Employee Engagement

How to Make Employee Engagement a Top Priority

How to Make Employee Engagement a Top Priority
Image credit: PopTech | Flickr

The level at which a business can "engage" its employees is what determines its internal success. Yet, employee engagement has consistently averaged less than 33 percent over the past four years, according to a 2015 Gallup survey of more than 80,000 adults in the United States.

Related: Employee Engagement Is More Important Than the Customer

Still, the root of the problem isn’t simply a lack of effort. Rather, many leaders are not even making employee engagement a priority -- they're not, well, engaging with engagement.

Here are four ways leaders can improve on that goal:

1. Make employee engagement an ongoing effort.

Many people in charge get into the habit of analyzing employee engagement as a "one-and-done" process. In fact, 98 percent of CEOs only look at annual employee engagement surveys once a year and don't discuss the matter with their employees, according to a December 2015 Motivosity survey that sampled 357 of the Inc. 5000 list.

An ongoing effort has to begin on day one. Instead of in-person onboarding programs that put new hires to sleep, incorporate technology like CovertHR to build engagement into even the earliest stages of the employee life cycle. CovertHR online activities allow employees to have fun and socialize while they're completing tasks.

When new team members are introduced to an engaged environment and process, they feel more comfortable amplifying an engaged culture.

2. Don’t dump problems on HR.

The lack of employee engagement is as much an employer’s problem as it is HR’s. So, why are a majority leaders relying on HR to fix the problem? The 2015 Motivosity survey indicated that 70 percent of CEOs surveyed were delegating culture and engagement problems to HR.

Not surprisingly, it takes an engaged team to be actively involved in fixing employee-engagement issues. Instead of just assigning tasks to HR to fix, involve managers and employees who possess natural engaging characteristics. Present the problem and brainstorm together to come up with solutions that benefit everyone. Instead of delaying the process, or having HR come seeking approval for changes, be involved in the solution yourself.

Related: For True Employee Engagement, Follow These 6 Steps

3. Make employee engagement engaging.

It’s no secret -- leaders acknowledge just how important employee feedback is. In fact, a 2015 survey by Waggl Human Capital Pulse found that 97 percent of the business leaders, HR leaders and consultants among the 500,000 interviewed said they believed that listening to employees and incorporating their ideas was critical to an organization’s success.

Additionally, only a minority (38 percent) agreed that hearing from employees once a year through an annual survey is sufficient to give organizations the timely insights they need. 

So, the message is that leaders do recognize listening to employees as being important, yet the way they typically do that is inefficient.

Instead of sending out a survey (that no one responds to), start with an open discussion with employees. Let people freely speak their minds, and take notes on the feedback they offer. Hearing what people genuinely have to say will help you kick employee engagement off to a positive start.

At the same time, be mindful of those who are less comfortable in a large group setting. After the forum concludes, send out an anonymous survey giving these employees the chance to elaborate on topics they weren’t comfortable saying in front of a group.

To take employee engagement yet a step further, management and coworkers should engage on a personal level. As the company leader, put yourself in situations that will allow you to engage in activities that work for the company's culture. Consider small-group lunches that have a "no work talk: rule.

Or do what Namely CEO regularly Matt Straz does: move your desk to be in the middle of the action with the team.

4. Encourage risk-taking.

A company is only as good as the employees behind it. That is why employers should promote innovation on a regular basis. Do this at your company by presenting problems to your teams; give them the opportunity to take risks (and don't reprimand them for failures).

A fun and productive way to do this is to present the same problem to different teams and prompt them to solve it. Each team can then present its solution to the entire group, with the group offering feedback and constructive criticism, and receiving in return exposure to new perspectives and improved-upon ideas.

This engagement will rub off on employees and ultimately create a more productive work environment that allows constant collaboration -- making employees feel engaged all-year-round.

What are other ways leaders can improve employee engagement?

Related: This Company Thinks It's Unlocked the Secret to Employee Engagement and Productivity