Workforce Optimization Featured Article

Managers, Execs Are Key to Boosting Employee Engagement

April 07, 2015



Most companies have the words “employee engagement” on their lips these days. Facing less-than-impressive sales results, they view boosting flagging employee morale as a gateway to better profitability, improved customer support and a new leaf of workplace efficiency. As the old saying goes, however, if it came in a bottle, everyone would have it. Increasing the engagement level of employees is a worthy goal, but if it were easy to achieve, we wouldn’t have record numbers of indifferent or actively disengaged employees in the U.S.

Some companies are under the impression that a successful employee engagement program will cost a lot. And while there certainly are expenses involved – step one of achieving employee engagement means ensuring you’re not underpaying workers – an employee engagement program need not involve software, consultants, wellness programs and other productized approaches to solving the problem, according to a recent article by Axero’s Tim Eisenhauer writing for Entrepreneur, who notes that some of the most effective ways to boost engagement are also the simplest and least expensive.

For starters, transparency into operations is a huge factor. Workers who see that managers are practicing the behaviors they demand of workers is key, and so is not keeping secrets from employees. When employees believe their employers trust them, they usually rise to the occasion and are worthy of that trust. Mandates that are mysteriously handed down from on high by executives who are never around have a way of driving employee resentment and disconnection from the job.

“Management transparency has a direct 94 percent correlation with employee happiness,” wrote Eisenhauer. “Trusting employees with sensitive information gives them a sense of deeper investment in the company and helps to create a more cooperative team atmosphere, as opposed to an ‘us versus them’ perception of the management-employee relationship.”

Another key element is ensuring that managers see and reward positive employee behavior. There is only so long an employee will work hard if he or she thinks no one notices or cares, or if mediocre employees are receiving the same rewards for less effort. This not only drives engagement, it keeps costly turnover down.

“Acknowledgement by management and among peers is the quickest way to build trust, restore strained relationships and energize the workplace,” wrote Eisenhauer. “Employees with supportive supervisors are 1.3 times more likely to stay with the company and are 67 percent more engaged.”

Finally, flexibility is an important trait to build into human resources processes. Workers who feel like they are a nameless cog in the machine, and that the workplace doesn’t recognize them as individuals with individual needs, will disengage quickly from their work. Flexible working hours, working from home (with appropriate monitoring technology) and other evidence that companies care about workers’ lives go a long way toward improving engagement.

None of these fixes needs to cost a lot of money: they’re more about modeling behavior of executives and managers. While tyrants who crack the whip may generate short-term gains, their methods won’t work in the long run. Flexible, appreciative human beings in executive and managerial roles are what cultivate the highest levels of engagement. 




Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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