Only 30 percent of U.S. employees were engaged in their work and workplace during the first half of 2012, according to Gallup. That left 70 percent of the workforce partially or totally disengaged. And Gallup estimated the cost of disengaged workers to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity in the United States alone. Here are 6 steps employers can take to improve employee engagement:
- Get input from your people: They know what's contributing to the low engagement and have good ideas about how to fix it. They just need to be asked – in the right way. It’s difficult for employees to open up to the Human Resources department. Consider hiring an outside, professional interviewer that employees feel they can trust. A skilled interviewer will successfully encourage employees to speak openly.
- Don’t Play the Blame Game: Finding out the root of employee issues can feel hurtful. Often times the initial response is to begin pointing fingers at each other. However, a negative reaction by management will only create more anxiety about employees being candid in the future. Instead, focus on addressing the issue and resolving it.
- Be Honest: Employees know when engagement is low and it is not helpful for management to pretend otherwise. When management announces that they understand there is an issue and they are willing to work to resolve it, the employees are more inclined to feel appreciated and important. Candidly discuss the key issues that emerge during your research and action plans to resolve them.
- Implement Change: Often times companies will carry out the process of research, interviews, and action plans but never implement the changes needed to increase engagement. There is a lack of follow-through which will only create more distrust amongst employees. Commit to seeing the process through by following the action plans created.
- Train Your Leaders: If the leadership is not onboard with the new processes, then the employees will not be onboard. The management and leadership team needs to be the first to implement and demonstrate the new plans to for the company. For a culture to change, leadership must gain trust and openness with their employees and the action steps to be taken.
- Follow Up: Follow up research needs to be planned for 12-18 months after implementing the changes. It is important to give enough time for the changes to take place before determining how effective they are. This does not mean that management neglects to get employee feedback during this time. Conducting your own conversations with employees is extremely valuable. However, bringing in outside interviewers should wait until enough time has passed in order for the organization to make improvements.