Globally approximately 15% employees are engaged in their work. The numbers vary according to different countries but haven’t exceeded beyond 40% in any of them. Millions of dollars are being spent on employee engagement activities and yet the numbers haven’t increased yet. (Source)
Another study reports that people’s well-being peaks are weekends and holidays, and their valleys are Mondays. If that is the case, then certainly there are some aspects of their job that they do not find interesting and are hardly motivated to go to their office on a Monday.
Maybe the problem is that money is being spent on activities without identifying whether they are instrumental in engaging employees in the first place.
Many of these employee engagement initiatives focus on improving the work experience of employees. This includes a variety of perks and benefits such as free lunches, gym memberships, bean bags, corporate outings and the like. Other innovative options are financial advisers, unique office environments, Friday beer bash, etc.
Very few actually focus on improving employee experience. Employee experience can be improved by bringing about a change in the company work culture.
What is company culture?
To put it in simple words, company culture is the personality of the company. How the employees conduct themselves and carry out their responsibilities is determined by this culture.
It is said a man’s true nature is identified by observing the way he behaves when he feels he is truly alone. Same can be said about individuals in the workplace. How they conduct themselves and their work in the absence of their managers or anyone monitoring them says a lot about the culture as well.
This behaviour is determined by the work culture in the company.
For example, Zappos’ 10 core values make it one of the most popular companies to work for. The company ensures that while its employees focus on improving productivity, other aspects of their life are taken care of as well. Employees are encouraged to be more adventurous and open minded, pursue learning and development actively while also having tons of fun along with it.
There is one trick that can help prospective employees identify if the values mentioned on the company website are actually being implemented in the workplace. Something like Glassdoor can easily reveal what current and past employees are talking about the company. Their testimonials and reviews will mostly talk about these things. If a large number of employees are speaking against it, then it may be safer to look for other options.
How does company culture affect employee engagement?
Some companies may promote transparent and open communication throughout the workplace. Whereas some may still follow traditional practices that are more formal in nature. Here, company culture will negatively affect employee engagement.
But today the work environment has changed dramatically. Millennials and Gen Z are entering the workplace in greater numbers. Even the previous generations are letting go of their rigid and fearful habits.
If the company is still following traditional practices, then there is going to be a lot of disconnect between them and these young employees. They will quickly move on to other options that are more suited to their nature.
As times change, work culture needs to evolve as well. It is one of the best ways of ensuring a rich and positive employee experience. It is not a matter of focusing on work experience or employee experience. Both need to be given equal attention to ensure there is high employee engagement in the work place.
Tips for improving your company culture:
Career planning and growth opportunities:
Companies want employees to not only fulfill their current needs but also any future needs, that may arise. So helping employees plan their career is beneficial for both, employee as well as employer.
When this path is well defined, employees can find out what will be the different skills and attributes required at each stage of this journey. That way they do not become obsolete past their current roles. Rather continue to add value to the company in a meaningful way.
Growth opportunities help employees identify their strengths and suggests ways to leverage them and grow in their career. It can be a big motivation to employees while also making them more loyal to a company that is equally invested in their growth and well-being.
Contextual, constructive and timely feedback is highly essential to improve employee as well as company performance. Feedback should not be restricted to individuals. Employees should be encouraged to give feedback about whichever processes they think need improvements.
Any company that promotes a healthy give and take of regular feedback has a better chance of finding drawbacks and taking steps to address them.
Conduct sessions on how to give feedback that can help the other person identify their mistakes as well as overcome them with practical solutions. Peer to peer feedback is also important to cover areas that managers may or may not be able to identify. Make sure employees know the correct way of giving feedback or they may offend their colleagues unintentionally.
One of the biggest mistakes a manager can make, apart from not recognizing employee contribution at all, is not recognizing it in a timely manner.
If you want your employees to feel engaged in their work, then their achievements need to be recognized publicly. Do not wait till the end of the year reviews. Chances are you may forget about it by then.
Even if you diligently document it, the employees will be unhappy that their efforts are not being appreciated. Eventually they may simply stop doing their best.
Recognition can do wonders to motivate employees, plus it is one of the most inexpensive ways. Make it a habit in your work culture to reap its benefits.
Intense competition may lead to employees being alienated from one another. Instead of helping each other, they try to outperform the other person. While it may improve individual performances to some extent, it is not good for overall productivity in the long run.
Team members need to collaborate so they can share their knowledge, help overcome each other’s obstacles and collectively achieve team goals. By supporting each other, their efficiency can multiply manifold.
Collaboration creates a sense of belonging that is very essential for engaging employees in their work.
Autonomy helps employees to determine how to best go about their responsibilities and take important decisions on their own. It develops a trust with their employers which is necessary for them to be happy, motivated and engaged in their work.
Thus, by embracing autonomy in the workplace, companies can significantly improve their employee experience.
Simple, inexpensive benefits:
You need not have extravagant benefits like those offered by Silicon Valley companies. For smaller companies the budget may be extremely limited to splurge on expensive employee benefits such as gym memberships, etc.
Even allowing flexibility to work on their own terms is sufficient. Employees can take care of their personal commitments and schedule their work around these responsibilities. It’s a win-win for everyone.
What are the benefits of employee engagement to the company?
- Happy and satisfied employees:
- Higher retention
- Reduced absenteeism
- Better quality of work
- Increased productivity
- Improved customer service
Make it a habit to regularly measure employee engagement within the workplace using metrics such as Employee Net Promoter Score. It helps you understand if your employees are satisfied. If not, you can identify steps that can be taken to change this.