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Employee engagement has been defined in many different ways. In one organization, it might be described as an employee's increased emotional connection to the company, while in another, it might be the willingness and ability to contribute to the success of the organization's mission and values.
Engaged employees tend to have a heightened stake in the success of their organization because they feel connected to and invested in the company. They tend to go above and beyond without being asked, putting in what many people refer to as “discretionary effort.” Engaged employees tend to be more productive, more creative, more customer-focused, safer, and less likely to leave their employers.
Supervisors and managers are in the best position to observe and encourage employee engagement, and can be held accountable for encouraging it. Perhaps a supervisor's efforts to get and keep employees engaged are included as part of his or her performance review. At the very least, be sure supervisors understand what engagement is and how to encourage it.
Finding ways to keep employees engaged may include involving them on teams, putting them in charge of a project, or having them work on a special project. This lets them know their contribution is appreciated and valued, and strengthens their tie to the organization. If possible, demonstrate how their contribution impacts the company's bottom line. Employees often feel a “disconnect” when they can't see how their contribution makes a difference. Showing them how it all ties in makes their job meaningful in the grand scheme of things.
In some cases, a job requires a minimal training and the new hire might be “up and running” on the first day. For example, an equipment operator might only require a demonstration of how to perform the job, and may be running the machine alone by the end of the first day. In other cases, the position requires a certain amount of experience that can only be gained over time.
While there is some value to having a new hire work on “practice” assignments, the individual should be given the opportunity to fully contribute as soon as possible. There is no better way to learn a job than by actually doing the job. This may result in some mistakes, and possibly extra work for the team to offer suggestions or corrections. However, the new hire should quickly build confidence and hopefully see that his or her contributions are reducing the burden on other team members.
Measure more than job satisfaction
There are several components in job satisfaction, including satisfaction with coworkers, pay, working conditions, supervision, and career opportunities. Employees might be very satisfied with their working conditions, but the underlying reason may be that they don't have much work to do. They might be happy with their supervisors because the supervisor tends to look the other way when they do a mediocre job or fail to follow policies.
On the contrary, employees who aren't satisfied might still be some of the most productive employees: they might be stellar employees who aren't happy with their pay or advancement opportunities, but who take pride in their work.
Measuring job satisfaction is still valuable. In the case of unsatisfied but productive employees, working to understand the areas of discontent could help retain a top performer in the long run. The key is not only to measure job satisfaction, but to try to understand precisely why employees are either satisfied or dissatisfied, and consider this information alongside measurements of performance and productivity to paint a clear picture of employees.
Nine ways to maximize engagement
Most employers can quickly point out which employees barely get their jobs done, and which of them regularly go above and beyond. So how do you foster employees who put forth extra effort?
1. Start with the hiring and onboarding process. Encouraging employee engagement begins as early as the application process. Something as simple as arriving at an interview unprepared can set the tone for the entire employment relationship.
2. Provide job clarity. Be clear about job duties and levels of performance that are expected. Employees also should be familiar with the goals of the organization and how individual success translates into success for the company.
3. Provide challenges and opportunities. If employees are overworked, it may not seem the best time to present them with new challenges. However, the opposite can be true. A study by Towers Perrin indicates that challenging work can actually mitigate some of the negative impact of a demanding workload.
4. Give employees as much authority as possible. Employees who feel empowered and have freedom to make decisions related to their jobs are more likely to be engaged. Individuals also may be willing to accept increased risk if they have control over decisions relating to that risk. On the other hand, requiring employees to constantly get approval for decisions slows efficiency and momentum and may hamper creativity.
5. Provide equipment and training. Employees who aren't given the resources needed to do their jobs may feel as though they have been set up to fail. If they don't feel as if the organization will do whatever it takes to help them succeed, they probably won't be motivated to help the organization prosper. Without the right equipment and training, they may not even be able to.
6. Think of compensation beyond pay. Employees want to be paid fairly, but they also want to be rewarded with things like discretion and responsibility within the company. Identify what type of non-monetary compensation is valuable to each individual and note that this will likely differ from one employee to the next.
7. Offer advancement opportunities. To become and stay engaged, employees need to not only know but see that going above and beyond is rewarded. Whether this is in the way they are treated (perhaps they are given more discretion or responsibility) or in an actual promotion, an organization has to deliver when it says employees have opportunities for advancement.
8. Encourage bonds with coworkers. The way individuals feel about their coworkers and the extent to which they belong within a community of people has considerable bearing on their levels of engagement.
9. Show respect. A key driver of engagement is whether or not employees feel that they are cared about as people, not just as employees. While you don't have to make friends with everyone, treat all employees with fairness, honesty, and respect.
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['Performance Management', 'Employee Relations']
['Employee Relations', 'Motivating Employees']
J. J. Keller is the trusted source for DOT / Transportation, OSHA / Workplace Safety, Human Resources, Construction Safety and Hazmat / Hazardous Materials regulation compliance products and services. J. J. Keller helps you increase safety awareness, reduce risk, follow best practices, improve safety training, and stay current with changing regulations.