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Is Employee Engagement as Scary as it Sounds?

89% of employers believe that when an employee leaves, they leave for more money; in reality, only 12% of employees say they leave for more money. (You can check out the source of this stat here.) When it comes to employees, their happiness, productivity, and engagement… the statistics can be pretty stark.

70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work.

Only 40% of employees know about their company’s goals.

When it comes to having highly engaged employees, though, what does that mean? Different definitions get thrown around: it’s about productivity; no, it’s about morale; but no, it’s about how employees behave at work.

Here’s a definition from Engage for Success:

“Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give of their best each day, committed to their organization's goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.”

Basically, employee engagement is this: how happy are your employees and how does that translate into their actual work. Another way of saying this is that it is a measure of an employee’s emotional commitment to their job: do they feel like they have a stake in what happens to the company? Do they feel loyal to their workplace?

Employee engagement can be difficult to measure because there are so many factors that go into “happiness.” An emotion, or emotional connection, is difficult to measure, even under the most stringent scientific circumstances. So it can hard to separate employee engagement strategy from things like mental health issues and imposter syndrome.

But as we’ve seen from the statistics listed above, employee engagement and workplace culture can have a detrimental effect on businesses. Another shocking statistic: companies with highly engaged employees experience 2.5 times the revenue of competitors with low engagement. As well, a study of 64 organizations revealed that those with highly engaged employees have 2 times the annual net income of those who lag behind on engagement.

And it’s not just that: happy, engaged employees produce better work than unhappy employees and they’re less likely to leave the organization in general. As we know, 75% of people who quit a job are quitting specifically because of their boss—and that’s true across almost all industries.

When thinking about employee engagement, we often find ourselves thinking about how it ties into workplace culture. When it comes to employee engagement and positive workplace culture, what are some things we need to know?


Creating Good Workplace Culture


Positive workplace culture isn’t just about being a good boss. There are lots of great bosses, and positive CEOs, who lead workplaces that don’t have as great of a workplace culture as they might wish. Having a good culture in your business is about more than being likable; it’s about allowing your employees to effectively engage with their work in a way that gives them meaning, while also supporting them and their career goals.

We’ve written about workplace culture before, in context to imposter syndrome. Workplace culture is one of the major pieces of employee engagement—and it’s not really that difficult to create a positive, engaged workplace culture. Here are our tips:

  • Focus on onboarding and training. Many workplaces don’t have a formalized or immersive onboarding process; employees show up for their first day and are thrown in, sink or swim style. As we know from restaurants, this isn’t the most effective way to create engaged, happy employees. It creates stress!


  • Make company goals public knowledge. When employees know what they are working towards, they are more likely to consider those goals their own and they can set their own production goals accordingly.


  • Acknowledge employee ideas and give feedback. Years ago, I made a suggestion about a website improvement at my first job—and got shouted down for it. Two weeks later, that same supervisor implemented my idea and gave himself credit for it. It was a huge blow to my self-esteem. Sometimes, employees will have better ideas about policies, procedures, goals, and production ideas—because they’re the ones doing the actual work, and therefore, are more capable of directly seeing what is working and what isn’t. Listen to their ideas; implement them when you can; always give them credit and feedback for wanting to improve the way your company works.


  • Provide employee reviews. Do your employees know how well they are doing? What do they need to improve on? What their strengths are? If you aren’t providing regular employee reviews to help them improve as employees, and grow in their careers, you’re missing an opportunity to create a more positive, mentorship-based company culture.


  • Avoid micromanaging. This is a hard one for many business owners. As a culture, perfectionism is common among managers, CEOs, and upper management—making micromanaging tendencies really common. But if you trust your employees (and you absolutely should), you should give them the freedom to work without your holding their hand (or steering the ship, whatever metaphor your prefer!) Most employees are perfectly capable of doing excellent work—and if you let them, they may do better than if you had micromanaged the entire time.



How to Make Engagement a Priority


Once you clean up your workplace culture, that pretty much ensures that your employee engagement will increase. But what are the next steps to take to keep your employees engaged, producing great work, and loving their jobs?

As we’ve said, there are many factors at play when it comes to employee engagement. Individual mental health, workplace culture, and other factors all mingle together. You might have the best workplace culture in place, with systems to catch employees who aren’t engaged and to help them improve—but you might notice a few employees slip through the cracks and you just aren’t sure how to help them, exactly. There are lots of low-cost ways to tweak workplace culture to improve employee engagement—and retain your best employees.

Here are a few questions to ask when it comes to employee engagement and if you’re really measuring up:
  • Do your employees have the tools they need to effectively perform their jobs? What’s missing when it comes to workflow tools, equipment, and more? Even something as simple as a shortage of chairs in the office, or chairs that are uncomfortable and not ergonomic, can affect engagement.

  • When was the last time you personally spoke to employees? This is a tough one: we know you’re busy, as a manager or CEO. But spending time talking with each employee, as often as you can, makes a huge difference.

  • Do new employees have mentors? Setting up mentorship opportunities within your company can give new employees, and young professionals, ideas of where their career might lead, as well as how to stay successful in their roles.

  • Do you provide opportunities for employees to de-stress? Are all your employees taking their lunches at their desks? Engaged employees are friends with their coworkers; they have opportunities to sit and chat, learn about each other, and become friendly. When was the last time you held a lunch with your marketing team or threw a company party?

  • Do you encourage your employees to volunteer in the community?

  • Do you recognize employees, individually and in groups, for their achievements?


To answer our own question of “is employee engagement as scary as it sounds?”, the answer is, of course, no. It requires a lot of work and engagement on the end of managers, CEOs, and more to keep employees engaged with their work and each other. But the results, in the end, are worth it.
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