How to develop employee engagement

In 2019, Hays’ study demonstrated the link between employee engagement and performance : over 40% operational efficiency and turnover down 14% for companies in which employees feel committed. Now recognized as a competitive lever, employee engagement is one of the main HR concerns. In the future, the level of employee engagement may even be used to design the working conditions necessary to maintain a high level of employee performance.

Before we get there, let’s first understand the notion of engagement, how to measure it (using an engagement survey solution, for example) and above all, how to improve it.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the degree of attachment and involvement of an employee towards their assigned tasks and their role in the company. This theme has become central for HR and managers. Indeed, engagement at work today is synonymous with the proper functioning of the company.

Committed employees are employees who are satisfied with their working conditions and who find meaning in their missions. They are therefore naturally more inclined to stay loyal to the company or even recommend it.

3 reasons to improve employee engagement

Because it’s an issue for your employer’s brand

Employee engagement suffers from a seemingly superficial image, wrongly viewed as a cosmetic HR gadget. It’s not uncommon to hear top managers using these arguments for refusing to invest. Yet, employee experience isn't a fad.

In just a few years, it has become a major issue for companies wishing to retain their employees and attract the best. Indeed, 59% of French employees say QWL is the most important issue to act on. The trend is even stronger among millennials, 84% of whom see employee experience as the most important factor when choosing a company to work for. As a comparison, only 46% of them listed remuneration as a criteria.

Because employee engagement is profitable

Employee engagement generates more profits than costs. According to the Journal of Corporate Finance, the most employee-friendly firms are more profitable and better valued. Indeed, an organization with highly-engaged employees develops 2.5 times more turnover than another similar company. While improving engagement often requires human and financial investments, the return on such investment makes it worth it.

The impact of a motivated team on the productivity level has long been demonstrated : engaged and bonded employees tend to work better together and reach their goals quicker. If they're motivated by their mission and stimulated by the company activity, they'll also be more inclined to come up with new ideas to innovate or positively change the actions carried out by the company.

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Because engagement reduces turnover

Turnover is the indicator most associated with employee engagement. It reveals organizational and managerial dysfunctions within a company. In other words, by putting in place favorable conditions to the development of your employees, you reduce the risks of seeing them resign and you prevent psychosocial risk factors as much as possible.

Moreover, beyond the human costs generated by turnover (team destabilization, atmosphere, etc.), its financial cost is substantial. Along with the costs incurred by the departure of an employee (voluntary departure, new hire, training for newcomers, etc.), there are often underestimated social costs (weakened employer brand, endangered follow-up and customer satisfaction, etc.).

Focus: 4 levers to retain talents

  • Listen to your employees. It is by being attentive to their needs that you will know how to develop their employee experience. For this, you can for example use pulse surveys.
  • Challenge talents and set short-term goals. A talent gets bored quickly. And a bored talent may leave you. Encourage your employees to upgrade their skills or offer mentoring to stimulate them. You can also set up a task and goal tracking system like OKRs (Google's idea). Healthy performance and surpassing oneself are challenges that employees enjoy.
  • Make room for initiative and develop potential. For example, encourage a more flexible organization of work. You thus promote agility and management by results rather than management by presenteeism. A more horizontal hierarchy boosts team spirit and promotes the co-construction of projects. Offer freedom and autonomy by trusting and empowering your teams. This is the key to engaging your employees.
  • Place employee experience at the heart of your HR strategy. The main factor in retaining talent in a company is their well-being within it. Make sure you develop and maintain a pleasant working environment and relationships. Reward positive results and don't overlook the little "thanks" or "thumbs up" when the time is right.

How to develop employee engagement?

Start by measuring engagement in the workplace

In order to develop employee engagement, you first need to know the state of it. Are your employees very, little, moderately engaged ? To find this out, you need to take your teams' pulse.

Three indicators determine employee engagement in a company:

  • turnover, which, as seen above, testifies to the attractiveness of a company and its ability to retain its talents;
  • the absenteeism rate, which is calculated by dividing the number of absent employees over those present for a given period. This phenomenon, which grows each year, enables employees' disengagement to be demonstrated;
  • the Employee Net Promoter Score (ENPS), which is the measurement of recommendations made by employees to their company. This indicator, which can be measured using a pulse survey, is a good reflection of the efficiency of QWL procedures.

Besides these indicators, there are various methods for measuring employee engagement, led by various HR firms. Positive reviews can even be rewarded with QWL labels.

