How Can I Increase Employee Engagement and Retention?

Gusto Editors

The hard truth about employee engagement: There’s no copy-paste trick that will make your company a better place to work.

Creating that kind of environment involves a lot of commitment, a lot of passion, and a whole lot of soul-searching. Fortunately, you’ve arrived at the right place if you want to get things moving.

In this article, we’ll give you a starting point for increasing your team’s engagement and happiness levels, regardless of your shape or size.

Why does engagement matter?

Let’s say someone on your team just won the lottery. Confetti and balloons are rushing down, and the lucky winner is jumping up and down, awash in pure joy. Now, the question every HR pro has on their mind: Will that person actually stay at their job once they get all that money?

Gallup’s “Work and Education Survey” discovered that nearly two out of three engaged workers would stay at their current job even if they won the lottery. Why’s that? Because they already hit the jackpot.

But for people who aren’t connected to their work, they would leave in a heartbeat. And that’s why employee engagement is so essential.

In its simplest sense, the term describes why people care about waking up and coming to work each day. It’s the emotional connection someone has to their work, which then fuels how much effort they put into their job. It’s passion, energy, and commitment. When people aren’t feeling excited to go to the office, it impacts everything around them.

Luckily as an employer, there are many strides you can take to tie more meaning to people’s work.

Here’s what happens when you have an engaged team

Why exactly should you dedicate time to making your team feel more motivated? Because it’s the right thing to do. Here are a few stats that illustrate the impact of building a team that’s in it to win it.

  • According to the Cicero Group, organizations with engaged teams generally outperform those that aren’t by a factor of three. Additionally, employees who feel recognized are 33 percent more likely to feel innovative in their role.
  • The Workplace Research Foundation found that upping an investment in employee engagement by 10 percent every year can raise a company’s profit by $2,400 per person.

How to ramp up engagement

Below are a few approaches that will help you add some sparkle back into your workplace.

Make work fun

This might seem like an obvious one, but if employees love their role and the culture you create, they’ll feel pretty darn good about coming in every day.

Set up spaces that encourage hanging out, and plan events where people can get to know each other in a casual setting. When folks feel closer to their teammates, it’s easier to mesh and accomplish great work.

Give your team a voice

At Whole Foods, everyone on the team gives their input about whether to hire someone who just completed their probationary period.

Why does this matter? When we feel like we’re being heard, we’re automatically more connected to what’s going on. Companies like Whole Foods are telling people that their voices actually matter, and that everyone is together on this journey.

The first step in giving your team more of a voice is to roll out regular employee feedback programs. It’s the only way you can find out what’s not working, so you can then take steps to fix things.

Gallup found that companies with feedback programs have turnover rates that are 14.9 percent lower than companies that don’t.

While coming up with your survey, make sure you focus on the drivers, or the questions that can actually fuel people’s underlying motivations. For example, a driver would be “I know the leadership team is working to make this an amazing place to work.” If you get a low number of people who agree with that statement, you can take steps to get better.

Tools to help you out

  • 15Five: A hybrid performance management and employee feedback tool
  • OfficeVibe: A monthly survey that asks your team five simple questions
  • Culture Amp: A survey tool supercharged with analytics

Say thanks

Our brains are wired to appreciate praise. That’s why it’s so essential to recognize your team when they do a fabulous job.

When giving praise, be specific, highlighting exactly what you’re proud of and what it meant to you. Look what happens when you do: Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation Survey found that over half of employees say they would stay at their company longer if their manager made them feel more appreciated. Eighty-one percent of respondents also said they want to work harder when their manager appreciates them.

Set up a mentorship program

The more a person feels like a company cares about their professional development, the stronger their commitment to applying the skills they’re learning.

A study from Sun Microsystems found that people who went through their company-sponsored mentorship program had a 72 percent retention rate, compared to 49 percent for non-participants. Over the course of three years, the California Nurse Mentor Project was able to lower employee turnover and save hospitals between $1.4 million and $5.8 million.

Their secret sauce? Providing extensive mentoring to each nurse in the program.

Organizing a mentorship program can be as complicated or as simple as you’d like.

First, focus on the goal of your program. Is it to help folks grow in their industry? Is it to forge stronger connections at the office? Then use that to guide you.

The next step is to poll the team, asking them what they want to get out of the program and what they can offer. Use that information to match people up, focusing on who already has relationships with one another. Be sure to set up clear guidelines for the mentor so they can plan each session appropriately.

These guidelines can generally include:

  • How long the mentorship will last
  • How long each session should last
  • A list of suggested activities to be completed / discussions to focus on
  • General communication tips
  • How to report on the whole experience

If setting up an entire program is too much, or if there are more mentees interested than mentors, you can use a program like Everwise to help match people up with industry experts outside of your company.

Conduct exit interviews

When employees leave, it’s a great time to learn why. Were they unengaged? Did they have problems with their manager? Is your compensation competitive? It may feel a little awkward to talk to an employee on the way out, but you’ll never get answers if you don’t ask.

Increasing employee engagement isn’t just about cupcake celebrations and happy hours. It’s about making sure your employees get the most out of the work that they do.

By following a few of the suggestions above, you’ll be well on your way to helping people realize the potential that shines within themselves and their teammates. And when that feeling snaps into place, your team will be able to do anything their hearts are set on.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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