It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a happy workforce is a productive one. Just throwing money at them, to contradict the late, great Jane Austin, doesn’t maketh perfection in marriage. “Employee engagement” might sound like business speak, but the story, in reality, is very different.
Money, of course, is everyone’s motivation for going to work. Raising wages will make everyone better off, but it doesn’t keep the job interesting, and it’s often just not possible. And a wage rise doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in productivity.
Keeping the workplace interesting, rewarding and challenging is a way of keeping your employees happy and productive, and will help you keep hold of your staff.
Diane Bazire (BDC Business Consultant) claims that financial award alone is not enough to keep employees engaged. Establishing non-monetary rewards to reinforce a financial package, however, can help create an environment of happier, more engaged and more productive workers. By implementing her suggestions, she has observed that absenteeism reduces, and the work environment becomes a more positive one.
Bazire, as part of her report, identified some key areas that could help increase employee engagement, keeping the workforce happy and, most importantly, productive.
Recognition and Appreciation
Recognition of contribution is a powerful motivating tool; recognizing that the efforts of everyone within the work-chain is valuable and working towards a team goal.
Bazire says, “A thank you is worth its weight in gold.” Perhaps that’s a little simplistic on its own, but it’s certainly a positive starting point.
She suggests a number of recognition tools – Employee of the Month, or Employee of the Year, help to frame the individual within the context of the team, while recognizing a specific contribution, encouraging friendly competition between colleagues.
Additionally, a simple “thank you” card to the team or to individuals is an effective means of showing gratitude, as are being recognized and congratulated in front of colleagues.
This comes with a caveat, however. Ensure that the prize doesn’t always go to the same person, even if they are the highest performer. It could have the opposite effect on the rest of the team, potentially leading to alienation of the top performers.
Aim for transparency, objective feedback and fairness to ensure that you are not favoring some employees over others.
Offer the opportunity to make a difference
You’ll achieve higher levels of employee engagement by listening. Being part of a team, where an individual’s voice is heard, is one of the critical ways of strengthening your employee’s sense of belonging. The workers who operate the machinery are likely to have ideas about how to improve productivity, so listen to their suggestions and make efforts to implement them.
Bazire suggests running contests. Perhaps ask your workers to find the most creative way of recycling the packaging that the company usually throws away – the employee with the best idea could get an extra day off.
Listen and identify the issues that your employees are passionate about, and aim to resolve them.
Continuing educations and training
If an employee feels that there are progression possibilities within the department, it can galvanize their determination to move on. Regardless of sector, offering the opportunity for continuing education is highly motivating.
Courses, seminars, and coaching sessions give employees the feeling that they can better themselves and develop within the role. Investing in technology courses will keep your workforce current in the field.
A little flexibility and understanding that employees have lives outside of the workplace goes a long way when you’re trying to motivate a team, and improve productivity. Offering telecommuting opportunities, personal days if possible, and the occasional reduced working week provides a feeling of balance between work and personal obligations.
Doing the same job, day in, day out, gets boring. Offering secondments to other departments or varying job roles on the factory floor keep the brain active and can strengthen the company as a broader team.
There’s often a danger that “them in HR” (for example) don’t know what it’s like to work on the floor; so give each department the opportunity to try out each other’s jobs, to find an understanding of each other’s roles.
Recognizing employment anniversaries or achievements go a long way to highlighting an employee’s contribution. Gift certificates, gas cards, and other gifts are inexpensive ways of rewarding employee engagement. Or perhaps you could even offer an employee the president’s parking space for a week. These gestures don’t have to have a financial figure attached to them.
Bear in mind that gifts are taxable if they exceed $500 a year (check your local tax office for specific details), so non-cash rewards are certainly worth considering.
Team-building doesn’t have to mean making a bridge out of paper, or making a raft out of old tin cans. Social events are a great way to galvanize a team – organize get-togethers and group outings so that everyone can get to know each other outside of work.
Sports days or events are good ideas. Sponsor a local sports team that your employee’s children play for.
However, remember that “extra-curricular” social events aren’t going to be everyone’s idea of fun. Respect those that don’t wish to take part, ensuring that they aren’t alienated from the group.
Being attentive and flexible don’t need to cost money, but are key approaches to improving employee engagement. This is all about soft-skills, essentially – making your people feel like they matter.
Of course, everyone would like a pay-rise, but it’s not always possible. Making your employees feel valued, and like they’re positively contributing to the team are essential employee engagement tools.