Employee Engagement: Don’t Let It Slip Away

When times are good, keeping employees satisfied and engaged in their work is a bit easier.  Salary increases and bonuses can be a little higher, benefit programs a little more generous, and training and career development opportunities a little more robust.

But the difficult economic circumstances of the last few years have taken a serious toll on employee engagement.  Layoffs, salary freezes, increased workloads and similar actions are still fresh in employees’ minds.  Hewitt Associates recently conducted a study that concluded that employee engagement levels over the last several years have fallen in almost half of the surveyed companies.

The potential effects of reduced engagement—in productivity, performance and retention—are enormous.  So employers are rightly concerned.  At the same time, budgets are tight and organizations need to find creative and less costly ways to drive engagement.

Here are five areas for you to consider:

  • Flexible scheduling:  I don’t know of any issue more important to employees than this.  Time is precious, and if companies can offer reasonable flexibility for employee schedules, employees will take note.
  • Social commitment:  Employees want to work for an organization that is involved in the community.  Community events where employees can participate can do an enormous amount of good for those in need, and also help employees feel positive about working for the company.
  • Health and wellness:  One of my clients has a program in place that allows employees to gain “credits” by following a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise.  These credits can be used to defray the cost of health insurance.
  • Recognition:  Effective recognition can be one of the most powerful elements of employee engagement.  A McKinsey study in 2009 showed that attention from management to be a much more powerful motivator than money.  Also, programs that offer personalized recognition and rewards for a job well done can be very effective.
  • Open communication:  Employees crave information, and a company that communicates often and in a transparent manner will build trust.  It is an easy thing to do, but many organizations overlook it.

This is certainly not meant to be a complete list. There are many other actions organizations can take to build engagement that do not necessarily cost a lot of money.  What would you add to the list?

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