How to Successfully Engage Employees in 2017

As more and more millennials come of working age, it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to prominently exhibit their corporate social responsibility policies on either their website or their employee handbooks—in part because CSR is proving to be increasingly vital to attracting and retaining quality employees.  In order for employees to feel engaged, it helps for them to feel as if the company they work for is working to benefit society in some way.  According to a study conducted in May of 2016 by Ante Glavas, a model building on engagement theory was tested in which “CSR enables employees to bring more of their whole selves to work, which results in employees being more engaged.”

Interestingly, there is also a correlation between employees’ connection to the world around them through community interaction and their connection to each other, in the workplace.  Both types of connections increase employee engagement by helping them feel as if they belong, rather than merely fulfilling their job-related duties, throughout the week.  For example, Four Winds Interactive was losing over $4M a year due to high employee turnover.  Because of this, they decided to invest in peer recognition programs, community engagement opportunities, wellness programs, and employee benefits.  In addition, they invested in an internal visual communication network that visually reinforced employees who participated in wellness or extracurricular activities.  As a result, their turnover rate decreased by half, after a year—which also saved them more than $2M.

In order to save the $2K a year it costs to deal with low employee productivity, increasing an organization’s culture and level of employee collaboration will help minimize disengagement and boredom.  One crucial component to keep an eye on is the level of peer camaraderie, since it is the number one motivator that inspires employees to work especially hard.  Other engaging factors, according to Villanova University, include employee and supervisor familiarity, basic training, employee development, employee recognition, teamwork, employee coaching, and customer-focused teams.  Encouragement and inspiration are key to maximizing engagement.

How can managers encourage the retention and development of an engaged workforce?  One way is to monitor compensation levels, making sure that employees are fairly compensated for their hard work.  If there are very large gaps in pay between executives and average employees, these gaps “Create destructive competition among management and cynicism among employees.”  Therefore, in general, large pay gaps don’t make for strong employee morale.  Moreover, differing opinions should be encouraged, career roles should be considered flexible, all employees should be recognized and acknowledged, and there should be ample opportunity for growth and development.

That last point is key: your employees may be engaged and motivated, but are they enabled? In other words, do they have the tools and training they need to do their jobs?  Are they regularly updated about their performance, as well as corporate policies and how to go about adhering to those policies?  Are they given a reasonable amount of work, and do they have ample time to balance that work with their own life, including activities such as community service?  Only when they have the tools they need will they be able to perform their job duties to the best of their abilities, while still feeling motivated and engaged.

Along with engagement, however, let’s not forget about CSR!  How are the two connected, again?  Well, for one, Employee Benefits found that employees involved in CSR initiatives are generally more engaged with an organization’s culture and values.  Perhaps the more in alignment with an organization’s ethics and CSR policies, the more motivated employees become to stick around.  They probably feel inspired by the company’s dedication and gain more of an interest in committing to the same amount of community engagement, themselves, outside of work-related initiatives.

Similarly, The CRO found that “When employees feel that the company they work for is not only socially responsible by investing resources to improve communities around the globe, but is also equally invested in their professional growth, it results in greater employee loyalty and inevitably translates into contributing to the company’s bottom line.”  In other words, the more stable a company, in terms of lack of attrition, the better—financially-speaking.  Of course, the financial benefits also extend to benefits for employee morale.

Moreover, according to research conducted by Philip H. Mirvis, there are several main methods of engaging employees: via a transactional approach, where “programs are undertaken to meet the needs of employees who want to take part in the CSR efforts of a company”; a relational approach, “based on a psychological contract that emphasizes social responsibility”; and “a developmental approach, which aims to activate social responsibility in a company and to develop its employees to be responsible corporate citizens.”  Liz Bardetti advocates for taking a relational route, due to its ability to create what she calls “a deeper level of engagement” that “acknowledges employees as citizens of the company and community.”

The most prominent point that came up over and over again in my research on what makes for good employee engagement was the importance of a feeling of belonging and relationships to motivating employees to remain engaged, in the workplace.  Interestingly, this need—though unsurprising—is totally within the realm of emotion and not at all rational or workplace-duty-related.  It speaks primarily to a very human, primal need—bypassing professional concerns, entirely.

