Imagine walking into a business each morning that consists only of workers who know exactly what the end goal is. Imagine going to work every day knowing that everyone has bought into the company and will do all they can to make it successful.
Productivity would reach its peak, the quality of the work would go sky-high, negativity would never rear its head and as a result, customers would receive nothing but the best products and ultimate customer service.
Back in the real world, things are usually rather different. While a good proportion of most workforces are indeed fully on-board and determined to make a difference, many aren’t.
The disengaged within a workforce can reside anywhere on the company tree. They may be on the shop floor or sat around the boardroom table, but their influence will remain the same; disengaged employees are less productive.
The holy grail of HR and management is the ability to maintain high levels of engagement within an organisation. The good news? There’s a tried-and-tested set of building blocks to which any business can turn when it comes to fostering an emotional connection between the workforce and the company itself. All it takes is hard work and a desire to get the most from people.
Without further ado, here are the fifteen constituent elements of a highly engaged workforce:
1. Knowing the objective
As alluded to above, for an employee to be engaged, they need to understand intrinsically why they get out of bed every morning and head to work.
Knowing why you undertake the various tasks assigned to you each day is a sure-fire way to become fully engaged with the business. Without it, why should you care?
2. Understanding alignment within the business
It is generally accepted in HR circles that there are three key factors that can be attributed to an employee’s alignment within a business.
Firstly, they need to know how to achieve the tasks set before them each day. Secondly, they need to be given the chance to look ahead and view the opportunities that lie before them. And, lastly, the employee needs to enjoy whatever it is they’re assigned to do.
Without these three factors, they’ll never fully engage with the company.
3. Having a plan
Much like understanding the overall company mission, employees need their own plans. They need to head into work each day knowing what the next step is (no matter how small) and exactly what they need to do to reach it.
The manager’s job is to ensure there is no confusion when it comes to objectives. The “why” is vitally important in business and enables employees to set meaningful, achievable and addictive goals.
4. Being given space
There’s nothing worse than micromanagement for either the manager or employee. Equally, we all need our space in the workplace. If someone is constantly breathing down your neck or forever requesting ‘check-ins’, you’ll never be able to forge your own path.
Getting out of employees’ way and allowing them to grow based on a constantly developing connection with the business is the best way to ensure they remain engaged.
5. Making a difference
If you don’t feel like you’re making a contribution to a business, how can you build a meaningful connection with it?
For employees to become emotionally tied with a company, they need to know that the stuff they do each day is making a difference. No matter how small their achievements, if they’re celebrated and linked to larger areas of progress, they’ll realise that they’re an essential cog within the machine.
6. Progress and impact score
Just as employees yearn for clear indications that they’re making a difference, they also need some way of scoring themselves.
As humans, we’re deeply competitive animals (even if we claim not to be), and if the progress and impact of every employee is constantly measured, the sense of accomplishment will have a tangible, positive effect on their engagement levels. We all love to feel like we’re winning, after all!
7. A sense of momentum
People don’t like surprises, but they do enjoy journeys that are full of discovery and which never seem to end. That’s why a sense of momentum is so important in business.
When projects finish or products are pulled from shelves, the sense of momentum can end, abruptly. When that happens, engagement levels can drop, which is why it is vitally important to always up the ante, no matter how challenging or unclear the commercial backdrop. When something finishes, get started on the next project – pronto.
8. Personal investment
Most coffee shops run some form of incentive scheme to keep clients coming back for more. If you’ve ever been in the possession of a stamp card that guarantees you a free drink after so many purchases, you’ll know well the feeling of potentially missing out if you decide to quit.
The workplace should be no different. If employees feel as though they have a personal investment in the company that will one day result in a pay-off (be it a bonus or significant promotion), they’re far more likely to hang around and take an active interest in all areas of the business.
9. Personal progression
Employee development isn’t just about raising one’s skill level in a given role – it’s also about personal progression.
As you make your way through the world of work, your personality should develop at the same rate as your skill set. You’ll learn how to deal with people and all manner of foreign situations – but only if the business you’re employed by encourages you to do so. If they don’t, why should you care significantly about the organisation?
10. The business story
How do you connect employees to the work they’re doing and to the business itself? It’s simple: you build a story around the business – one in which they play a pivotal role.
Businesses should invest time in telling stories both to their customers and employees. The more narrative you can place around your organisation, the more likelihood you’ll have of fostering meaningful connections with employees. If they feel like part of the story, they’ll start to develop a bond with the business that will be tough to break.
11. Feeling valued
Value isn’t always associated with the wage that ends up in your bank account at the end of each month. As noted earlier, it doesn’t matter where you sit on the company tree (and, therefore what you’re earning) when it comes to being disengaged.
Feeling valued often comes from public displays of appreciation. If the person above you regularly pats you on the back or surprises you with a trip to the cinema as a “thank you”, you’ll realise that you’re genuinely appreciated, and that’s a powerful, long-lasting feeling.
Do your employees know who they are in the business? Do they know what their role signifies?
If not, they simply won’t develop any form of connection with the company. We all need to know our identity and what it brings to the party. If you know who you are within a business, you’ll start to believe in yourself and the impact you’re having on the organisation as a whole.
13. Good leadership
Leaders within businesses don’t always hold management positions. Some of the best leaders reside within teams and have the exact same job titles on their business cards as their colleagues.
What sets them apart is the fact that they’ve been encouraged to display leadership and challenge decisions made by those above them. Every employee should be empowered to think in this manner, for you can never have too many leaders.
14. Investment in each other
Relationships within the workforce play a crucial role when it comes to engagement. If employees have connections with one another and they all fully understand the goals of the business, those relationships will ensure people stay on board and have little desire to move elsewhere.
15. A supporting environment
The fourteen building blocks of engagement above could quickly come crashing down if they’re not supported by the right kind of working environment.
If the environment in which employees are expected to work is substandard, the business will stand little chance of engendering those all-important emotional connections that increase engagement.
The best possible office or factory and the best tools will make for very happy, productive employees, and high levels of engagement will quickly follow.
It should be noted that the building blocks we’ve listed for creating an engaged workforce are not a ‘fire-and-forget’ routine – they require constant effort, revisits and proactive management in order to be successful.
However, get it right, and your business will benefit from a workforce that will do everything in its power to make it successful.