woman laughing as a colleague looks on (back when we could share offices)
PHOTO: You X Ventures

Don’t confuse employee engagement with their satisfaction at work. It goes much further than that and the two do not have to be synonymous. Think of it from a patriotism perspective. A person who is filled with love for their country can absolutely be unhappy with decisions that leaders made. The same can be said for employee engagement.

Engagement is an employee’s love for their company: its mission, its strategy and a deep care for its future success apart from their own personal gain. The results of these employees are phenomenal, from increased productivity to leadership trust, employee engagement helps companies become more successful. Yet only 15% of employees are considered “engaged.” So how can you boost your employee engagement?

Better Communication

Everything begins and ends with communication. In business, there is no more important trait and this is equally the case with employee engagement. In fact, a lack of communication is the number one reason why employees decide to quit their job. A deeper look into the issue shows that only 14% of employees understand an organization's strategy.

How are you supposed to gain a pack of loyal team members if nobody understands what your goals are?

So what's the fix for a lackluster communication strategy? Start with clearly communicating your brand values and mission, and actively push this to the team. Put them on the walls, discuss them in weekly meetings, and constantly reinforce the idea you want your employee’s to embody. They need to see a connection between what the company does and what they say. When actions begin to align with words, the company strategy isn’t something they need to believe in: it's something they work towards.

Another solution is to have a centralized place for communication, where the voice of a leader can easily reach teams. Intranets are on the rise and being used in over 80% of companies for a reason. They streamline communication and make information easier to access. The downside has always been low-usage rates, leading to a high failure rate. However, this appears to be a thing of the past, with newer platforms seeing high amounts of daily activity. A need for a simpler communication method in an easy to use platform is why the social intranet platform Happeo received $12 million in funding during a pandemic.

Related Article: How Internal Communications Is Cutting Through the Noise

Reduce Redundant Tasks

Employee’s spend an average of 47,000 hours of their life answering work emails. For those pulling out their calculator, that's 280 weeks or a little over five years. The task has become so daunting that it takes one full day after a vacation just to go through the hundreds of emails that have flooded your inbox during your absence. The process can be downright frustrating and demoralizing.

While reducing email might seem counterintuitive to improving communication, it's the right idea, but wrong execution. No one can remember the 15 emails sent about new employee-onboarding policies. Make emails short and to the point, only involve people who need to know, and make sure the medium fits the message. If you can send a text message or WhatsApp instead, why not do it? Treating email as the “be all, end all” way to communicate with employees is the reason why inboxes are flooded in the first place. 

Work meetings fall into the same overused category as emails. A tried and true brainstorm meeting can be highly productive and get everyone on the same page, but the majority of meetings are tedious and time consuming. Even the most engaged employee can find themselves nodding off as they waste their time in a meeting that could have been just as easily covered in a quick, bullet-pointed message. If you are going to start communicating more as a company, then start doing it more effectively.

Related Article: Why Are We Still Emailing if We're Using Microsoft Teams?

Gamification

A word you will find throughout the learning community is gamification. Whether its Duolingo, which teaches users a language of their choice, or the popular Oregon Trail, which encourages children to learn based on outcomes, gaming can be beneficial in a learning environment, whether in an educational system or the workplace.

With that said, gamification in the workplace goes further than just teaching employees the rules, guidelines and mission statements. It is about having fun and building engagement while doing so. Gamification helps the message come through clearer and employees gain a better understanding and support for the organization. By getting the team to compete against one another or in groups, you also start to see an improved sense of collaboration. When a team is encouraged to work together for a common goal, bonds start to form.

Even games which do not necessarily directly pertain to work, such as Target's race to see which team can donate the most money to a non-profit organization, build engagement. A little bit of competition goes a long way.

Related Article: Gamification in Community Building: When Does It Work?

Allowing for Flexibility

Prehistoric thinking taught us that allowing employees to work from home once or twice a week meant sacrificing productivity. How can the team possibly remain productive if their leader isn’t making sure they are working?

Times have changed. Employees have shown they don’t need to be in the office to get things done. The trust that goes into allowing them to work from home pays off. Studies have shown this increases employee engagement and even productivity.

Flexibility has been a long sought after trait by employees who sometimes get beat down by the classic 9 to 5 thinking. Flextime encourages employees to plan their lives and still complete their work. Work more one day and less another, as long as the work gets done and they’re present for their contracted working hours. This way, employees can maintain a great work-life balance, making them more productive in the long run.

Meet Outside of Work

Work buddies are important. Meeting someone at the coffee shop to exhale and vent some daily frustrations can be great in providing daily relief from the grind. However, every once in a while it's nice to sit down and talk to peers and colleagues for a reason other than sharing the same coffee break timing.

After-work drinks are a great way for the team to build and come together. It allows for employees to become friends with one another, which can improve their collaboration as well as their determination to see each other succeed. Blowing off steam with those who know exactly what you are going through makes it easier to release some stress.

However, as we've all recently learned, circumstances can make it difficult to meet in person sometimes. Maybe some remote workers live several hours away or there is a pandemic that forces the world away from one another. This shouldn’t be a deterrent. Friday Zoom happy hours, or even Houseparty, provide platforms where teams can get together and have a good laugh. That way, it makes the stress of work all a bit easier to digest.

It's not about who is on your team, but how they work together. And a little friendly get-together, whether it be online or in person, can help them also succeed together.