Alice Hardin

Engage and Retain Your Employees

Alice Hardin, VP-Human Resources

Building Engaged Teams
Would your employees describe your organization as exciting or their work as fulfilling? Do your managers create work environments that foster vibrant teams with connected employees? If so, good for you! If this is an area where your business could improve, recognize that as a manager or business owner, you must commit to and invest in building a work environment where employees want to stay and develop.

So, what’s engagement all about?
Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An "engaged employee" is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and takes positive action to further the organization's reputation and interests.

Why is engagement important?
Research shows time and again that engaged employees perform better, are happier and serve customers better than those who are not engaged. They are also less likely to leave your business and more likely to recommend it to others. Organizations with high engagement are far more likely to have higher retention, higher performance, more productive employees, higher customer loyalty and, ultimately, be more profitable.

How do I measure employee engagement?
The most common practice for measuring employee engagement is to conduct an employee engagement survey. You can draw from many organizations to develop a survey. The larger engagement companies will provide an online survey, compile the results and provide an overall organization report. Some will even provide reports for specific areas of the business. Or, for smaller companies, there may be a local or regional consulting company who can interview your staff individually to obtain the information and provide a written summary with customized recommendations.

How can I keep employees engaged?
As research indicates, direct supervisors can be one of the main reasons employees stay or leave an organization. While other factors can also be considered, such as leadership, development opportunities, the type of work being performed and the quality of coworkers, the direct supervisor can have the most significant impact on employee engagement. So ensure that anyone who manages your employees is engaged.

Anytime a supervisor connects with the team or provides an opportunity for employees to get to know each other outside of the formal work environment, employee engagement is supported and enhanced.

While there are seemingly endless ideas out there for engaging employees, some of the more common ones are:

  • Understanding the mission and values: Make sure employees understand the mission and values of the organization and how their job fits. This can be motivating.
  • Recognition and appreciation: This can be monetary or non-monetary appreciation, such as a spot bonus or incentive for strong performance, completion of a project or making a sale; a gift card to a favorite restaurant or shop; an extra day off with pay; a gift basket or flowers; or something as small as a thank you card or a lunch away from the worksite.
  • Open communication: Open communication may include sharing information from your senior managers or a short weekly meeting to keep staff informed and make sure the work is being coordinated. Improving communication may include a weekly “touch base” meeting with individual staff members to talk about project status and barriers they may encounter, or brainstorming sessions to address problems and challenges they may be experiencing. A simple, “good morning” or an inquiry about how the employee is doing can also go a long way.
  • Career development: Touch base with team members individually at least once a year to talk about their career. Where do they need or desire development? How do they want to grow in their current role or move up in the organization? What can you do to support their development?
  • Team-building events: Take employees offsite for a fun event or a structured team-building activity. Consider a team stewardship activity to enhance your community or the life of someone in your community. You may even support a social event outside of work for your staff and their families, a dinner event, or tickets to a baseball game for your team. This list is limited only by your imagination and resources.

As you ponder your approach to employee engagement, keep in mind that new employees you’re hiring today want meaningful work and they’re looking to their employer and their supervisor to make that happen.