Employee engagement has always been a critical aspect of any business's success, but in 2022, it's taken on a whole new meaning.
As The Great Resignation continues to show us, employees are demanding more from their employers than ever before, and only the companies who are listening are thriving.
But rather than looking at this as a dark omen for your bottom line, business leaders should focus on re-engaging employees and building a resilient culture capable of withstanding challenges.
Unfortunately, we must make these changes while The Great Resignation continues today. Recent studies reveal that over 400,000 employees left their positions in 2021 and 2022 surveys found that 20% of employees are extremely likely to leave their current job in the next 12 months.
With numbers this staggering, it begs the question: why are so many people quitting? According to an article written for the MIT Sloan Management Review, the top five reasons people left their jobs in 2021 were toxic culture, job insecurity/reorganisation, innovation-driven burnout, failure to recognise performance, and poor response to Covid-19.
Interestingly, three out of these five reasons are related to workplace culture.
While these may not have been the responses ten or even five years ago, we can't deny the world today is not the same as it was then. We've faced a global pandemic, rising mental health concerns, and corporate burnout at an all-time high.
Furthermore, we now have Gen Z entering the workforce with differing values and priorities than previous generations. In truth, corporate culture was due for an update, and The Great Resignation is just the proof.
Considering all this, what can organisations do to boost employee engagement and build a thriving culture when everyone wants to leave?
Building a Culture of Recognition
Research supports what HR leaders know: engaged employees are less likely to quit. Some studies show that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their job than disengaged employees.
During a time when voluntary turnover is at a record high, this isn't a statistic to overlook. Engaged employees are the key to building a thriving company culture that lasts.
One way to improve employee engagement is through employee recognition. According to a study by Quantum Workplace, when employees believe they'll be recognised for their work, they're 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged. Furthermore, Forbes has found that companies scoring in the top 20% for their culture of recognition had turnover rates 31% lower.
This discrepancy shows us that employees crave recognition but aren't getting enough of it. It's understandable – managers have full plates, and often recognition and employee engagement fall off the to-do list. Or managers simply don't know how to best recognise their employees in a way that resonates.
This scenario is where a recognition program can help significantly with employee engagement and recognition, especially with a peer-to-peer element.
An online recognition platform streamlines what actions to recognise and when. It allows managers and leaders to celebrate employees' contributions publicly and encourages peers to recognise each other.
This platform helps give employees ownership and can even highlight some unsung heroes on the team who have been previously overlooked.
Furthermore, with under half of UK employees working remotely, an online recognition platform allows in-office and remote workers to always stay connected. This employee engagement is critical for building community regardless of where people work.
Building Employee Engagement with Wellness
Over the past two years, we've become all-too-well acquainted with the cost of taking sick days. Aside from the obvious physical toll, it slows productivity, disrupts communication, and can halt projects in their tracks.
It's not a ground-breaking concept that healthy employees save companies money in more ways than one.
But what may be a new concept for many organisations is mental wellness.
The Centres for Disease Control estimates depression causes 200 million lost workdays each year, costing employers £13 to £36 billion. Meanwhile, the WHO reported a 25% worldwide increase in anxiety and depression in March of 2022. Furthermore, a 2021 study from Indeed found that 52% of workers say they're feeling burned out.
The data shows what many of us already know: Our employees are struggling.
So, what can employers do to combat this? For starters, offer a comprehensive wellness program. While many companies have a physical wellness program in place, research shows these programs don't hold significant weight regarding a return on investment.
Creating A Comprehensive Wellness Program
Instead, a comprehensive wellness program should encompass physical and mental wellness while being inclusive, measurable, motivating, and rewarding.
Successful wellness programs engage a broad audience. This means your program must be accessible to everyone in your company no matter how they move, where they are, what equipment they have access to, or what level their starting point is. Think about the lowest common denominator; people who run marathons, play sports or do CrossFit 6 days a week will engage in their physical fitness regardless of a corporate wellness program. Instead, focus on engaging the people who wouldn't otherwise begin their fitness journey.
Perhaps they're intimidated by the gym, don't know where to start, or have limited access. Thinking through an inclusive lens allows you to drive engagement through your entire population.
"That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially." Pearson's Law demonstrates the importance of measuring and tracking. If you don't know where you started, how will you know if you've moved the needle? Data and reporting are often critical to prove ROI to leadership and continue to secure the budget for well-being programs.
