It is well-established that a highly-engaged workforce brings multiple business-benefits, raising productivity, lowering absence, reducing turnover and encouraging innovation. But what are the key factors you should be considering if you want to ensure your workforce are fully engaged with your business and with what they are doing?
Culture and values
An organisation with strong, clear values is more likely to have an engaged workforce – it’s important that employees know and understand what your values actually are, and can identify how those values apply to what they actually do in their role every day.
Similarly, a clear and strong culture is linked with high levels of employee engagement. However, it’s important the culture is genuine and authentic, and reflects reality. If your culture isn’t what you would like it to be, there are things you can do to change it of course, but it is not uncommon for a business to proclaim that its culture is a certain way, when the reality is something very different.
We have met small business managers who fondly believed their culture to be relaxed, forward-thinking, trusting and flexible, but when we drilled down to what actually happened day-to-day in terms of how staff were managed and how leaders wanted to operate, the culture as initially described to us wasn’t authentic at all.
Leadership and trust
On the subject of leadership, a vital part of ensuring an engaged workforce is having leadership who are trusted by staff. Managers are seen to have integrity, there is transparency and fairness in decision-making, with promises being kept and commitments being delivered on. In an engaged workforce, employees believe that management genuinely has their interests at heart.
Leaders who are visible, and part of the team as well as leading it are also a good indicator of high levels of engagement, as opposed to managers who hide away in the office and don’t ‘walk the job’ or know what’s going on.
Secrecy has no place in an engaged workplace. Regular communication top-down reduces gossip, speculation, mistrust and insecurity. If staff know they will be told things they need to know, there is a sense of openness which adds to the trust needed to increase engagement.
Communication works both ways, and another key factor in employee engagement is the sense that staff have a genuine voice, and feel listened to. Employees who feel comfortable to make suggestions, share ideas and raise concerns are more likely to feel committed to their job, their team and their employer.
Employee wellbeing is a subject all on its own, but it’s certainly a factor in employee engagement – staff who feel their employer is doing what it can to improve health levels of staff, enhance the workplace environment and ensure they are well and happy at work are more likely to feel connected and engaged.
Development and sense of purpose
A major factor in employee engagement is that team members have a clear understanding of the overall goals and objectives of the organisation, and, just as importantly, how their own work fits into the organisation’s ultimate goals and shorter-term strategies.
This provides greater meaning and significance to their daily tasks, helps them see how they are contributing, and adds to any sense of pride and accomplishment they may have.
In addition to this clear sense of purpose, a good sign of a workplace with high employee engagement is that development is prioritised – staff feel they have every opportunity to improve their skills and increase their knowledge, to develop their potential either within their role or beyond it.
There are many other factors in employee engagement, but if you’re interested in understanding and improving engagement in your small business, these are some of the key themes to look at as a starting point.
If you would like further advice on the key factors of employee engagement, do get in touch.