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Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Here are the key drivers of employee engagement so you can create a strong company culture. 

Employee engagement has become a buzzword over the past two years. The unexpected shift to remote work during tumultuous times had many employers worried about productivity and accountability. Now, we’re entering the era of “quiet quitting,” in which employees commit to doing only their bare minimum job requirements. No more going above and beyond.

An employee is engaged when they feel connected to their work and employer. It doesn’t mean that they won’t have unproductive or unmotivated days. Rather, it indicates that they’re dedicated to the cause, feel self-satisfaction, and feel aligned with the brand values. In other words, employees want to do meaningful work and feel like they have a sense of purpose in the business.

What determines if an employee is engaged or not? 

Employee Engagement Key Drivers

Driver Implementation Process Benefits
Structured Onboarding Process Shift to proactive approach, provide paperwork in advance, implement automated processes, extend onboarding, assign mentors. Higher retention, early performance, lasting employee connection.
Building the Right Role for the Individual Hire for potential, assign roles based on skills, foster flexibility, connect employees to suitable challenges. Increased engagement, flow state, better skill utilization.
Prioritizing Balance and Wellness Address burnout, set clear expectations, create a culture of communication, schedule check-ins, use employee surveys. Reduced burnout, improved well-being, higher employee satisfaction.
Reviewing and Streamlining Systems Regularly audit systems, work with employees to understand challenges, incorporate updated processes and systems. Improved efficiency, modernized practices, increased morale.
Allowing Scheduling Flexibility Shift to project-based work models, allow scheduling flexibility, recognize personal commitments. Promotes work-life balance, increased employee satisfaction.
Recognizing and Rewarding Individuals Implement peer-to-peer recognition, encourage manager recognition, offer rewards for above-and-beyond efforts. Foster collaboration, increase morale, acknowledge individual and team successes.
Offering (Actual) Competitive Rates Provide truly competitive rates and benefits, address financial stress, offer meaningful bonuses and perks. Attract and retain top talent, ensure employee satisfaction.
Investing in Training and Development Overcome fear of turnover, focus on hiring from within, provide tools and resources for career advancement. Increased loyalty, positive brand image, skilled workforce.

Improving the Hiring Process

Many companies view the hiring and onboarding process as the time for candidates and new employees to make a great first impression. This period also allows employers to create a lasting connection with new employees.

Improving your hiring process can drive employee engagement

The Aberdeen Group’s 2009 study, “Beyond Satisfaction: Engaging Employees to Retain Customers,” highlighted that 54% of businesses with a structured onboarding process reported higher employee engagement. 83% of the highest performing businesses participating in the survey start onboarding before the employee’s first day.  

The traditional approach to onboarding entails welcoming an employee with a mountain of paperwork. Instead, companies should shift to a proactive approach, providing the paperwork before the start date. Companies also report higher retention and early performance rates when implementing an automated onboarding process. 

It’s also crucial for HR professionals to think beyond day one and create an extended onboarding process. Schedule check-ins with employees at various periods throughout their first year. Consider assigning a mentor to help them excel in their new role.

Building The Right Role For The Individual

The job application process has remained unchanged for decades. An applicant finds resume templates suitable for professionals, fills in their information, and applies to a posting. The company reviews the resume, explores how well it meets the criteria, and offers a job based on those metrics.

This approach is a great starting point for hiring qualified candidates, but it pigeonholes people and prevents them from reaching their potential. A candidate may have skills irrelevant to the job that would help in other business areas. 

Employees feel engaged when they’re connected to their job. This connection allows people to enter a flow state, where work passes by and leaves one feeling a sense of satisfaction. The key to entering a flow state is finding an activity that both fits the person’s skills and offers a challenge. If the task is too easy, it won’t require mental focus to create engagement and flow (for example, watching Netflix).

To improve employee engagement, consider hiring employees for their potential and assigning roles that fit their skills rather than the job description. Creating flexibility and providing an opportunity for employees to decide what challenges they’d like to explore will foster a trusting connection.

