Employee engagement has always been important, but in the current climate, it’s climbing further up the agenda. In this blog, we look at why employee engagement is now vital if you want to keep talent in the company and share five ways you can improve it.
What is employee engagement?
Building your reputation, developing customer relationships, and growing your business are all down to your employees. They are the backbone of your business, your brand ambassadors, and your most important asset.
In today’s highly competitive recruitment market, to keep your employees they need to be both satisfied and engaged. While employee satisfaction is a measure of how happy your employees are at work, it’s not the same as employee engagement.
“Engaged employees are committed to your organisation’s success – they’ll go the extra mile beyond the remit of their job description,” explains Cecile Kempeneers, Director, Professional Services – Customer Success, Salesforce Belgium. “They’re also less likely to leave, even if offered a higher salary elsewhere.”
Why employee engagement matters so much right now
Following COVID-19, which has caused many people to reassess their priorities and shone a spotlight on the importance of mental health, organisations are increasingly recognising the need to focus on employee engagement.
In July 2021, there were more than a million vacancies available in the UK, an all-time high, and in Germany, more than a third of the country’s companies reported a lack of competent workers. In Belgium, 83% of employers say they’re having difficulty filling vacancies, according to the results of ManpowerGroup’s research, with labour shortages reaching a 15-year high. And although the reasons behind this are manifold, lack of engagement is a significant factor. Gallup finds that “it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them, and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers.”
Employee turnover isn’t the only concern when it comes to poor engagement – according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report, the loss of productivity relating to not engaged and actively disengaged employees is equal to 18% of their annual salary. With the same report identifying global employee engagement at around 20%, this is a significant problem for many organisations.
How to improve employee engagement
So, how do you actively engage your employees? “To be engaged, employees need more than just a good salary, great working conditions, and fair treatment,” comments Kempeneers. “They need to believe in the organisation’s ESG (environment, social, and governance) strategies, respect its leadership, and trust the business vision.”
There are several simple actions that employers can take to boost engagement though – so here are our top five tips.
1. Boost employee engagement with a culture of trust and care
It’s crucial that people feel cared about and cared for – particularly in these difficult times. The boundary between where we live and work has faded. Every employee needs to feel they have someone at work that they can turn to for help when they need it – whether it’s for mental health support or time off to homeschool their children through lockdown.
“We’re all humans first and foremost,” says Kempeneers. “And it’s really important that people can be themselves and express themselves freely. With company policies and resources that encourage people to raise their hands and ask for help, you can make it a part of your culture. This will not only enhance engagement but also minimise the risk of burnout.”
Due to COVID-19, many people have struggled with caregiver hardship situations. Some employees even have to leave their jobs to care for loved ones at home. At Salesforce, employees are offered family care time, so they can take time away from work and focus on their family when they need it most.
By taking mental health seriously, organisations can ensure employees get the help they need and will benefit from happier, more productive teams.
2. Rethink the approach to onboarding to engage new employees
Just a few years ago, a new starter would quickly get to know their colleagues in the office – at the water cooler, coffee machine, or from working at adjacent desks. It’s now a completely different experience. To ensure newcomers feel a sense of family (or Ohana as we call it at Salesforce), it’s important to find an alternative to those informal chats. Whether digital or face-to-face, this may require much more planning than before, but is worth it.
Peer support can also play a vital role in your engagement strategy for new starters, and become a self-perpetuating system for wellbeing. ” ’How are you doing?’ is now a much more poignant question than it used to be,” comments Kempeneers. “We now really mean it, and people need to know that it’s okay to say if you’re not fine.”
3. Encourage engaging and fun communications, but avoid messaging overload
Clear and open communications when it comes to company strategy, expectations, and performance are a must. But it’s also helpful to encourage personal expression and dedicate some channels to fun. However, avoid overloading employees with irrelevant messages that can quickly become an unwelcome distraction.
The right technologies can help. For example, teams at Salesforce use Slack to keep connected. “Collaboration platforms can be great to enable employees to work and chat more effectively, but people often need a little training to ensure they can use it efficiently and are not bombarded with content,” comments Kempeneers. “I have a dedicated channel where my team can express their mood, exchange memes and gifs, and share music – we even have a Spotify list for every project, which gives us something other than work to connect over.”
4. Measure employee engagement and act on the results
To understand how employees truly feel, organisations need to run regular engagement surveys. “At Salesforce, we have an annual engagement survey with an 85% participation rate in Belgium – it’s the most important survey that we run,” explains Kempeneers. “The survey includes questions on ethics, diversity, psychological safety, and leadership. It even asks whether they would leave the company if offered a higher salary elsewhere. It helps us really get to grips with how people are feeling.”
The results are published company-wide. But the most crucial part is taking action on the feedback received – at a team, country, or even regional level. “Making changes in response to results proves to employees that you’re paying attention and taking an interest in their needs,” adds Kempeneers.
5. Do good things together
Sometimes, it’s easy to become swept up in the minutiae of day-to-day work life and neglect the bigger picture. But it’s important to remember that there’s more to life than work. One way to help people feel more connected to each other and their community is to run volunteering days.
“Following the recent floods in Belgium, we teamed up with some of our implementation partners to organise a trip to the area of Dinant, where we all helped clean up in the communities affected,” comments Kempeneers. “We’ve also helped plant a forest in the past. These kinds of activities are great for the environment and community while helping people feel good and building team spirit.”
One of the few positives to have come out of the global pandemic is a new focus on mental health. By putting employee engagement and well-being first, organisations will not only have happier teams but also more productive employees who stay with them for longer.
To read more about strategies to boost employee engagement, read our Personalisation and the Art of Employee Engagement report.