March 6 is National Employee Engagement Day, which always reminds me of a day early on in my career. I was asked to attend an "employee engagement meeting" in place of my boss, who couldn't make it due to a scheduling conflict. I was new on the job (less than a week), in my early twenties, and was eager to make a good impression, so I agreed to attend the meeting, which I was told was basically just to listen and record employee feedback on any topic they wanted to talk about. NBD.
It turns out my new boss may as well have thrown me into the lions' den with a giant antelope steak tied around my neck. The meeting was filled with a "random" selection of production workers, all of whom it turns out were MAD AS HELL about a variety of topics — everything from their pay being lower than other local companies to the body odor of the individual next to them.
All I could do was put my head down and scribble furiously on my yellow notepad as they took turns berating both me and the company as a whole. I took the pages of notes back to my boss, and as far as I could tell, nothing was ever done with them.
Clearly, that's not employee engagement.In fact, that's almost the exact opposite.
So how do we do employee engagement?
Today's job market changes everything
Let’s face it: if a disengaged worker wants to find a job in this economy, they can easily do so. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the start of 2020, there were 1.4 million more job openings than unemployed job seekers. Workable.com states the average time-to-hire across all industries is three to four weeks. If you are in need of someone in finance, engineering, IT or marketing, that time goes up to 6-9 weeks.
Perhaps one of the most #OMG statistics for employers is in a new report by Achievers which says that 64% of employees will leave their job in 2020.
So why are almost two thirds of the workforce looking to quit their job?
According to OC Tanner research, 79% of employees who quit their jobs claim that a lack of appreciation was a major reason for leaving.
8 ideas to improve your workplace engagement
Leadership is tough in today’s workplace. With so much emphasis on customer engagement, leaders are focused externally on giving their customers the best experience. That leaves their employees wondering, “What about me? Am I appreciated?”
There is no time like NOW to show your employees that you care about their contributions, hard work and who they are. Here are eight easy(ish) ideas that can help get you started with creating a more engaged workforce.
1. Assign every new employee a mentor/ally.
Starting a new job is intimidating. One of the best ways to help people feel more comfortable and like they're part of the team is to assign a current employee to help guide them through the process for the first few months. It gives new employees a go-to resource for all sorts of questions, and it helps established employees break out of their silos.
2. Design your own team values.
I'll assume that your organization has its own mission and values that guide the entire organization; what if your team made its own set of guidelines? By spending some time working together to create a shared set of values, you'll have more buy-in and employees will feel more engaged. Your new values don't replace the organization's values — it actually enhances them.
3. Advocate for passion projects.
Companies like Google and Apple give their employees paid time to work on passion projects, whether that's a project that's directly related to the work your organization does, or something that may not be immediately applicable, but provides the employee and the community with valuable resources and/or time to practice innovation. Create a formal program within your company to encourage these projects, then give employees a chance to promote these projects annually or even quarterly.
4. Get away from the office.
Often our environment dictates how we think, communicate and collaborate. Logic says that one of the best ways to encourage innovation and creativity is to get people out of their cubicles and into new spaces. At GO Scavenger Hunts, we do this in a way that is deliberate and thoughtful, creating custom experiences that get to the heart of your team's biggest challenges. Let us help you create a unique experience that is as much fun as it is useful.
5. Build a feedback-rich culture.
If the standard response to constructive feedback is for employees (and managers) to get defensive, that's one of the first things you need to change. Feedback is CRITICAL to building a highly-competent team; no one is immune to needing someone to telling them what's working, what's not, and how they can do a better job. A good place to start is Tasha Eurich's book Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think
6. Five minutes of good news.
This is a great way to start meetings — simply ask people something good that's happened to them that they'd like to share. The good news can either be personal or professional, it doesn't matter — just give people a chance to share something positive that's happening in their lives, which will help build the all-important psychological safety that all the best teams share.
7. Volunteer together.
Maybe combine this idea with #4, get out of the office. Volunteering is a great way to connect your organization with what's going on in the community, plus give employees a chance to connect with each other outside of the office in a different environment. It's also a great way to show your team that you actually live your values (assuming that community engagement & helping others is one of your corporate values — and if it's not, then re-read idea #2, Design Your Own Team Values).
8. Keep trying.
If employee engagement were easy, you wouldn't be losing your best employees to your competitors. Keep showing up every day, trying new things. Not every employee engagement initiative might work, but you get credit for making an honest attempt.
What about your office? What do you do to improve employee engagement? Leave your best idea in the comments below.
Co-founder Jill Hinton Wolfe is a communicator, entrepreneur and Army veteran who is passionate about the outdoors and designing surprising and unique challenges for all sorts of clients, all over the world.