Prioritizing Balance and Wellness

Having a good work/life balance helps drive employee engagement

Employee burnout is a pervasive issue in our modern world. While digital connections have made work easier, it comes at a cost. Many employees struggle to disconnect and set boundaries, especially in a remote work environment. This issue has, in part, contributed to the quiet quitting movement.

Deloitte’s Workplace Burnout Survey showcases just how prevalent this issue is becoming: 

  • 77% of respondents report experiencing burnout at their job
  • 42% of respondents have left jobs due to burnout 
  • 91% of respondents indicated a direct relationship with diminished work quality resulting from stress and burnout
  • 70% of respondents feel their employers don’t do enough to prevent or alleviate burnout

Burnout and disengagement go hand in hand. It also has an exponential effect. Many employees report experiencing burnout due to unfair treatment, increased workloads, and insufficient staffing. The more employees have this experience, the higher turnover rates become. The higher the turnover rates, the more pressure on the remaining employees.

Businesses can reduce burnout by prioritizing employee wellness. This consideration should be a core part of the brand values and company culture. 

Simple things like setting clear intentions and expectations and educating managers about dealing with burnout make a significant difference when it comes to engagement levels. Creating safe spaces within the workplace for employees to engage in social connections and de-stress can also help create balance during the day.

It’s also integral to create a culture where employees are comfortable sharing their concerns. Employees should feel safe communicating if they’re struggling or can’t manage the workload. Scheduling weekly check-ins can also help managers anticipate potential burnout situations and assist the employee. Additionally, you can periodically send out employee engagement surveys to get important feedback.

Reviewing And Streamlining Systems

The factors limiting employee engagement aren’t always obvious. Seemingly insignificant causes of discontent can also pose a problem.

Employees often feel frustrated by inefficiencies within business systems and processes. Some tools and programs in long-standing enterprises may be well overdue for an update. Similarly, the idea of doing things the way they’ve always been done is archaic as technology evolves.

Key decision-makers must audit internal systems each year, identifying bottlenecks, inconsistencies, and opportunities for improvement. Managers should work with employees to better understand their daily roles, barriers, and challenges. 

Incorporating updated processes and systems can significantly improve employee morale and drive engagement. Implementing automation and cloud storage centralization can modernize and simplify business practices.

It’s important to understand that productivity and time management don’t refer to the number of hours worked; it’s what’s truly accomplished during that time. Eliminating or automating repetitive tasks creates an opportunity for employees to take on work better suited to their skills, contributing to their flow and satisfaction.

Allowing Scheduling Flexibility

Employee working on calendar with a flexible schedule

The 9-5, Monday to Friday work model is archaic and ineffective. Studies have shown that the average worker wastes 21.8 hours per week at work. These activities include sitting in meetings that could have been emails, interrupting work to respond to emails that could have waited, and correcting preventable mistakes. 

The pandemic and overnight shift to a work-from-home environment highlighted that scheduling flexibility is manageable within a business. While there are pros and cons to remote work, the ability to adjust one’s schedule for better work-life balance is a perk.

Allowing scheduling flexibility lets employees know that the business sees them as people rather than worker drones. Letting someone flex their schedule to go to a health appointment promotes wellness. Letting someone leave early to catch their child’s recital showcases the value of family.

Consider shifting to a project and accomplishment-based work model rather than a strict timeline for work. Yes, there must be an overlap between team members, but the timeline shouldn’t be set in stone. 

Recognizing And Rewarding Individuals

employees celebrating after being recognized for their hard work

Employees earn a paycheck in recognition of their efforts— at least, that’s the traditional way of thinking. In reality, employees are human beings who thrive on positive feedback and shared success. The simple act of thanking employees and acknowledging their hard work goes a long way.

In a recent survey, 37% of respondents indicated that recognition for their work is a powerful motivator. In essence, recognition is a key driver in employee engagement. 

There are many ways to create opportunities for recognition within the workplace. Implementing a daily or weekly peer-to-peer recognition program will help build a collaborative company culture. Encourage your employees to report when their peers do something well. Build employees up by sharing the rewards— if one of us wins, we all win.

