what is employee engagement

7 habits of highly engaged companies

January 21, 2020
5 minute read
Last updated May 8, 2020

Disengagement is costly. When a company’s most expensive and important asset (its people) become disengaged, every expense multiplies and revenue dips.

According to the 2019 Employee Engagement Report—which surveyed more than 3,000 employees and spanned multiple industries—roughly 20% of employees report that they’re actively engaged at work. That means at least 80% of your workforce likely isn’t providing max output.

How do you improve employee engagement? We connected with seven of our clients to learn the habits they use to build higher levels of engagement.

Habit 1: Build a purposeful culture.

Employees need to know what their company stands for. 

When creating your organizational culture, take a look at your business strategy: What values and behaviors are required to successfully execute your strategy? These values and behaviors should form the foundation of your company culture. 

Once your core values are mapped out, make sure they’re communicated, recognized, and rewarded. It’s one thing to have a mission statement and list of values—it’s another to live it. If your company values live solely on your website—and they’re not exhibited on a day-to-day basis—you’ll struggle to achieve your goals.

Habit 2: Espouse core values at every level.

Talent optimized companies embrace the mindset that leaders exist at every level of the organization. Why is this important? Because employees follow leaders. If you want your values to become ingrained in your employees, you need to make sure leaders at every level buy into—and live out—the vision and values of the company.

For example, if your company values work-life balance, managers should be mindful not to send or reply to emails over the weekend, as employees may assume they must as well.

Habit 3: Provide personal development opportunities.

The 2019 Employee Engagement Report found that one of the top 10 drivers of engagement is opportunities for learning and development. While many employers offer professional development, they forget employees have goals outside of work, too. Ensure that you understand what your team members hope to achieve both personally and professionally. When employees feel their whole self is supported at work, engagement increases.

Help your employees develop personal goals. Provide regular checkpoints to see how they’re progressing—and have honest and open conversations about what’s going well and what can be improved.

Habit 4: Craft clear career paths.

Another top contributor to engagement is career pathing. Employees want to know what’s next. Is it a promotion? A raise? Increased responsibilities? Outline what steps they can take along their journey. 

When developing career paths, consider that employees don’t always want to move upward into management positions. Some employees want to develop a specialty and grow as individual contributors. Offer multiple opportunities for career growth so employees can choose the path that makes the most sense for them.

Of course, there may come a time where the next step is promotion—but there isn’t a position available. If you find yourself in this situation, look for ways for the employee to take on additional tasks or work cross-functionally. While it may not be the promotion they were expecting or hoping for, it gives them an opportunity to take on more responsibility and challenge themselves, which often meets the need they were truly hoping for: growth and development.

Habit 5: Create benefits that resonate.

Benefits aren’t just the health insurance plans and perks you offer employees. They’re also a way to showcase and reinforce your company values.

Think about the values of your organization and how you can tie benefits to beliefs. For example, non-traditional benefits—such as charity matching, types of supplemental insurance, education reimbursement, and more—can help to reinforce your company’s core values.

Blue Hills volunteer project

Habit 6: Take a pulse.

Companies that practice talent optimization regularly measure and diagnose what’s going on in their organization.

At a minimum, ask your employees about their engagement and employee experience at least once a year. (Don’t have an engagement tool? Check out the PI Employee Experience Survey™.)

The key to a good engagement survey is to be sure results are kept confidential. Anything to break the trust of anonymity will take away from the purpose of collecting honest and direct feedback. Consider using these employee engagement survey questions in your own initiative.

Habit 7: Plan and take action.

It’s one thing to measure engagement; it’s another thing to act on it. Effective organizations compile feedback on the employee experience and execute engagement strategies at both the corporate and manager level.

Set up key milestones to check on progress and incorporate measurement questions into your next pulse check to see if you’re moving the needle.

Increase engagement with talent optimization.

Our clients practice a disciplined called talent optimization—a framework for aligning your people strategy with your business strategy. Not only does talent optimization increase your likelihood of reaching strategic goals, but it also results in high employee engagement. When people strategy is intentional and thoughtful, the employee experience improves. Discretionary effort soars. And your organization reaps the benefits.

The employees have spoken.

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