Employee Engagement

8 Signs of employee engagement and how to improve it

Employee engagement is a key prerequisite for productivity and business success. Here’s how to improve employee engagement.

Nikola Sekulic

November 15, 2022

Employee engagement is one of the most important topics in the modern business world, and rightfully so. The weight it carries for employee morale, productivity, and ultimately for the performance of the entire organization cannot be overstated. Whether you are running an in-house, remote, or hybrid operation, and no matter the size of your teams, one of your top priorities should be to improve and nurture engagement all year round.

While certain factors are out of your control that affect how engaged and motivated an employee is, there are still plenty of tactics you can use to get the best possible results. The result of your efforts will not only be a more productive workforce, but more streamlined business operations as a whole.

Let’s take a look at the engagement strategies you can start using right away, along with some signs of high or poor engagement in the workplace.

Engaging remote teams

Let’s start by tackling an issue many business leaders often find too difficult to overcome - engaging remote employees. The remote work model has experienced a global boom during the last two years and has continued to see widespread adoption. 

But this boom doesn’t mean business leaders know how to engage remote employees. Measure the engagement of remote teams by:

  • Setting clear objectives and expectations
  • Holding daily stand-up meetings
  • Embracing regular feedback
  • Hosting one-on-one meetups 
  • Measuring employee net promoter score

Even if your engagement is great, never stop working to improve it. Engaging remote teams is a continuous process that you can improve through short virtual meeting games and similar short-form, engaging formats that don’t demand a lot of the employee but deliver tangible results.

These activities should be scheduled during their workday but should not extend their work time. 

In other words, these brief meetups effectively lift people’s spirits without wasting any company time. Be mindful of people’s schedules, and don’t force them to participate if they’re too busy - find a time that works for the whole team.

The importance of leadership for engagement

Good leaders build good teams; leaders in your organization are instrumental in nurturing engagement, minimizing friction, and improving productivity. This leadership is not something they can demand of the employees, it is something that they should inspire and elicit through positive encouragement.

Involving your leaders in crafting employee engagement strategies that work allows you to create engagement plans based on their experience, skills, and their knowledge of the team. Who better to craft an engagement plan for the marketing team than the marketing lead who works with them every day?

You can get more granular than that, of course. Your team leads can gather all the necessary information about their team members to craft semi-personalized or completely personalized engagement plans.

A semi-personalized approach is a personalized engagement plan for the team as a whole, and complete personalization involves finding out what truly moves and motivates the individual. The former is easier while the latter is more difficult to pinpoint, but can generate amazing rewards for the organization in the long run.

Mental blocks and how to support your employees

Everyone goes through a mental block at some point, and it’s important to keep in mind that focus, zeal, productivity, and engagement are all variables with their own ebb and flow. You can influence these variables to keep them as stable and high as possible at times, but occasionally you will be powerless to help an employee who is simply going through a rough patch.

These employees shouldn’t be reprimanded for struggling; they should be acknowledged, guided, and supported toward recovery. Keep the health of the individual in mind as we think of engagement and what we can do for our workforce.

When you notice an employee going through a mental block, the first thing you need to do is to pinpoint the source of the problem. Don’t address the symptoms; address the problem itself.

Engage with the individual to create an open, safe, one-on-one conversation where they can open up. This is your opportunity to show them how much you appreciate their talent and dedication and assure them that you are here to help.

When you create a positive environment, employees will open up and share what is really bothering them, allowing you to create a plan to help them eliminate the cause of their mental block.

Using employee surveys for actionable insights

Speaking of getting people to open up and share valuable information, one of the best ways to gather as much actionable data as possible is through surveys. 

You can use employee surveys to improve engagement through two primary methods:

  • Engagement surveys
  • Pulse surveys

An engagement survey aims to gather anonymous employee feedback on the state of your workforce in terms of morale, productivity, zeal, and overall brand sentiment. These surveys are typically long-form and go into the nitty-gritty details about engagement.

