The secrets to an engaged and productive workforce

When your staff members care about your business and are engaged, they will use discretionary effort. That means a retail staff member will clean up after a messy customer when the boss isn’t around, the computer programmer will stay past their shift for that big project without being asked, and the barista will go out of their way to serve the best coffee possible, with a smile.

Low staff engagement kills productivity and costs big money. A 2012 report by Gallup analysed employees around the world and found that globally, an average of 30% of employees are actively engaged, with businesses spending approximately $750 million each year trying to improve engagement levels globally.

Let’s take a look at what staff engagement is not:

Employee happiness

While employee engagement and happiness do often go hand in hand, just because someone is happy at work doesn’t necessarily mean they’re working productively on behalf of their company. Making employees happy is, of course, crucial to ensuring that they stick around, but there are many other factors that also affect engagement.

Employee satisfaction

Often companies will have “staff satisfaction” surveys, however, the bar is usually set too low. While a satisfied staff member may show up to work without complaining, they may not go the extra mile and will be unlikely to refuse a headhunter’s offer of an extra 10% bump in pay. Satisfaction is important, but it’s not enough.

So what is staff engagement?

Engagement is the emotional commitment that a staff member has to your company and its goals.
Employees with this emotional commitment actually care about both their work and their company. They’re not just working for their pay or a promotion, but they’re invested in helping your company meet its goals.

5 ways to defeat low staff engagement:

1. Focus on employees, not the bottom line

In order for staff engagement to occur, employees need to know what to do and must want to do it. Companies hoping for this to happen must look beyond profit margins and engage with their employees. This means aligning the talent strategy with the business strategy and ensuring that employees are paid fairly for their contributions to your company’s revenue.

Part of this also means making sure that employees have the right tools at hand in order to do their best work. Whether this is regular conferences, coaching, or investing in intuitive software, making your staff member’s lives easier will increase productivity and engagement.

2. Encourage clear expectations

Good management is critical if staff members are to remain engaged. That means setting clear expectations and sticking to them, ensuring that you’re not treating the same behaviours differently at different times, and avoiding favouritism of one staff member over another.

3. Avoid micromanagement

No one likes to feel micromanaged, and if you’re hiring the best people for the job, this shouldn’t be something that is necessary. Staff members are likely to shut down and eventually lose interest if managers are insisting on controlling every detail of their work.

Sometimes management can be convinced that no-one can do the job as well as they can. They may have their own expectations which can cause them to place unnecessary pressure on their staff members, but this micromanagement tells your employees that their judgements and work are not trustworthy.

4. Have a clear road to achievement or advancement

Motivated staff members want to broaden their knowledge and improve their skills. They will also seek recognition for their hard work through praise or increased responsibility, which will encourage them to achieve more and become more invested in the success of your company.

Create an environment where employees are inspired, encouraged to succeed and have clear goals, and you will see lower rates of staff turnover, increased productivity and greater engagement.

5. Be inspiring

We spend a large chunk of our lives at work, and most people want to know that they’re making a difference and contributing to something they believe in.
While you may focus on hiring people who are excited to work for your company and believe in your goals, this is something that needs to be regularly cultivated. Leaders should inject life into a business, inspiring employees, and creating a work environment where everyone is driven towards accomplishing the same goals.

Regardless of how you feel about Steve Jobs as a person, there’s little doubt that he was an inspiring leader. He created a legacy and took his employees along for the ride- focusing not on beating his competition but instead on changing the world. He also understood that his employees wanted to be part of a company that was creating something groundbreaking and exciting.

People are naturally attracted to jobs that are meaningful, and crave work that lets them leave their mark on the finished product. Keeping the goals of your company integral to what staff members are doing every day and helping them understand how they’re personally contributing to achieving this mission shows them that you trust them to help you reach your goals, increasing engagement and productivity.