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A 6-Part Plan To Increasing Employee Engagement (and Decrease Turnover)

Written by: Danielle Teigen
Published on: Oct 16, 2017

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You know the stat – nearly 70% of employees in the United States hate their jobs. They feel disengaged, unappreciated, and generally unmotivated. Scary, we know. Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.”

So what is your company doing to break that cycle of disengagement?

Here are six actions employers can take right now to turn the tide of disengagement to one where employees are excited about their jobs and genuinely care about the company for which they work.

1. Encourage employees to be themselves.

Employees want to be valued for the people they are and the specific skills they bring to the workplace. Engaging them involves encouraging them to be authentic, rather than require that they eschew individuality and toe the conformity line.

Forbes writer Glenn Llopis explains that “when employees are encouraged to be themselves and not what others want them to be, they will begin to embrace an entrepreneurial attitude that wasn’t previously being leveraged – thus stimulating engagement.”

Most certainly employees look to the their leaders for modeled behavior and characteristics, but those leaders need to make it perfectly clear that employees are not expected to be exact replicas.

2. Trust your employees.

Seems like a no-brainer, but companies disengage their employees constantly, often without realizing it. Micromanaging schedules and projects is one of the most common forms of distrust; if you aren’t confident in how your employees are spending their time, ask them. Don’t micromanage schedules, timesheets, and lunch breaks. Empower them to manage their time wisely and provide tools to do so if they seem to struggle.

Trusting your employees also means demonstrating your confidence in them. Engage them with new responsibilities that illustrate how much you value their leadership ability and contributions. Empower may be a buzzword, but it’s powerful for a reason. Engaged employees are those who are given the trust and freedom to make independent decisions and be valued for doing so.

3. Have their backs.

Here’s another concept that seems like a gimme to most, but often turns out to be the hardest one to actually put into action. Employers can talk about how much they support their employees, but when push comes to shove, most employees don’t believe a supervisor or the company would ever stand up for them in the face of financial hardship or an ill-fated decision.

You’ve heard the old adage that trust is hard to gain but easy to lose. That platitude endures because it is true. Are you, as an employer, demonstrating to your employees that they can trust you by standing up for them? By putting their career development at the forefront? By singing their praises rather than your own? If not, you need to start.

4. Involve employees whenever possible.

Depending on the size and nature of your business, you may be limited by the amount of opportunities you have to include employees in strategic planning, but when one of those opportunities arises, take advantage of it. Nothing engages an employee more than being involved in a planning or brainstorming session that could lead to great things for the company. Employees yearn to feel productive and believe they are contributing to something greater than themselves…so let them.

Inc. magazine’s Leadership Guy, Peter Economy, recommends setting aside time for team-building exercises and meetings, and “make them fun so your employees actually look forward to participating rather than looking for reasons to ditch them.”

Bonus: regular meetings means employees are three times more likely to be engaged compared to those who can’t expect regular meetings, according to a Harvard Business Review article.

5. Communicate clearly.

You know what you want employees to do, but do they know? Employees who feel engaged and motivated every day are those with clearly defined goals and objectives. Talk with employees frequently about those goals so you can help them stay on a path toward success; don’t wait to have those critical conversations when performance review time rolls around.

Clarity also involves accountability. Hold all employees to the same standards and treat them all fairly. An uneven playing field breeds disengagement.

6. Thank your employees.

Do it often, sincerely, and specifically. Take it one step further by asking individual employees how they prefer to be shown gratitude. Seriously. Not every employee wants you to stand in an executive leadership meeting and sing his or her praises in front of 20 other people. Some employees seek less public forms of praise, like personal notes or a token of appreciation left at their desk.

Employee engagement is crucial for any organization to grow and be successful. Employees are the ones putting ideas into action, and employers need to recognize that. Engagement involves more than just satisfaction…you can be satisfied at work, yet not engaged. True employee engagement is a complex blend of satisfaction, commitment, involvement, and autonomy; it can be measured and tied to performance, making employee engagement one of the most powerful tools an organization can utilize.