There is something that slowly but surely drains the vitality and motivation of your employees. But that has nothing to do with the fact that the coffee in your break room is a little thin.
What mysterious disease is responsible for the loss of productivity and morale in your team? The answer: lack of commitment.
A lack of commitment from a workforce can result in significant costs. Gallup estimates that demotivated employees cost the U.S. up to $605 billion annually. Add to that the fact that companies with low employee engagement average two-and-a-half times less revenue than comparable companies with highly motivated employees.
Despite these facts, there are still many company bosses who are not sufficiently committed to promoting employee engagement.
“Unfortunately, only 33% of employees in the U.S. show the necessary commitment,” says Namely Chief People Officer Nick Sanchez, “and that means your company could be at risk if you don’t proactively engage your employees.
Why employee commitment is important?
Well, what is so important about this employee commitment anyway? In fact, it can have a major impact on your culture and your business success.
“Because engaged employees go beyond the demands of their jobs, it means you get more productivity and performance than you paid for,” says Ben Brooks, founder and CEO of the tech start-up PILOT. “Non-committed employees not only mean a lower ROI, but they also put a strain on the company in general, both in terms of team morale and customer satisfaction”.
The available figures prove this. According to the results of the Harvard Business Review, 71% of those surveyed said that they consider employee engagement to be very important for the overall success of a company.
But in addition to increasing factors such as productivity, morale, satisfaction, and retention, employee engagement efforts also have positive effects on leaders and team leaders, especially those who are already busy growing their teams and businesses.
Knowing that you have a dedicated local workforce strengthens your confidence in your team. That means you can rely on employees to do their jobs and achieve their goals without having to organize a host of different checks, procedures and one-on-one meetings to control their work down to the last detail.
Obstacles to employee engagement
A passionate, fulfilled and actively committed workforce does not come about by closing your eyes and standing still. This requires the commitment and strategy of managers within the company.
“The reason morale is not better in many organizations is because managers’ attention is focused on other things,” warns Rodd Wagner, vice president of Employee Engagement Strategy for BI Worldwide. “In most companies, management the regular involvement of employees, not just the monitoring of the business function in question does not have the high priority it should have.”
Improving your employee engagement must always carry a lot of weight even before you notice that morale or productivity is declining. Don’t wait until you feel that morale has dropped to an all-time low before you start a survey on it. With a proactive approach, you can stay one step ahead of the mood. Rather than digging yourself out of a hole, it’s better to prevent the hole from forming in the first place.
Five essential engagement strategies for team leaders
What steps can you take to improve engagement in your company? There are some important strategies to start with.
1. Be transparent
“When employees start to feel like a small cog in a big wheel instead of seeing themselves as important members of a team, motivation can flatten,” says Sanchez.
As a team leader, you need to create a transparent work environment where you can involve your employees in your planning and decision-making processes. Employees need to feel that they are actively involved when it comes to justifying certain decisions, goals and other company-wide elements.
Instead of sitting behind the curtain and exercising power from behind it, team leaders and managers need to be present and engaged with their employees to show them that not only their work is important but also their thoughts, opinions and suggestions.
2. Promote a culture of cooperation
Collaborative and team-focused are other adjectives that your employees should use when describing the culture in their workplace.
“Employees are more likely to get involved in their work if they feel a sense of loyalty to their team,” says Sanchez. “By encouraging team building activities, you can increase an employee’s contribution to the success of the team as a whole. It should be a priority for a leadership team to build these activities into the employee experience (and budget).”
These trips and events not only give employees a chance to get to know each other and find cohesion, but the mere fact that teamwork is emphasized can have a positive effect. “Even if an employee feels a bit isolated, relationships with colleagues can boost productivity and boost morale,” Sanchez adds.
3. Set goals
Setting goals together with employees is not only an effective way of keeping an eye on the level of their commitment, but defined goals can also have a very motivating effect on employees. In fact, studies show that setting targets (even without financial incentives) can improve employee performance by 12-15%.
