanding of the best management practices which they can use to motivate and lead their own teams.

9. Flexibility counts

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that before the pandemic, about 12% of adults reported working from home. Now, remote working for part of the week has become the norm for many employees.

A survey for the Chartered Institute of Management (CMI) found that more than 80% of firms had adopted hybrid working. Londoners have the highest levels of hybrid working with four in ten spending part of the working week at home.

Workplace flexibility as an important talent management policy is now essential practice. While flexibility is the norm and expectation for employees, it’s also good for business. A survey by Gartner revealed that 43% of respondents said that working flexibly helped them to be more productive.

And statistics around the effects of work-life balance on productivity show that companies can double their employee output by embracing flexibility.

10. Empower your people

Employers who provide their people with opportunities to learn and develop or become involved in new activities outside of work will help them to feel like valued members of the business. Some ideas to try out on your workforce include:

  • Are there areas of the business outside their day job that they would like to learn about?

  • Is there a project they could become involved in to master new skills?

  • Could a secondment to another department or a mentorship help their career developmen?

  • Can they get involved in volunteering activities during working hours?

  • Is there an opportunity for the business to sponsor a local charity and give something back?

  • What training and professional qualifications are available either connected to their jobs or something new?

Reed Learning offers a wide range of in-company training courses, professional qualifications and learning solutions for businesses and individuals.