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3 Data-backed Ways To Deepen Employee Engagement

How can small and midsize businesses (SMB) deepen employee engagement to slow the turnover?

woman looking at laptop screen with a mountainside in her background: deepen employee engagement
How can small and midsize businesses (SMB) deepen employee engagement to slow the turnover from the Great Resignation? [Ascent Xmedia]

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 4.3 million Americans left their jobs in August 2021. That number, which accounts for nearly 3% of the national workforce, is the highest number recorded since the Department of Labor started tracking the statistic in 2000. That’s a reason to catapult employee engagement right out of the nice-to-have category.

The so-called “Great Resignation” feels like a growing contagion as grim stats become even more common.

Yes, that number is high, but data shows the movement to be largely concentrated among a few industries – hospitality in particular. But while other industries haven’t been impacted as significantly, they’d do well to take note. Workers across the board are leaving because they’re fed up with working conditions, concerned for their health, and feeling undervalued. The so-called “Great Resignation” feels like a growing contagion as grim stats become even more common. In fact, research from Gallup shows voluntary turnover costs businesses a trillion dollars a year in the U.S. alone.

How can small and midsize businesses (SMB) deepen employee engagement to slow the turnover? Our 5th Edition Small and Medium Business Trends Report provides insights on how growing businesses — those with increasing revenue — have strengthened relationships with employees during the pandemic, and how you can do the same.

Here are three data-backed ways.

1. Offer flexible working arrangements – now and in the future

Gone are the days of rigid work environments. Today’s employers must accommodate flexible work opportunities whenever possible. Flexible work was a growing trend even before the pandemic took hold, but COVID amplified the effect.

The health of businesses often depends on the commitment of employees; when possible, it’s important to offer flexible structures that allow employees to work how they’re most comfortable. Research shows 50% of growing SMBs report they’ve offered employees flexible working arrangements during the pandemic, compared to 38% at businesses where growth is stagnant or declining.

44% of SMB owners/leaders now believe their employees expect to work remotely.

Employees value workplace flexibility and the ability to work remotely almost as much as they value salary and benefits. In fact, 44% of SMB owners/leaders now believe their employees expect to work remotely. Long term, 43% of SMBs plan to have employees work remote at least half of the time.

2. Prioritize employee safety

Employees trust businesses with one of their most precious commodities: their health. Employers need to do everything to make them feel safe. In addition to flexible work schedules, employees expect safety protocols to be in place – and for those protocols to be followed and enforced.

Creating thorough and visible plans will lead to a more trusting environment and comfortable workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers this guidance on developing an infectious diseases response plan for organizations. Creating thorough and visible plans will lead to a more trusting environment and comfortable workplace. Another plus? Prioritizing the physical and mental health of employees also helps companies create a culture of empathy and understanding.

According to SMB leaders, the top five employee expectations are:

  1. Flexible schedules (51%)
  2. Mask usage at work (47%)
  3. Daily sanitation of workspaces/materials (46%)
  4. Social distancing at work (44%)
  5. The ability to work remotely (44%)

3. Build and grow a two-way relationship

Employers talk to employees all the time … but is the conversation two-way? Deeper employee engagement isn’t something that comes from things like salaries, benefits, and swag. Real engagement is a two-way street, maintained primarily through listening and open communication.

If employees feel comfortable enough to open a conversation or ask for clarification on a project.

That kind of openness is key to building a trusting relationship. Think about it: if employees feel comfortable enough to open a conversation or ask for clarification on a project, then it probably isn’t necessary to micromanage them, or check their work for accuracy.

How else can employers raise the bar on employee trust and satisfaction? Among other things: recognize employees for their great work, offer training and development opportunities, and create open communication channels.

The top ways small and midsize businesses earn trust:

  • Communicate transparently (51%)
  • Respond to personal needs (42%)
  • Ask for feedback (40%)

Other ways to deepen employee engagement

Improving employee engagement doesn’t happen overnight. It takes commitment, cultivation, and care. The good news is employers can deepen employee engagement and satisfaction through a few simple changes, many of which won’t cost a dime. Think employee resource groups (ERGs), increased diversity, communication forums, and more.

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