Savvy business leaders understand that staying engaged with your employees cuts waste and boosts productivity—and that monetary benefits emerge from both of those results. To get to that point, however, small-business owners have to establish powerful channels of communication with the workers they're seeking to engage.
"Employee alignment needs to be a top priority," says Andre Lavoie, CEO of ClearCompany, a talent management software company. "Companies literally depend on this kind of alignment to succeed, and employees depend on it for their own engagement and personal success."
A key part of the process that leads to greater employee engagement is the act of reaching out and asking for information. While many entrepreneurs do this, they may not do it enough or with the right frequency to reap the rewards that an engaged staff can generate. The results of a recent survey from culture management solutions company RoundPegg show that just two-fifths of the companies polled were successfully taking advantage of their opportunities to drive employee engagement.
Let's look more deeply at those survey results, then break out the steps you can take to get—and keep—your employees engaged and focused.
Key Employee Feedback
When a business prompts its workers for feedback about workplace culture, about their goals and ambitions, and for answers about what kind of leadership is making them feel inspired, those employees come to understand that management is listening. This is good for engagement. However, if you do that infrequently, or not at all, you'll most likely get the opposite impression and effect.
In RoundPegg's report, a significant number of companies (82 percent) admit that their employee engagement effort wasn't working. Additionally, many employees say the engagement conversation wasn't happening often enough throughout the year. Specifically:
- 34 percent of employees say they didn't receive any engagement-related surveys at work.
- 19 percent say employee-engagement surveys were only conducted every two years.
- 41 percent say surveys surrounding issues of workplace engagement came annually.
- 20 percent say they took an engagement-focused survey more than once per year.
The problem with these numbers? Not enough outreach to reflect the fluid and personal nature of employee engagement. When it comes to collecting information about the attitudes and circumstances that fuel engagement, "annually" just isn't frequently enough. Circumstances change quickly, and small-business owners need to stay on top of things. For most businesses, quarterly might be a better model, the report suggests, especially when those surveys are complemented by a series of pulse-taking interactions.
Open Channels, Clear Context
So how can you keep pace with the issues facing your workers on a daily, weekly and monthly basis—between the bigger, "official" surveys you might do?
According to the RoundPegg study, 52 percent of the businesses polled spend $5 to $15 per employee per month on engagement work. Twenty-five percent say they spend even more—$15 to $20 per month per worker.
If the impetus of employee engagement is the leader-to-staff conversation, you don't necessarily need to increase what a company spends to get each of your employees engaged. But the things you do have to be timely, and they have to come with a commitment to personal and professional progress and growth.
Lavoie suggests making the following three points part of that ongoing conversation:
1. Supply context. Link your employees’ everyday efforts to your business's overall goals, and highlight examples of day-to-day accomplishments that support those goals. This makes it easy for your employees to visualize how their work affects the company overall.
2. Make it personal. Help your employees visualize how their specific project dovetails with company-wide strategies. This ensures that your people don’t get caught up in small tasks and miss the importance of their place in the bigger picture.
3. Play to their strengths. Here's where engagement surveys can play a critical role. A Gallup study found that employee feedback that focused on workers' strongest contributions resulted in a 12.5 percent increase in productivity. You can improve your own company's productivity by understanding how your employees work best and encouraging your managers to play to those strengths.
Think of it this way: Employee engagement is about creating a work culture that emphasizes transparency—two-way clarity that allows you to understand your workers and what fosters their productivity, and also allows your workers to understand how your business' success promotes progress in their own careers.
Getting to that point by enacting a blend of timely and frequent data-gathering with in-the-moment "pulse taking" means you'll be more likely to recognize and reward the right people. And they'll reward you with well-executed goals and tasks. It's a win-win for engagement, on both sides of the conversation.
Read more articles on company culture.
This article originally appeared on June 19, 2014.