A recent Gallup workplace study found that “engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees do—across industries, company sizes and nationalities, and in good economic times and bad.”
Gallup’s study also found that “engaged employees are more present and productive; they are more attuned to the needs of customers; and they are more observant of processes, standards and systems.”
In short, engaged employees were found to be responsible for a 21% increase in profitability.
However, a new 2020 study by Achievers found that only 19% of employees self-identified as very engaged, with 35% declaring themselves as somewhat engaged—and these percentages may have actually gone down since.
With most employees now working remotely from home due to COVID-19— and struggling to balance work-life responsibilities—engagement may be at all-time low.
There is some good news, though. You’re reading this article, which means that soon you’ll know a few smart strategies for engaging remote employees and be able to continue supporting and encouraging your work-from-home workforce.
What exactly is employee engagement?
As you’ve just seen, employee engagement (together with company culture) can have a significant impact on productivity and the bottom line.
Company culture is the sum of all shared beliefs, goals and aspirations that your employees have; the “glue” of your organization that attracts top talent and inspires your employees to be productive, dedicated and engaged.
Related reading: How to Build a Positive Remote Company Culture and Why It Matters
Employee engagement is company culture at the micro-level. It’s each employee’s emotional connection with your organization, which affects how much enjoyment and satisfaction an employee gets from the work they do.
Very engaged employees are invested in your company and self-motivated to contribute at a high level. They volunteer for projects, suggest solutions and generally have a positive, can-do attitude.
To put it succinctly, engaged employees care.
What causes employee disengagement?
Think of employee engagement as a scale. Every decision made at your company, whether by a person’s direct manager or the C-suite, can tip that scale towards either engagement or disengagement.
Many data companies have researched employee engagement and the aspects of the job that can negatively impact engagement.
Unsurprisingly, autonomy is high on the list. Employees who are empowered and enabled to do their job report higher levels of engagement. Micromanaged employees, conversely, feel extremely disengaged.
Recognition is another important factor in employee engagement. The same Achievers study found that 90% of employees report feeling motivated to work harder after receiving recognition.
Lack of clarity on priorities can also affect employee engagement, especially in our new normal. With increased pressures on work-life balance and employee concerns over job security, understanding priorities and having clear deadlines can make the difference between an employee who’s highly productive and an employee quietly planning their exit strategy.
Employees who feel their ideas are ignored or aren’t given any consideration also report lower engagement. Related to that, Google’s Project Oxygen found that psychological safety (the belief that it’s safe to share ideas, no matter if they’re blue-sky thinking or “unpopular” suggestions) greatly influenced engagement and performance.
Managers play a critical role in engagement, as they directly affect all of the aspects of the job outlined above. As the saying goes, “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses”.
Related reading: 5 No-Fail Tips for Managing Remote Employees
How can you gauge employee engagement?
The best way to accurately identify (or confirm) the causes of disengagement in your company is by asking your employees. Use SurveyMonkey, Typeform or similar software to create an anonymous employee engagement survey.
Ask questions about enablement, management and recognition, i.e. some of the most important factors when it comes to employee engagement. For example:
- How proud do you feel to work at our company?
- Do you feel valued and recognized for your contributions?
- Are your ideas or suggestions generally put into action?
- Do you have access to everything you need to do your job?
- How would you rate your relationship with your manager?
Emphasize that the survey answers are anonymized and you should get genuine answers. Most importantly, act on your survey data—or, at the very least, share with employees why no or only some action will be taken.
If you don’t keep your employees informed about any follow-up steps, you risk giving the impression of an empty gesture and negatively affecting employee morale (which is another word for engagement).
A final note on engaging remote employees
As social distancing protocols continue to be in effect, it’s important to remain connected with your remote workforce. Simply put, if you engage with your remote employees, you’re going to have engaged remote employees.
If you’re a manager, schedule weekly individual catch-ups with everyone on your team and foster open communication. Be sure to ask your employee about any blockers or frustrations. Discuss what went well with projects and clarify any upcoming deadlines.
Ask your employee to be as honest as possible or consider introducing anonymous feedback forms as part of your review process. Be open, overly-communicative and supportive—and your employees will pay you back in kind.
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