Your program must motivate your team without overwhelming them. To do this, start short and simple. Think of a four-week movement or meditation challenge. Also, consider encouraging people to join groups. This change will help with accountability while also increasing morale. We know that what motivates one person doesn't work for everyone.
These programs should be rewarding to those who participate. Recognise noteworthy employees on a recognition platform or in person (or both). Encourage team members to recognise each other for achieving personal goals or staying consistent in their efforts. And don't forget to announce challenge winners to the company.
People want to be recognised for their hard work, whether it's a work project or a wellness win.
Start Building Employee Engagement Today
While recognition and wellness programs are great ways to improve employee engagement and build community, effective programs can take time to gain momentum. In the meantime, there are things you can start today to help bring positive change.
Teambuilding may bring back memories of school for some, but it's a concept that shouldn't be left in the past. Working as a team helps build camaraderie, trust, and engagement – critical aspects of any successful team.
Research has found organisations that promote collaboration and communication are 4.5 times less likely to lose their best employees.
But what used to be as simple as a regular get-together outside of the office is less straightforward in a world of hybrid and remote work. So, what can companies do to build trust and engagement amongst hybrid teams?
First of all, you need to start with your lowest common denominator. If one person on your team is remote and the rest is in the office, your activities still need to be remote-friendly. Video chats will be your best asset here.
Consider having a virtual team dinner. Send your team a gift card for a food delivery service, like Deliveroo or Uber Eats. Have your team order their food to their home and enjoy it together over Zoom.
This initiative will allow you to discuss each person's favourite foods, the best local restaurants, and what possibly opens people up to new cuisines.
Additionally, you can play a game virtually too. Try trivia, Pictionary, or a discussion game like Two Truths and a Lie. These are great ways to get to know the team as people instead of just co-workers.
The onboarding process can set the tone for an employee's experience at a new company, for better or worse. In fact, according to a study by SHRM, 25% of a company's new hires leave within a year if the onboarding experience is poor.
Why not take the opportunity to make this experience beneficial to everyone involved?
When building an onboarding process, start with establishing your goals and priorities. Reviewing the employee handbook isn't the most critical aspect of your onboarding experience, so don't focus there.
Instead, consider integrating your new hire into your company's culture and empowering them to see a future with your company.
One way to do this is with a 90-day mentor or sponsor. Pairing a new hire with a seasoned employee will provide the new person with a built-in resource for questions and guidance.
As a bonus, the more experienced person may gain a new perspective and be able to spot areas where the company could improve. Seeing a happy, successful tenured employee can also provide your new hire with a vision for a future with your company.
Additionally, don't wait to get your new hire in meetings and participate in projects. While paperwork is necessary, human interaction is what builds trust and engagement for new employees.
Set up meet-and-greet meetings for new hires to get introduced to key people. These meetings will help identify roles and responsibilities early while building relationships.
Lastly, don't abandon your new hire too early. Studies suggest extended onboarding programs are associated with more substantial talent and higher employee engagement. It's essential that onboarding guides your new hire beyond the first week and instead ensures they feel confident and connected at their new job.
When it comes down to it, asking your employees what they want is the simplest way to improve employee satisfaction. You'll never actually know what their experience is like until you ask. This is where surveys can be an impactful tool.
Consider sending surveys regarding culture, job satisfaction, and general suggestions. These can be anonymous or named, depending on the topic.
Keep in mind that anonymous responses will typically be more honest, so consider what information you're genuinely trying to gather with your survey.
Also, consider sending surveys regularly. Annually may be often enough, but it may be better to send surveys twice a year or quarterly. Just be careful to avoid sending too frequently and risk losing participation.
You may also be tempted to avoid sending surveys during difficult times, like a recession or downsizing. But this may be the best time to ask for feedback.
It can show your team that you understand difficult times take a toll and that you care about your employees' well-being.
And remember: surveys can provide insightful information, but leaders must use this information to enact change. Sending surveys without action afterwards will foster resentment and distrust amongst your team.
Living in unprecedented times calls for leaders to rethink the status quo. Without consciously adapting to the changing times, you're risking your employees leaving you behind.
But leaders who are willing to listen to the changing needs of their employees and take steps toward change will see engagement rise and voluntary turnover fall.