Managers should also be empowered to give employees specific, relevant, and timely recognition. Include simple, or crystal rewards when an employee goes above and beyond. Keep in mind that many modern employees are motivated by financial rewards during this tumultuous time.

Offering (Actual) Competitive Rates

The quiet quitting movement stems from a deeper systemic issue in business culture. As many are still facing financial stress from the pandemic and heading into a recession, we’re past the point of employees proving that they’re there for more than money.

The issue often starts with claiming to offer competitive rates. This is a subjective term that’s often based on limited research. Truly competitive rates and benefits draw top talent from the competition and encourage employees to stay. Someone who feels well compensated for their work is more likely to be engaged.

Similarly, employees who ask for financial security and are met with company pizza parties or coffee cards feel degraded and undervalued. Offer bonuses and perks that help someone in their lives outside of work if you want them to be engaged at work. Employees who feel stressed or uncertain about their home life are less engaged than those who feel safe and secure.

Investing In Training And Development

Business leader training employee

Many business leaders worry about their company becoming a stepping stone for talented individuals. In other words, they use this role as a jumping point for a better role with the competition. This concern leads to creating limitations around training and career development.

Training employees and investing in their goals— both inside and outside of the company— will help them feel a genuine connection with the brand. To supplement this, you might consider non-traditional modes of development for employees. For instance, offering Spanish lessons could be valuable to those interacting with international partners. This broadens their skillset and aligns with the organization’s global vision. Even if the business becomes an eventual stepping-stone, they’re more likely to carry their positive experiences forward and boost the brand image, thus attracting more talent.

Shift the focus to hiring from within and preparing people to advance. People who see a future are more engaged. This also means providing employees with the tools and resources needed to successfully do their jobs.

The root of driving engagement is to treat your employees as your greatest asset— because that’s what they are.

Key Takeaways: Improving Employee Engagement and Hiring Practices

Strategic Onboarding:

  • Initiate onboarding before the employee’s first day for a structured and engaging experience.
  • Automate onboarding processes to enhance retention and early performance rates.
  • Extend onboarding beyond day one and assign mentors to support new employees in their roles.

Tailored Roles for Individuals:

  • Hire for potential and assign roles based on skills rather than rigid job descriptions.
  • Foster flexibility, allowing employees to explore challenges aligned with their skills.
  • Connect individuals to tasks that strike a balance between their abilities and challenges.

Prioritizing Wellness:

  • Address burnout by creating a culture that values employee well-being.
  • Set clear expectations, encourage communication, and conduct regular check-ins.
  • Use employee surveys to gather feedback and proactively address concerns.

Streamlined Systems:

  • Regularly review and streamline internal systems to eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Work collaboratively with employees to understand daily challenges and barriers.
  • Incorporate updated processes and systems to improve efficiency and morale.

Scheduling Flexibility:

  • Shift towards project-based work models and allow scheduling flexibility.
  • Acknowledge personal commitments to promote work-life balance.
  • Focus on productivity and results rather than a rigid 9-5 work model.

Recognition and Rewards:

  • Implement peer-to-peer recognition programs to foster collaboration.
  • Empower managers to provide timely and specific recognition for individual and team efforts.
  • Offer simple rewards and acknowledge successes to boost morale and engagement.

Competitive Compensation:

  • Provide truly competitive rates and benefits to attract and retain top talent.
  • Address financial stress by offering meaningful bonuses and perks.
  • Ensure employees feel valued and secure in their roles.

Investment in Training and Development:

  • Overcome the fear of turnover by investing in employee training and career development.
  • Focus on hiring from within and provide the necessary tools for advancement.
  • Create a positive environment where employees see a future and feel connected to the brand.

By incorporating these key practices, businesses can create a workplace that not only attracts top talent but also nurtures a motivated, engaged, and loyal workforce. Employee satisfaction and success become integral to the overall success and growth of the organization.

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