If employees at your company have a bad case of the blahs, there’s one thing you can take heart in: you’re not alone.
According to a 2014 study by Modern Survey, only 16 percent of U.S. employees are fully engaged.
The study also indicates that the two most important drivers of engagement are belief in senior leadership, and growth and development—so let’s start there as we look at ideas to make employees in your company more engaged, happy, productive and loyal.
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Building Confidence in Leadership
“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” — Peter Drucker
Employees evaluate senior leadership based on how they communicate and how they perform. When communication and company performance are aligned, leaders gain credibility and thereby, support. Transparency keeps communication and performance aligned. When leaders admit mistakes, report bad news as openly as they do good news, and when they hold themselves accountable rather than pass blame, employees know where they stand, and that they are standing on solid ground.
Here are a few additional attributes of corporate leaders who earn the confidence of employees:
- They listen with full attention.
- They lead by example.
- They show up and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
- They tackle problems head-on.
- They are quick to share credit and slow to assign blame.
- They are consistent in their decisions and demeanor.
Growth and Development
“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” — Harvey S. Firestone
A feeling of stagnation kills happiness, engagement and productivity in anyone. When we are growing, moving, progressing, we feel alive and energized. When we are in a rut, we count the hours until we can punch out—and that’s about it. When companies offer training programs, they strengthen morale in a number of ways:
- Training demonstrates a company’s commitment to employees in terms of personal and professional growth;
- Training gives employees confidence, improves their performance and enables them to advance;
- Training creates a sense of accomplishment that carries over into other aspects of their lives, building loyalty to the company in the process; and,
- Training turns employees into mentors, building their self-esteem, adding value to the training process and creating a sense of teamwork within the organization.
In addition to training, ensuring that every employee has a clear career path has enormous impact on an employee’s sense of self-development. Companies often lose excellent employees not because they failed to have career paths for those employees, but instead because they merely failed to communicate with them.
Again, we see the important connection between communication and performance in building employee engagement, happiness, loyalty and productivity.
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Additional Techniques for Building Employee Morale and Productivity
When companies have leaders that employees rally around, combined with a strong sense of growth and development throughout the staff, they are well on their way to solving the difficult and pervasive problem of a disengaged workforce. It is, however, a high bar. Improving leadership may require some uncomfortable self-evaluation and major changes in attitude and actions.
Providing effective training requires a great deal of time and significant expense. Though if these two areas are being addressed, or if they are already in place, many other techniques are available to strengthen engagement and morale. Here are some of the most important:
- Add incentives to compensation programs that reward personal and team performance for obtaining clearly defined and reachable goals.
- Speaking of compensation, make sure pay levels and benefits are competitive in your marketplace.
- Create a comfortable and efficient work environment. Petty annoyances like an uncomfortable chair can eventually drive employees to another employer, and can also be a serious problem for employees with back pain.
- Encourage employees to share ideas for making the business better, and provide a structured way to review and implement worthwhile suggestions.
- Provide communication channels for employees to network and share experiences. A company blog, Facebook page, Intranet and/or email newsletter are popular platforms.
- Conduct meaningful performance reviews at least once per year. Informal reviews and/or performance feedback should be done on a regular basis. When employees know how they’re doing, they want to do better.
- Acknowledge standout performance. Not only do people appreciate “atta boys,” praise inspires other employees to do good work, and the standout performance itself serves as a training opportunity for the entire company.
- When people leave your organization, find out why. Your organization may have morale weaknesses you are not aware of or have been underestimating.
- When people stay with your organization, find out why! You may be assuming, for instance, your compensation package is what keeps people on board, when in reality, your middle-management team is the key factor.
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Now for the bad news: building a team of loyal, engaged employees is going to be harder than ever. A recent Elance study reveals two rather startling trends:
- 53 percent of hiring managers say it’s difficult to find and retain millennials.
- 58 percent of millennials expect to leave their jobs in three years or less.
Image via Elance
Today and tomorrow’s workforce is mobile, transitory and not inherently loyal to employers by nature or example—quite a change from several decades ago when employees frequently expected to stay with a firm until retirement. Business leaders, many of whom remember the old days, must adapt to a very different future in order to connect with millennials and Gen-Xers.
If your firm has a team working on building employee morale, make sure to have younger employees actively engaged on that team, if not leading it. Although they are younger, they may already know where you are trying to go.