This brings us back to a question of priorities—not just as business people, but as human beings who must coexist with others within a common community, neighborhood, or city.  In the end, what differentiates us is not as important as the characteristics we hold in common.  We should look to these commonalities while looking into sustainable ways to increase our organization’s level of community involvement.  May we all find ways of being that allow us a greater sense of belonging in our everyday lives—in both our workplaces and our homes.

Image source: Daniel Thornton

Engage Employees Through Personalized Motivation

The clamor of our alarm clocks forces us out of bed in the morning. But why did we set those alarms in the first place? Because we have to go to work. And why do we have to work?

We are driven by what Abraham Maslow calls our biological and physiological needs. These include food, shelter, water, air, sex and sleep. In North American society, we set an alarm in order to fulfill two of these biological/physiological needs, food, and shelter. The alarm wakes us up so we can go to work, we work so we can afford food and shelter.

Are you following me so far?

It is not just our biological and physiological needs that require satisfaction. In order to thrive, we need to be able to satisfy our cognitive needs of esteem and self-actualization. It is the effort to satisfy these needs that drive us to give our best performance. The drivers that promote the satisfaction of our esteem and self-actualization needs are different for everyone. However, in general, individuals are motivated, in differing degrees, by 5 drivers:

  • Sense of Achievement
  • Work and Life Balance
  • Recognition and Reward
  • Happiness and Respect
  • Professional Development

There is usually one driver that is a greater motivator than the rest, what we call, an individual’s primary driver. The primary driver does not mean that an individual is only driven by that one thing, it just indicates that this driver is of particular importance to them. It’s important that the other drivers not be neglected in favor of the primary driver. Rather, drivers should be ranked from most important to ‘not-as-important’, in order to prioritize how these drivers are addressed in the workplace.

Managers Should Take Note Of Employee Drivers

Information is power and there is perhaps no greater information when it comes to how to engage employees than knowing what drives employees. In knowing what motivates their employees, managers can increase employee engagement by employing the specific means that contribute to individual employee motivation and thus increase their productivity and satisfaction.

For instance, if Bob is motivated by a sense of achievement, his manager should give him tasks that while challenging are also within his capabilities to complete successfully.

You can read a full description of each driver and how to use it to motivate employees at

How To Discover Employee Drivers

The most straightforward way to discover the factors to  engage employees is to talk to them. However, unless you have less than 10 employees or all the time in the world, this isn’t the easiest way to gain information.

The easiest way to learn what motivates employees is to survey them. This can be done in a number of different ways.

There’s the old fashioned pen and paper, but if you have a lot of employees it will take a while to analyze each one and come up with the individual’s driver rankings. It’s much simpler to use a digital survey that will analyze and compile the data for each employee for you. You can use SurveyMonkey to create your own survey or you can use a pre-designed driver survey like Herd Wisdom’s engagement profiler and have your employees send you their results.

Organization And Confidentiality

There are a number of ways that employee driver information can be organized. However, the most important thing is that employees be assured that in spite of the fact that they are signing their names to the survey, the information they are providing will be kept confidential—meaning that only the employee’s line manager (the direct overseer of the employee) and the survey administer will have access to the information. It is extremely important that employees feel they can trust managers with this information. Every caution must be taken to ensure confidentiality and assure employees of said confidentiality. If employees do not trust their personal information with their managers then engagement becomes a lost cause.

In terms of organization, a good method would be to create driver profiles for each employee. This would allow the manager to quickly see the relevant information about their employee and to make notes on ways they can address the promotion of the employee’s driver, all in one place.

Keep Employees Informed

As trust is essential to getting employees to provide identifying information it is critical that they are kept informed about why the information is being collected and what the intention for it is. Let employees know exactly what’s going on and they are more likely to willingly participate. Furthermore, open communication fosters trust, which as I mentioned before is essential to building engagement.

Images: Big Stock Images