Set measurable and actionable goals with your employees, and then be sure to regularly discuss progress towards these goals.
Since many individual and organizational goals are set over a longer period of time, e.g. 18 months vs. a week, these frequent discussions about progress are important, especially for employees for whom continued satisfaction is important.
“At Namely, we ask our employees to set cascading targets on a quarterly basis that are both supported by metrics and quantifiable,” Sanchez explains. “If targets are not met, this may indicate that productivity and commitment should be addressed.
This does not mean, however, that managers should hand out goals and tasks without consideration for the employees. “Remember that engagement can be very personal, and employees should always be involved,” says Brooks. Team leaders can achieve this by encouraging their employees to recognize their own individual needs and then empowering them to solve and fulfill those needs themselves.
4. Frequent individual discussions
The commitment of the employees is not something you fix and immediately forget. You can’t just slap a catchy slogan about your culture on the office wall and then assume that that’s enough. If managers expect commitment, they also have to get involved themselves in the form of one-on-one meetings with employees at regular intervals.
During these one-on-one sessions, you ask employees a simple and direct question:
Do you feel committed?
By answering this question, you will be able to identify possible patterns, such as that certain departments feel overwhelmed or that additional resources are needed in certain areas.
While team leaders should make sure they get answers to these types of questions, Sanchez advises that these conversations should be conducted by the employee as much as possible. “They provide a regular opportunity for employees to share their concerns, pressures and goals with their supervisors. Regularity is important. By meeting weekly, team leaders can monitor employee engagement over time and track past issues.”
When it comes to these personal conversations, engagement experts hear the same complaint over and over again: “I don’t have time to sit down with all my employees!
“My answer is then: There are too many people under your command,” says Wagner. “If you don’t have enough time to give everyone your personal attention, then you can’t effectively be their team leader.”
5. Seek feedback
These personal discussions will certainly be informative. But company managers should go one step further by also using formal opportunities to receive additional feedback from employees whether anonymous or not.
Many companies conduct surveys to keep up to date with how employees feel. But before you bombard your team with tedious and overwhelming questions, keep these tips from Brooks in mind to help you successfully survey your employees:
- Do it often: “Feedback is a dish best served fresh!” Brooks says, “Don’t wait a year to hear what your employees think and feel.”
- Keep it short and simple: If you ask more questions, you will have a lot more work afterwards, just by analyzing the data. It also lowers the participation rates.
- Make something of what you learn: This may seem obvious, but Brooks’ experience is that this is where the majority of companies fail. “If you ask questions, you must act”, he warns.
Even if you use online or anonymous methods to collect feedback, you may find that many employees are still not willing to be completely honest for fear that it could have a negative impact on their own career.
But Kim Scott suggests a tactic to avoid this problem and make employees feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and insights.
Do not ask for feedback about a person. Instead, ask for feedback about a task. Talking about a project or a result or a form of communication takes some of the anxiety and pressure off the employee so that you and your employee can take a more objective look at the root of the problem.
Measuring employee engagement
It cannot be denied that the feeling that employee commitment is difficult to grasp is undeniable it is difficult to determine a key figure for it. But there is a safe way to actively measure and monitor this characteristic.
Although the Net Promoter Score is commonly used to measure customer satisfaction, Brooks assures you that it can be used just as effectively for your team. “This well-established and researched method can be applied to both employees and customers,” he says. “And because it’s also used across industries on the customer-focused side, there’s less confusion and less training required, since you’re using a familiar metric.
Employee involvement is not only a nice goal to strive for. It is a prerequisite for productive, fulfilled and loyal employees. Fortunately, there are five ways to increase engagement in your company.
Five ways to increase employee engagement.
Company managers must:
- Be open and transparent
- Promoting a collaborative and team-oriented culture
- Setting goals together with the employees
- Frequent individual discussions with employees
- Continuously requesting feedback
If you implement these things, you will certainly make progress in the commitment of your employees. “It is important to keep in mind,” Wagner summarizes, “that while companies call this state of mind ‘commitment’, it simply means ‘joy’ for the employee.