More than just a wage: How do employees become emotionally engaged?

By 05/01/2017 October 16th, 2018 Culture

It’s time for a question you may struggle to answer.

Ready?

When you enter the workplace every day, do you ever stop to ask yourself why? Why do you get out of bed at the same time every morning, make yourself look presentable and head to the office? Is it just to ensure you’re paid at the end of the month, or does it go deeper than that?

In reality, very few of us ever ask ourselves that question. Life is just too busy, and the idea of someone looking bleary-eyed into a mirror each morning to question the meaning of life and ask themselves whether or not they want to do what they’re about to do seems like the stuff of movies.

This is a shame, because if we don’t ask that question, we’re likely to see our careers stagnate. If a job is reduced to simply being a vehicle for ensuring the bills are paid every month, little to no emotional connection will be made with the company in question.

Why should it? It’s “just a job”, after all.

While this may sound like wishy-washy corporate waffle, it’s actually an incredibly important function in business. Without emotional engagement among the ranks, businesses simply can’t create a working environment that is capable of achieving maximum output, the best possible product quality or – perhaps more worryingly – acceptable levels of staff retention.

If a career stagnates, one of two things will happen:

1) Employee becomes too settled, looses motivation and becomes complacent.
2) Employee realises that there appears to be zero opportunities ahead and chooses to work elsewhere (after becoming complacent through lack of motivation).

Neither scenario is particular appealing, so with that in mind, let’s look at five ways any business can help foster an emotional connection between its staff and the company for which they work.

1. Make corporate values EVERYTHING

If a business is unafraid to demonstrate its willingness to hire or fire based on an individual’s ability to adhere to the values of the organisation, it is far more likely to create an emotionally engaged workplace.

A business without any values isn’t a particularly inspiring place to be. Equally, paying lip service to existing values is just as corrosive; no matter how clear the corporate values are, if they’re simply treated as a bunch of words that once meant something, why shouldn’t staff follow suit?

The corporate values of your business should be everything to its daily survival. They should be treated with reverence by rewarding those who adhere and disciplining those who don’t. Far from being dictatorial, this approach creates a culture that loves the business, rather than serves it. And that will make all the difference.

2. Make the values clear

We’ve alluded to this in point one, but if the values of the organisation are either muddy or seemingly non-existent, employees will never become emotionally engaged.

Don’t be afraid to plaster the values everywhere; company noticeboards, the intranet, website and within wall art are all perfectly acceptable places to constantly remind everyone within the building what really matters.

The values should roll off the tongue, be entirely absent of ‘business speak’ and create an air of optimism. Be proud of your values and shout them from the tallest platform.

3. Speak to employees

You can have the best company values in the world, but if you forget to actually speak to employees, you’ll miss many opportunities to find out what’s really going on.

The more feedback you can gain from employees, the better. What lies behind their frustration? Why don’t they feel any form of connection with the business?

The answers won’t always be easy to bear, but they will give you significant clues as to what you need to do next. Also, the very fact that you’ve bothered to reach out and ask people what the business could do to better engage them will engender a form of emotional connection in itself.

Employees are a business’s greatest asset. Give them a voice.

4. Make use of modern communication

Lengthy office meetings and ‘reply all’ emails are rather tiresome for everyone, and any form of communication in the digital age that fails to captivate the audience offers nothing more than time wasted.

People are used to communicating quickly, no matter where they are or what device they have to hand, and while many businesses shun the use of perceived time-wasting platforms such as social media sites and instant messaging, those that are a little more forward-thinking leverage their power as often as possible.

If you provide convenient, familiar channels of communication for staff, they’ll use them. Company updates sent out via instant messages, or internal forums used to discuss proposed product updates will likely see far higher engagement rates than older forms of communication.

Imagine a vibrant, colourful-yet-productive discussion about a new service the business intends to introduce, carried out on a mobile-based communication platform. It’s how most of us conduct such discussions with friends and family, and if that same method is used in the workplace, emotional connections between company and employee can quickly be formed.

Businesses that value and encourage the use of modern communication methods will thrive. Those that don’t will see far higher levels of staff turnover.

5. Never ‘do as I say, not as I do’

Parents love that phrase, but while it may work with kids (occasionally), it simply doesn’t hold any weight within the workplace.

If those at the top of the company tree display a blatant disregard for the corporate culture and its values, staff on every branch below will likely do the same. Business leaders therefore must lead by example if staff are to be engaged and feel connected to the company.

There’s nothing worse than scepticism within the ranks, and such a feeling will proliferate if management teams fail to set the standard.

Again – think back to those company values you set and which should be by now plastered around the building. Without top-end buy-in, they really are just words.

Final thoughts

There’s no simple, quick fix for raising employee engagement. Emotional connections between staff and the organisation take a long time to build, but if you follow the guidelines and principals in this post, you’ll stand a far better chance of creating a workforce that really cares about the business.

Remember the golden rule: if all else fails, speak to staff before calling in expensive consultants. Just a half hour chat with one or two members of the team will quickly unearth what the real problem is and, often, it’s a lot simpler than you may think.

You’ll never engage everyone, but the right company culture and adherence to its values by the majority will quickly sniff out those who simply don’t fit. Such people will soon move on, creating the sort of churn that is acceptable; natural wastage is the only type of employee turnover any company should accept.

If you think we’ve missed a vital employee engagement tactic that has worked for you, please let us know in the comments – we’d love to share your successes with the readers of our blog!

Natural HR

About Natural HR

Natural HR is a cloud-based HR software company for growing businesses with 100+ employees. Since launching in 2010, we’ve been building a comprehensive suite of HR functionality that equips the small to medium-sized enterprise with everything needed to build an effective and efficient HR operation.

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