The 6 Foundations of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement can be an overwhelming topic; there are so many suggestions out there on how to ensure that your workforce remains engaged.

The advice on how to keep your employees engaged is vast, there is a lot of information out there and it’s not surprising that HR teams struggle to decide where to start.

It might be tempting to try out the fun ways to keep engagement high; team bonding activities, yoga mornings and office dogs. All these methods are perfectly good and will have some success.

Indeed, it would be perfectly understandable that the focus be placed on introducing a career development path for all employees.

However, the impact of such initiatives will be significantly weakened if employees’ basic needs are not met. It is these six foundations that, if firmly in place, will ensure that any loftier ambitions are realised and sustained.

1. Clear understanding of expectations

With a clear understanding of expectations, an employee can complete the task in hand to the best of their ability. Without clear instructions they have to ‘fill in the blanks’, which is where mistakes appear.

Whether the instructions are written down or given verbally, give as much information as you can to the employee. If the instructions given are measurable and quantifiable, it makes it easier for the employee and for the leader to know if the task has been completed well.  Inevitably, not clearly understanding the task ahead leads to unnecessary amounts of stress.

Checking that the employee understands the expectations is just as important as giving out the instructions initially. Asking questions such as ‘What information do you need before you get started?’ and ‘what help will you need to complete the task?’ allows the employee to confirm that they understand. Try asking: “What questions do you have?”, rather than “Do you have any questions?”. This is more likely to encourage a question.

2. Equipped with the essentials

Don’t underestimate the importance of having the basics in place for your staff. Ensuring that they have the correct equipment and materials for the task in hand is essential.

It is important here however, to notice that every employee is an individual and what is essential to one person might not be essential to another. It is never prescriptive in that one measure will allow all your employees to feel that they have what they need. For one person it could be a quiet place to work, for another it might be very fast internet or an intensive training program.

A conversation with each employee when starting at the organisation will allow you to understand what each person values as important to them. Without having a conversation, you will not get to the heart of what they need and you risk making assumptions.

3. Fit for role

Is every member of your team in a position that plays to their natural strengths? If an employee is in a role that fits with who they are naturally, they will love the job and be so much more productive. If placed in a role that doesn’t fit with their natural talents, they are much more likely to be disengaged and leave the organisation.

As you take on a new member of staff, it’s a journey to get to know the person and their individual talents. Of course, this should have been explored during the interview stage and then built upon in the days and weeks that follow; what makes each individual tick?

As you begin to understand more about your employees you can give them the opportunities to find new and different ways to leverage that talent.

Make sure that your staff are given opportunities to work on tasks that play to their strengths on a daily basis. They don’t have to be big or risky, but they do have to be regular. By giving them opportunities, your employees will always feel like they are learning and encouraged to push the boundaries of their ‘safe zone’.

4. Meaningful recognition

According to Gallup, the leading researchers in this field, only 33% of employees feel like they are recognised for their efforts.

Everyone wants to feel valued and by providing positive feedback, you can generate a strong commitment to the organisation. The feedback that you give must be meaningful and measurable for example ‘winning over a customer to become a repeat buyer’. The recognition must also be frequent, which according to research is within the last 7 days.

The challenge here, and where most HR teams fall, is to simply put in a recognition or reward system that is the same for all employees. As with the third point, a dialogue needs to be opened to understand what each employee sees as recognition. For one person this might be being on a leader board if they are competitive, but for another this might be sharing feedback from customers if they are service oriented.

Provide recognition immediately or as soon as you possibly can as this will reinforce the fact that your employee has done a good job. Don’t wait for a mid-year review to bring it up, it could be forgotten by then.

The key to this is the feedback must be; meaningful, personalised and frequent.

5. Taking a personal interest

Isn’t it nice when someone asks you how your weekend was, and they really mean it because they care about you? Humans have a need to feel cared for by another.

During stressful times at work, if your staff feel as though they have a colleague or a manager that genuinely cares for and supports them, stress will be reduced significantly in this kind of situation.

The care doesn’t necessarily need to come from a manager here, it just has to come from somewhere. The key to this is that the manager and hierarchy of the company create an environment that is conducive to care. Again, the care needs to be personalised to each individual.

6. Encouragement and growth

Learning new things and growth within work is a need that won’t stop throughout a person’s life career – it is a basic human need. Having encouragement and support from management is a vital part of this. Encouragement gives a feeling of being valued and inspires employees to ‘keep up the good work’ if they feel it is being noticed.

In certain times encouragement may be needed more than others; if an employee is going through a particularly tough time or if your organisation is going through a change. But encouragement should be given out daily, it costs nothing to give praise and kind words … but the benefits can be outstanding.

It does not matter what the role is, and what level the role is, there must always be encouragement and growth.

One thing to remember from all of this is that every employee is individual, and that feelings are fact here. If an employee feels that they are not being encouraged or not being given opportunities – it is a fact that they are not!

Looking for expert tips on how to boost engagement in your own business? Give us a quick call on 0161 883 1149 to talk through your needs.