When you have a highly engaged workforce, your organization is in a better position to achieve its goals. However, reaching the optimal level of engagement among employees isn’t easy. There are many different drivers of engagement, and not all employees are engaged by the same experiences at work.
The Truth About Employee Engagement
Given the monetary and productivity costs associated with losing an employee, it’s important to do all you can to keep great people. By taking specific actions to improve employee engagement, you can drive better retention, as well as performance.
Understand Employee Engagement and Retention Warning Signs
Low engagement isn’t just an issue for low performers or those who are a poor fit with company culture. Top performers—the ones you want to retain the most—can be at risk of leaving when they aren’t engaged or challenged in their current role.
Research shows that managers don’t always know when their people are unengaged and considering leaving. A Robert Half study found that more than 4 in 10 workers were considering leaving their current job within the next year and managers didn’t understand why. While employees cited salary and benefits as key reasons for leaving, managers thought it was a lack of growth opportunities.
Before you take steps to improve retention, you need to be aware of the possible warning signs of poor engagement or job satisfaction. To see where there may be problems looming, look for the following cues in your workplace:
- Employees routinely complain or have a negative attitude
- A drop in performance or productivity
- An increase in unscheduled absences
- Less interaction and collaboration between employees
7 Ways to Drive Retention and Performance Through Engagement
Engaged employees don’t have to look elsewhere to have their engagement needs met. By keeping employees engaged, you can keep them longer. In fact, a Gallup study found that engaged employees are 59 percent less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months.
To improve engagement and retention among your employees, take the following steps:
1. Enhance employee and team communication.
Communicating over shared experiences helps people feel connected. When people feel connected and have a sense of belonging, it’s harder for them to leave.
A study in the Journal of Business and Management found that employees reporting positive relationships with coworkers were more likely to be engaged. You can support positive team interactions by taking the following actions:
- Encouraging cross-functional projects
- Training managers to communicate better with their team
- Building a culture where employees can freely share their ideas
2. Offer new opportunities for learning and development.
Training and development do more than equip employees with new skills. They also support engagement by helping employees get excited about their roles and confident in their abilities. In a Udemy study, 80 percent of employees said learning and development opportunities would help them feel more engaged on the job.
In addition to traditional training opportunities, you can support employee learning and development by encouraging experiences such as stretch assignments, job rotations, and attendance at industry conferences and events.
3. Provide clear and constructive feedback.
A Gallup study found that when managers regularly communicated performance expectations, employees were more engaged and less likely to want to leave. Constructive feedback helps employees improve performance, giving them clarity about what they’re doing well and what opportunities for improvement might exist. With that added clarity and the opportunity to correct performance issues, employees don’t have to leave in order to feel like they’re in the right role.
To give employees more access to useful feedback, train managers on how to deliver feedback. You can also encourage healthy, honest feedback at all levels of the organization by developing a robust performance management program.
4. Ask for feedback.
The best way to understand what motivates good people to leave—and what you could have done to keep them—is to ask. Thorough exit interviews help uncover the sources of employee disengagement and turnover. You can also ask for feedback through employee surveys and by reading reviews on sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed.
5. Increase team building.
Having strong ties with coworkers makes work more enjoyable. And when employees have fun with their peers, they may feel less tempted to leave. To build a strong sense of unity in your workforce, try the following activities:
- Team charity and volunteer opportunities
- Offsites group outings
- Happy hours
- Group lunches and ice cream socials
6. Ensure optimal staffing levels.
When you have understaffed teams, team members often have to pick up the slack and perform extra duties, which can lead to burnout and disengagement over time. To support employee engagement and team productivity, you’ll need to improve your ability to see and prevent staffing gaps. Workforce management software can help you keep track of staffing levels by offering a bird’s-eye view of your total workforce by location, department, and team.
7. Assess compensation and benefits.
Competitive compensation and benefits are two essential ingredients for retaining top talent. Even relatively engaged employees can be lured away by the promise of higher earnings, so conducting regular reviews is crucial. Using an integrated payroll and HR system will help you review employee compensation and benefits, so you can identify trends and make adjustments when necessary. You can review elements such as:
- Salary and incentives
- Overtime earnings
- Time off
- Benefits and perks
Drive Retention and Performance with an Engaged Workforce
Every employee requires a different set of experiences at work to be engaged. As a result, you’ll need to offer a diverse mix of employee programs and activities that span across the whole employee lifecycle journey—from hiring to retirement and everything in between.
When you take steps to improve employee engagement at every stage of the employee experience, you can exceed employee expectations and hold onto talent longer. For more ideas to help drive retention and performance through engagement, read our e-book, Exceeding Employee Expectations.