Employers appear to be on a roll, engaging employees. According to national surveys conducted by Gallup, employee engagement is climbing. The phenomenon is good news for small businesses, which rely on engaged staff for momentum and productivity. Yet there is room for improvement.

According to Gallup, 34 percent of workers are presently engaged on the job. The better-than-one-third share is nothing to balk at, but leaves 66 percent of the workforce thirsty for further engagement. Facilitating the process is a top priority for effective owner/operators, who reap various rewards from an involved staff.

Sparking Engagement Among Employees

Raising engagement levels in the workplace not only has theoretical appeal, but the prospect also presents universal benefits you can take to the bank. Engaged employees are loyal which saves money in the long run. And a dedicated workforce representing your brand is never a bad thing to bring to the marketplace.

Consider these benefits as you craft an employee engagement strategy and build a work environment conducive to greater involvement. Boosting engagement may lead to gains such as

  • lower absentee levels,
  • reduced turnover rate,
  • better work,
  • increased profitability,
  • higher levels of productivity.

If those sounds like bad benefits, turn your back on employee engagement and pay the price. Otherwise, adopt a proactive stance to spark engagement among employees.

Give credit where credit is due – Hectic work environments abuzz with multiple, simultaneous projects often hum along without pause for recognition. Your employees grease the wheels at work, so overlooking their achievements falls short on several levels. In general, you want your staff to feel appreciated, because high job satisfaction helps you retain top talent. On an individual level, recognition contributes to a sense of purpose and belonging, leading to higher levels of personal engagement.

Sprout Funding logoThough technology and industry advancements may have altered your field in recent years, recognizing employee performance is a timeless way to increase engagement. From familiar employee-of-the-month programs, to customer feedback about staff members; traditional mechanisms are still effective for reinforcing the value of your employees. You can help along the process by

  • setting goals and recognizing employees who meet them,
  • acknowledging career milestones such as employment anniversaries,
  • singling out employees who clearly perform above and beyond the scope of their positions.

Sponsor social events – Another way to cut through the weight of your workload is to actively sponsor play time for staff members. Designating events on or away from the work site breaks up daily routines, giving employees an opportunity to form personal connections and engage over professional pursuits. Traditional luncheons and group outings serve the purpose, as well as creative outside-the-box social events such as friendly staff competitions, guest entertainers, and other unannounced surprises.

Solicit and value employee feedback – Modern employees want to work on a two-way street, paved with open lines of communication and mechanisms for sharing their feedback. Employers that seek input from workers reap happy employees, but the information staff provides may also contribute to operational success and profitability. No one knows the work flow better than the employees responsible for day-to-day performance; their suggestions rise from hands-on experience shaping your small business. Asking for their feedback and acting on their recommendations instantly boost engagement and may have the same effect on your bottom line.

Maintaining a suggestion box at work provides a ceremonial “open door” for employee feedback, but a box on the wall may not illicit the answers you need to build a better business.  A proactive approach, polling staff members through periodic surveys provids deeper insight and engagement. Ask questions at least once a year or as often as you feel necessary to keep a finger on employees’ pulse.

Provide adequate training and support – Engaging is difficult for employees who feel they’ve been hung out to dry. Before raising expectations on employee performance, give workers the training and support necessary to succeed. Confident you have their backs, employees are less fearful and more trusting, leading to genuine engagement. With an open feedback policy in place, employees will share shortcomings, highlighting ways you can elevate your training programs, supporting staff.

Piecemeal training leaves the wrong impression with employees, so you should have a well-oiled process in place for bringing staff up to speed. Ongoing education and supplemental learning opportunities should also be offered, particularly when innovation and advances change business best-practices. Training modules with existing employees, who’ve already walked a new hire’s path, resonate with fresh staff and spark engagement.

Connect on an individual level – Small business owners rightfully emphasize collective success, but shouldn’t lose sight of the individuals driving the greater good. Employees who perceive themselves to be insignificant cogs in a corporate machine are less likely to engage on the job than those recognized as valuable individual contributors. In addition to facilitating a comfortable workplace culture, effective employers also find ways to give individual attention, nurturing employee engagement.

Create leadership opportunities – Forming staff-led committees and work groups presents motivated employees with opportunities to grow and take-on new responsibilities. The vote of confidence not only gives staff members a seat at the table, but leadership opportunities also drive up engagement, as employees take it upon themselves to guide and motivate others. 

Business environments continually evolve, but some things never change. Employee engagement drives higher productivity, forward-looking innovation, and promotes loyalty and talent retention. With so much at stake, a passive approach just won’t do. When you’re ready to make employee engagement a top priority, use these tips to fuel your fire for dedicated, involved, staff.

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