An employee pulse survey is a similar tool with a vastly different approach; rather than a one-time event, pulse surveys take place several times a year. Pulse surveys are short, succinct, anonymous surveys that are ideal for companies that want to keep their finger on the “pulse” of their employees all year round.

Compliment your overarching engagement survey with the data you gather through your pulse surveys to gain a better understanding of the drivers of employee engagement and how your employees’ needs change over time. 

Engaging with individuals and groups of employees

Keeping employees engaged with their team, work, and brand culture as a whole is not something you can set on autopilot. As a leader, you must make employee engagement a year-round priority, working with others to come up with new engagement tactics while improving and updating the tried-and-true models.

Taking a proactive approach to employee engagement also means engaging directly with your teams and individuals to talk about everything non-work-related. Use this opportunity to show your teams their voices are heard. Use your team meeting applications to connect with groups and organize one-on-one calls. Remember, the focus of these meetings is to let people come to you with their thoughts, ideas, and feedback.

Even though these meetings are not designed to cover specific tasks, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have an agenda. Structure these meetings, so they have:

  • An outline of key talking points
  • A clear timetable that includes enough time for everyone to speak
  • A clear objective or a set of objectives
  • A clear format: a conversation, discussion, debate, one-way feedback, etc.

Keep the culture positive, and the people involved

The most important role of your leaders is to build and nurture a positive workplace culture and use that culture to achieve tangible results. Culture is not merely about your brand image, nor is it a collection of guidelines on how to behave or approach interpersonal communication. 

Culture is a living, breathing entity that can create a positive and engaged workforce. It’s also a key way to improve employee engagement in an organic way, especially for new hires who often feel overwhelmed. 

To build and nurture your company culture, make sure to:

  • Define your brand’s values and mantra
  • Weave these values into your brand identity
  • Communicate your values and culture in all employee communication
  • Lead by example and ensure your employees experience this culture first-hand
  • Be relentless in your pursuit to deliver on your promises in order to build trust and cohesion

Feedback is a two-way street

We discussed methods to get employees to open up and provide constructive feedback. Feedback is a two-way street; you must give feedback as much as you receive it. 

Providing feedback can be very empowering for your employees. It can help them not only renew their zeal, but also provide them with concrete ideas on how to overcome specific challenges. It is important to note that feedback is more than constructive criticism or even praise - it’s a structured approach to inspiring and empowering employees.

In order to empower and engage your employees with feedback, come from a place of genuine care and appreciation for the work they do. Your goal is not to criticize, it is to unlock their potential. 

It is crucial, therefore, to be close enough to your employees to be able to give feedback that’s trusted and welcomed by the team. Don’t expect people to feel engaged or empowered by your positive feedback if you just stroll in dishing out advice after months of sitting on the sidelines - be active in their daily lives at work and earn their trust first.

Don’t forget about engaging your outsourced talent

Remember that dispersed employees, much like remote employees and contractors, are also a part of your workforce. These employees often get overlooked when leaders are devising engagement strategies, but if you don’t include them, how are you going to retain them long-term?

Whether you are outsourcing IT specialists, creatives and designers, or entire remote teams for different departments, make sure to monitor and nurture their engagement. Apply the same principles we talked about above, and keep in mind that these experts are handling other clients at the same time.

Be mindful of their time commitments. Engage in simple check-ins and occasional pulse surveys to gain insight into how these experts feel about your brand. 

Over to you

Elevating and nurturing employee engagement in the workplace should be a top priority for growth-oriented businesses. Whether you keep everyone in-house or outsourced, or lead several remote teams, there is no denying that each member of your workforce deserves to be motivated, engaged, and acknowledged by their employer.

Use this opportunity to build an amazing workplace culture and motivate all of your employees to deliver better results in 2023 while making sure all their needs are met. This intentionality will ensure you keep the best of the best at your side long term.

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