In order to better develop your teams' involvement and engagement at work, it's also essential to identify the key moments that engage employees in their work.

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Identifying the key moments of engagement at work

While employee engagement is based on a multitude of factors, there are still some key moments in business life. Here are the ones that are essential to boost employee engagement.

Onboarding

After having convinced the best talents to join you following the HR interviews, it's important to welcome them well. Onboarding defines the process of integrating new employees into the company. It is not simply a question of familiarizing the new employee with their new roles. It is important to integrate them within the company by promoting your employer brand and reputation, particularly through:

  • emphasizing people before skills;
  • integrate them into a common vision;
  • placing well-being at work at the heart of the company.
Convivial rituals

Business life is punctuated by rituals of all kinds:

  • happy events in employees' lives (marriages, births, etc.);
  • professional success and development;
  • christmas and New Year;
  • return from summer break.

Essential levers for developing team spirit within companies, these events are also an opportunity to put your employees in the spotlight.

Transformations, reorganizations, relocation

Business growth, team reorganization, relocation… Transformations within companies are more and more frequent. They're often synonymous with upheaval for your employees. In order to minimize their impact on team engagement, it is essential to support change gradually by:

  • communicating regularly with your employees on the transformation progress;
  • listening to team needs to continuously adjust your transformation plans as effectively as possible;
  • consulting your employees in decision-making regarding reorganizations;
  • offering more flexibility of work during transition periods to allow them to better adapt.

Employee engagement pillars

You now know how to measure employee engagement. Likewise, you know what the key moments are. There is only one step left before taking action : identifying the major levers for employee engagement.

In order to have all the cards in hand, here are the 5 pillars of employee engagement to develop or implement in your company.

Corporate culture

Establishing or maintaining a strong corporate culture has become an HR issue in just a few years. Its importance is justified by the unifying role it plays at the team level.

A strong corporate culture relies on two main principles:

  • The values of the company and its mission
    Think beyond the usual "innovation, integrity, team spirit"… To engage your employees, the values of your company should be linked to your history and the vision of the leaders. If leaders don't embody their culture, it's unlikely that it will be adopted amongst teams.
  • Belief in these values
    A corporate culture is only fulfilling if its talents believe in it. It's therefore essential to succeed in involving employees in their co-construction and their daily incarnation. This is how a feeling of belonging to the company, necessary for employee engagement, is developed.

A feeling of belonging

Whether in private, social or professional life, a sense of belonging is an essential factor in our fulfillment. Maslow’s pyramid reflects this, and it isn't the only one. Indeed, on our pyramid of the 10 pillars of employee experience, pride in belonging to a company is at its peak.

A sense of belonging can only develop on the basis of a corporate culture that promotes trust, inclusiveness and collaboration.

Recognition

7 in 10 employees say that they suffer from a lack of recognition at work. Yet, recognition for a job done is the factor that has the most impact on employee engagement. Recognition improves self-esteem, as well as the well-being and health of employees. It leads to better investment and efficiency at work, increased productivity and better performance of organizations. Recognition is therefore an essential dimension of talent management within the company.

For recognition to be effective, it must be:

  • frequent: not only during end-of-year reviews;
  • spontaneous: don't miss any opportunity to say "thank you" or "well done";
  • personalized and given for a specific reason;
  • transparent: so that everyone is in the loop;
  • collaborative: ensure employees are equally involved;
  • consistent: align your words, actions and values.

These 6 tips will allow you to better express recognition to your employees. This will enable you to better develop employee engagement within your company.

Meaning

By introducing the notion of "meaning" to work, Generation Y first, then Generation Z, made it a prerequisite for companies, from recruitment to talent retention and well-being.

4 tips for co-constructing meaningful work with your employees:

  • Prioritize listening. Ask your employees about their aspirations and expectations. Encourage them to challenge and transform the company's working practices and methodologies.
  • Question yourself. Often. Listening to your employees should indeed lead to taking into account their aspirations and motivations… and the adaptation of working conditions accordingly.
  • Don't neglect training. A major lever in talent management, training allows employees to broaden their horizons and change their framework. It's a powerful tool for engaging employees and creating meaning in their daily tasks.
  • Support your employees. Reconciling a quest for meaning and working conditions is an approach that requires long-term anchoring. Hold regular follow-ups with your employees and build a relationship of trust. Also make sure to communicate clearly on the company's vision and its values.

These 4 levers will allow you to transform the employee experience on a lasting basis to develop employee engagement.