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How to Improve Employee Engagement & Why it Matters

In today’s unpredictable economic environment, measuring employee engagement, satisfaction & happiness can get pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. This is unwise. By ignoring the happiness of the most important part of your business (your people), you run the risk of failing to achieve your business goals and becoming a less attractive prospect to future employees and investors. We discuss how to improve your employee engagement and why it matters.

How to improve employee engagement.

If you're new to employee engagement and happiness, before getting into the detail here we'd recommend checking out our article explaining exactly what employee engagement and happiness are, and the all-important differences.

It’s widely accepted in the world of business data and science that business that focus on employee satisfaction and happiness are more profitable. Shawn Anchor, world-renowned workplace happiness expert and author of The Happiness Advantage firmly believes that happiness is a precursor to organisational success. He researched the benefits of a happy workforce and his findings supported his statement:

  • Sales will increase by 37%.

  • Productivity will increase by 31%.

  • Accuracy on tasks improves by 19%.

He also says that there will be huge improvements in health and quality of life for your people.

Research company Psychological Technologies (PSYT) produced an app-based study of UK employees to quantify the potential value of happiness. In layman’s terms, they wanted to work out if happiness affects a business’s balance sheet. Their findings revealed that “If every employee in the country was 1% happier it could, in fact, add an extra £24 billion to the UK economy per year, boosting the profits of the average company of 10k staff by an extra £7.38 million.”

Not too shabby eh!?

Engagement is Increasing Globally... But Not in The UK

According to Aon’s 2018 Employee Engagement Report engagement is at an all-time high globally! Businesses are recognising the importance of happy workers and adopting initiatives to ensure this is sustained.

Aon revealed that globally “27% of the workforce is highly engaged, 38% are moderately engaged, 21% passive and 14% actively disengaged.” However, let’s not get too excited, as they also revealed that for us Brits things aren’t so great… in fact, engagement levels have dropped by 3% over the past year!

This is backed up by research from PLC which suggests Britain’s workforce is suffering from a “motivation crisis” that is affecting motivation, performance and ultimately profitability.

The study had some staggering findings:

  • 21% of British workers consider themselves ‘very effective’ in their current job role.

  • 28% believed they would be more productive if they had better training.

  • Workers believe they’d be 45% more productive if they loved their work.

  • Staff motivation is cutting productivity by almost 50%.

Everyone can influence workplace engagement and happiness through behaviour, work ethic, attendance and many other factors. However, it’s the business leaders and managers that have the greatest impact on happiness and the biggest responsibility to create the right culture to facilitate it.

Interestingly, Investors in People’s Job Exodus Survey 2018 stated poor management is the biggest driver of discontent, with 49 per cent of workers citing it as a reason they would seek a new job! This suggests that business leaders need to address their approach if they really want to create positive change and ensure it permeates throughout the business.

Evidently there’s still plenty of work to be done… But where to start?

What Factors Boost Staff Engagement, Happiness & Loyalty?

78% of engaged staff are brand advocates - likely to recommend their company's products or services.

You may want to follow in the footsteps of Silicon Valley giants such as Google and offer amazing perks like free massages, incredible food and state-of-the-art gyms. Whilst this will do wonders for your recruitment drives, it will also cost a fortune and won’t help to boost business performance long-term.

You may also think that higher pay will solve all your problems, this is also not the case…

Compelled to find the answer, we compiled our own research! We surveyed 2,500 respondents to find out What really makes people happy at work? We wanted to establish the factors that improve staff happiness and engagement most, as they are directly linked with performance.

Here are the top-five factors:

  • Feeling valued as an individual.

  • Doing a job that you enjoy.

  • Work-life balance.

  • Pay and benefits.

  • Trust in the people you work with.

On top of this, we also compiled our own research into employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS) to establish what businesses can do to create satisfied workers who will remain loyal to their businesses and advocate it to an acquaintance. The Happiness Index has been collecting eNPS data from respondents around the globe for the past four years. We used this data to form the basis of our research. The total number of responses we analysed was 11,586.

This research deduced that the top-five factors which impact most eNPS are:

  • Recognition (feeling valued).

  • Communication.

