Employee engagement is top of mind for most organizations and leaders today. HR departments seem obsessed with the idea and try to measure it through annual surveys and assessments. For leaders, maintaining employee engagement with a distributed workforce can be challenging. How can an employee working from home hundreds of miles away be as engaged as employees working face to face in a company office? Understanding what employee engagement is, how it differs from employee satisfaction, and why you should care about how engaged your employees are important first steps. Awareness about the drivers of engagement and how those factors are used to create engagement for all employees regardless of location are the next.
Employee engagement is more than just job satisfaction. An engaged employee demonstrates commitment through discretionary output in ways that go above and beyond what is asked of them and puts forth their best effort to advance the mission or vision of an organization. Satisfied employees may have low absenteeism and higher retention, but a satisfied employee doesn’t necessarily mean a more productive one. Engaged employees consistently go above and beyond to ensure the success of their team, department, or company. And this is why you should care so much about engagement: leaders who get the most productivity out of every single worker create high performance teams.
Think about your flexible and remote workforce. Many managers fear that employee performance will decline once employees move from an office to a remote site office. Yet for remote workers that are highly engaged, employers are likely to see increased productivity among those employees once their commute is eliminated. Research backs up this claim: several studies show that productivity for a remote employee is often higher than in-house counterparts — and the key to maintaining this level of performance is to keep remote workers engaged.
Recent Gallup polls report that only 32% of US workers are engaged — over the past 15 years of Gallup polls, employee engagement is consistently below 33%. If this persistent low level of engagement shows up in most organizations today, how do leaders increase employee engagement? They do so by understanding multiple factors that contribute to employee engagement including:
- Job relevancy – Job relevancy is the perception employees have about the importance of their job to the organization. Employees want to know that their job matters to the organization. Leaders help mold this perception by linking employee job responsibilities to the goals of the business.
- Empowerment to contribute in the decision-making process – In addition to feeling relevant, employees want to feel empowered. No one likes to feel micro-managed or feel they have no input to decisions that impact them. Leaders should incorporate employee feedback, allow employees some autonomy to make decisions and cultivate a team that embraces shared leadership.
- Understanding job role and expectations – Most employees eschew ambiguity, especially when it comes to their role and what leaders expect of them. Leaders should document what an employee’s responsibilities are and specific tangible goals an employee is expected to achieve. Many remote workers create their own flexible schedules and managers should focus on work output and outcomes, not fixate only on when an employee works.
- Regular, positive feedback from managers – Feedback is not a one-time activity conducted during an annual performance review. Continual dialogue between an employee and manager should be fostered throughout the year; feedback can be impromptu or scheduled to strengthen connections with employees and should often be conducted in person. If budget limitations restrict bringing remote workers in for a face-to-face meeting, video conferencing can be used to enhance messages.
- Advancement opportunities – Being stuck in a dead-end job or feeling no mobility exists beyond a current role weakens engagement. Leaders should work with employees to help them chart a potential career path based on employee’s skills, experience, and interests. By creating growth opportunities, employees can expand their skill set and prepare for future opportunities. This is particularly relevant for remote workers who can feel outside line of sight and disconnected to organization culture.
- Relationships with co-workers – Employees join an organization for a variety of reasons but usually quit for two: 1) relationships with their boss and 2) relationships with co-workers. Since most organizations depend on employees working together in teams to achieve company goals, building healthy relationships are critical to success. For today’s distributed workforce, leaders must create strong blended and virtual teams and ensure connectivity among all team members, regardless of location.
- Reputation, ethical standards of the organization – Employees want to feel good about the organization they work for. The external brand of a company, through a customer lens or the community, matters. Data consistently shows that employees, particularly millennials, stay with companies where bonds with co-workers is as strong as their belief in a company’s mission and vision. A leader’s obligation is to uphold high ethical standards and practices within their team, to lead by example and cultivate those bonds.
Leaders should take a holistic approach to increasing engagement and create a plan that includes engagement strategies for a distributed workforce. Flexwork Global can help your organization design a plan by working with your business leaders to assess engagement goals and help you achieve them.
Download Flexwork Global’s Job Relevancy Tool, an e-guide that demonstrates the impact employees have on company success to increase employee engagement. To learn how our programs that focus on relationships, tools, and processes drive positive behavior shifts in how employees work, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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