From big-picture organizational strategies to everyday operational tasks, the success of a business depends on the employees who make things happen. When employees are happy and have a vested interest in their jobs and the company, things run smoothly, but when workers become disenfranchised, the picture can become quite bleak.
According to a study by the Conference Board’s Engagement Institute, employees who check out can cost companies a whopping $450 to $550 billion dollars a year. And while your company may not lose billions of dollars at the idle hands of few disengaged employees, widespread or ongoing disengagement can be detrimental to your brand and your bottom line.
How do you avoid this type of behavior? Here the five Cs to help you keep employees engaged and your company thriving.
How to Keep Employees Engaged at Work
If you’ve ever worked for a company or manager that practiced poor communication, you know how utterly exhausting it can be. Roles and expectations are unclear, strategies and development plans are hard to execute, and a lot of time and money is wasted.
When employees are set up for failure, as is often the case with poor communication, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to fulfill their job requirements and even more difficult to work as a unit. It’s also more likely that they’ll become disengaged.
By focusing on company communication, you can help keep leaders, departments, and employees on the same page, working towards the same detailed goal. Your communication efforts should start from the top down, as directors and managers are often responsible for communication company goals, policies, and expectations to their staff.
Engagement aside, collaboration is vital to any organization – when employees combine their skill sets and unique perspective to solve problems the solutions are often more nuanced and more effective. Collaboration plays an equally important role in engagement.
When employees work together to solve a problem, they become a team working towards the same goal. This team mentality can help employees build relationships with their coworkers and gain a sense of accountability.
In addition, because collaboration, when done right, often results in faster results and more efficient processes, employees also gain a sense of accomplishment that can motivate them and fuel their engagement.
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There are few things that crush the spirit of motivated workers like the phrase “we’ve always done it that way.” While there is a time and place for protocol and tradition, employees who feel they have no voice in implementing change or suggesting new ways of thinking aren’t likely to stay engaged.
It’s likely you hired your employees because they had a solid educational and or professional background, one they didn’t get from consistently falling in line or failing to think outside the box.
While no one is suggesting a daily initiative to reinvent the wheel, there are times when you should consider giving employees some space to be innovative, whether it be through brainstorming sessions, collaborative projects, or the chance to solve problems or get involved in initiatives that may extend past their given role.
Similar to the importance of creativity, employees who are given some control over their day-to-day professional existence are often more likely to stay engaged and remain productive. The answer, of course, is not to move to a “wild west” approach, but instead, to allow for increased control where it makes sense.
What does more control look like? That depends on the company. For some, it may be giving employees a stronger voice in strategy, company policy, and development decisions. In others, it’s more freedom during the workday. For example, some companies allow employees to come in earlier in the day and leave earlier in the afternoon, as long as they meet their eight-hour quota. Others allow for remote work on occasion.
The ability to make decisions creates a sense of value and control, and for employers, that can translate employees who feel an increased sense of investment in their job and the company.
It’s true that “company culture” has become somewhat of a buzz word in today’s professional society, but that shouldn’t signal a lack of value. Company culture is often considered the driving force behind engagement and productivity.
Individuals that work for companies that communicate well, clearly value and support employees, and provide a positive and healthy environment are more likely to be engaged.
If you have poor retention rates and a notable engagement issue, then it’s likely that your company culture is at least partially to blame.
Contrary to what some may believe, “culture” doesn’t mean you need to model your business after some trendy tech company with open workspaces, a ping pong table, and an office pet.
Instead, it should be a unified approach to everyday business that encourages collaboration, free-thinking, and employee confidence. It also should be one that allows employees to have a strong work-life balance, which makes them feel valued and avoids burnout.
How do you create a strong company culture? Clearly outline your vision and your mission, and make sure that it’s designed to support and encourage your employees as they work towards achieving your company goals.
When employees aren’t engaged, they aren’t contributing to the overall growth and development of your brand, but before you place the blame on them, ask yourself if you’ve created an environment in which employees can and do thrive. Though everyone struggles with engagement here and there, if it’s a widespread problem, chances are it’s a deep-rooted issue that you need to address at the company level.
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This article was originally written on February 19, 2019 and updated on February 1, 2021.
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