  • Job security.

  • Direction (providing clarity).

  • Leadership.

Interestingly recognition/feeling valued came out on top for both of our studies.

Now let’s assess what initiatives we can implement to ensure these factors are addressed and your people are happy, engaged and more likely to remain loyal to your business.

Strategies to Boost Engagement & Company Performance

Be More Empathetic (Leadership)

Empathy is a key component of progressive leadership. If you want to get the best out of your people, then you must consider their needs and try to understand their realities – even if you don’t necessarily agree with them!

Center for Creative Leadership conducted a study to discover if empathy is a vital component of effective leadership. They suggest, “Empathy is positively related to job performance. Managers who show more empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses.”

By focussing on empathy, you will create a workforce that trusts and respects you. This will ensure they want to help your business succeed and be more open and honest with you.

Provide Opportunities For Growth (Pay & Benefits & Recognition)

No one wants to feel like their careers or stagnating, or their hard work isn’t being noticed. Career development is a vital component of employee happiness and engagement. It is also essential if you want to create a team of highly-skilled workers who will remain loyal to your business and help you achieve your goals.

By meeting with your people regularly, setting new targets and providing updates on performance – you will ensure your people grow and feel like their efforts are being noticed. This will improve the likelihood of them wanting to contribute to the future success of the business.

Create Roadmaps For Success (Job Security & Direction)

Providing clear opportunities for career development is key. Especially if you want to create a culture where people feel valued and driven to progress and succeed. It will also ensure they feel secure in their role and may prevent “wandering eyes”…

Schedule regular meetings where you discuss agreed upon targets with your people and collaboratively create a roadmap which clearly defines how they can be successful within the business and progress in their careers.

Create a Culture That Facilitates Great Relationships (Trust & Leadership)

We spend a staggering amount of our lives at work. If your people have bad relationships with colleagues and senior management and don’t feel like they can trust anyone then they will understandably feel disengaged and demotivated.

The modern workforce craves collaboration and interaction, and we are therefore seeing a reduction in siloed departments and teams. To facilitate this, you must ensure you are actively creating initiatives to encourage and promote positive working relationships.

To encourage relationships and trust you can do a number of things:

  • Organise team outings.

  • Assign collaborative tasks and workshops.

  • Install breakout areas where workers from all departments can socialise, unwind and maybe even bounce creative ideas off each other.

  • Identify leaders who want to see the same positive changes as you and will actively help to empower others to forge tighter relationships.

  • Offer flexibility over work practices (Work-life balance, Trust & Feeling Valued)

In today’s working world, the line between work and home is becoming more and more blurred. Flexible approaches and working hours will ensure your team have a healthier work-life balance and don’t dread coming to work. If everyone considers work as admin or a chore then they are more likely to feel stressed and eventually burn out.

Speak to your people and find out how you can adapt their schedules and offer the flexibility that will ensure they are happier, more engaged and perform to a higher standard. This can come in the form of remote work, flexi-time, or even unlimited annual leave if you’re feeling particularly brave and really want to demonstrate that you trust your people…

Listen to Your People & Understand Their Sentiment (Communication)

Every member of your team will have their own thoughts, feelings and frustrations – they are human after all…. Failure to listen and fully understand their sentiment can result in people feeling misunderstood and disengaged. By establishing regular communication, you will understand staff sentiment, be more empathetic to everyone’s needs and have the necessary insight to build action plans that will improve business.

By speaking to your people regularly and creating systems where they can contact you and vent their feelings or offer creative ideas and innovations, you will create a more unified culture and bridge gaps between people of varying seniority. The most important discussions should always take place face-to-face.

Final Thoughts

Happiness is infectious. By leading with openness and positivity, whilst ensuring you recognise staff contributions – you will create a workplace culture where your people are happy, loyal and high-performing.

Making your staff happy is not about expensive benefits. It’s about giving them meaningful work, ensuring they feel valued and developing their careers. These are small changes that today’s businesses simply can’t afford to overlook…

Brain character

Linked to ENGAGEMENT in our neuroscience model

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Joe Wedgwood

"Sun, theatre, running and hummus make Joe happy!"


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