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May 28, 2024
March 1, 2024

Employee Journey Series: Keeping Employees Engaged

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You’ve recruited great people, and you’ve spent the first six months of their tenure onboarding them to ensure they feel confident and comfortable. Now what? Let’s take a look at the five employee journey stages:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Onboarding
  3. Engagement
  4. Development
  5. Separation

This next step is arguably the most important—and overlooked—stage of an employee’s journey. This is because when they feel confident in their roles after onboarding, it’s easy to assume they’re fine and forget about them.

For lack of a better term, we call this stage the engagement stage. Yes, employee engagement touches every stage of an employee’s journey, but it’s especially important once the excitement of a new job wears off.

In this post, we’ll look at all of the best practices for keeping employees engaged and satisfied at your organization through the middle years of their tenure.

What Is Employee Engagement?

The quick definition of employee engagement is the level of mental and emotional investment an employee has for their work and their company as a whole. For more context, engagement means an employee cares about the work they do, knows that what they do is important, enjoys their time at their workplace, and takes responsibility for excellent work.

When it comes to the employee journey, the engagement stage refers to keeping employees engaged, excited, and satisfied throughout their time with the company, regardless of their tenure, life situation, or unique circumstances.

woman disengaged at her desk 69% of employees are somewhat disengaged

What’s the State of Employee Engagement?

Only 30% of employees are engaged—which is a new low over the past decade. This means that 53% of employees are somewhat disengaged, and 17% of them are actively disengaged. 

We’re trending downward in keeping the excitement and motivation in our companies. So what can you do to help your people during their engagement stage?

The Benefits of Employee Engagement

Here are some quick benefits that engaged employees can bring you:

  • 18% higher productivity
  • 10% higher customer satisfaction
  • 23% higher profitability
  • 43% lower turnover
  • 81% less absenteeism
  • 143% better performance vs competitors

This shows that when employees are engaged, they perform better, they’re happier, and they help the company succeed more.

8 Best Practices for Employee Engagement

According to a study by Gallup, top-performing organizations have an average employee engagement of 70%—which is 40% higher than the overall average! Here are some of the ways you can create a top-performing organization.

94% graphic

1. Mix Flexibility With Accountability

94% of employees want flexibility for when they work, and 80% of them want flexibility for where they work. Not only that, flexibility at work makes employees 3X more likely to be happy at work and raises the level of high-performing employees by 40%. 

Workplace flexibility comes in a range of strategies—choose which one works for your industry and culture:

  • Remote work options
  • Hybrid schedules
  • Flex time, allowing for flexible start and end times
  • Unlimited PTO
  • Compressed workweeks, allowing for four 10-hour shifts
  • 4-day workweek
  • Annualized hours
  • Shift swapping
  • Job sharing
  • Self scheduling
  • Sabbaticals

The key of flexibility is letting employees work when, where, and how works best for them. Train managers to empower employee flexibility while still holding them accountable with clear expectations and clear communication.

2. Empower Employees With Meaningful Work

Employees who feel their work has a purpose are 4X more engaged than those who don’t. Yet only 15% of non-executive employees and managers feel like they have a purpose. 

So here are some steps you can take to inject a purpose into each employees’ workload:

  1. Clarify the purpose of your organization as a whole.
  2. Communicate with each employee how their personal responsibilities contribute to the organization’s success.
  3. Talk to your people to learn more about what work they enjoy and want more of—then readjust workloads to help people focus on what they like.
  4. Involve employees in as many decisions as possible

3. Guide Employees’ Upward Trajectory With Professional Development

From the time an employee finishes onboarding to the time they put in their two-week notice, they need to feel like they’re going somewhere. Nothing kills engagement more than the feeling that you’re stuck at a dead-end job doing work that doesn’t matter.

In relation to giving employees more purpose at work, giving them more direction also boosts engagement. 58% of employees would leave their company if they didn’t have development opportunities, and 35% of them rated learning and development among the top three factors of the employee experience.

Professional development comes in many shapes and forms—offer as many options as possible and customize your opportunities to fit your employees’ interests:

  • Workshops
  • Conferences
  • Online courses
  • Continuing education
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Job shadowing
  • Certifications
  • On-the-job training

And don’t forget about the importance of feedback. Employees crave to know what they’re doing well and what they can improve—create a set feedback loop where managers give feedback to and take feedback from employees so that everyone can improve together.

4. Recognize Employees’ Efforts & Accomplishments

When someone does a great job and no one seems to notice, it drains excitement and severely hampers engagement. So make sure you have systems in place to recognize and reward employees for their accomplishments and milestones.

Examples of employee recognition programs to consider include:

  • Peer recognition. Allow peers to celebrate each others’ accomplishments and efforts.
  • Spot recognition. Empower managers to easily recognize their employees on the spot when they notice someone awesome.
  • Milestone recognition. Service anniversaries, birthdays, and promotions are great examples of milestones that deserve to be celebrated.
  • Personal accomplishment recognition. Make employees feel like you value them by celebrating things like graduating, getting married, buying a home, etc.
  • Incentive programs. Reward effort by incentivizing behaviors. Sales incentives, safety incentives, and wellness incentives are all great ideas.

The keys to employee recognition are making it genuine, personalized, and frequent. When employees feel like they’re recognized a fair amount are 4X more likely to be engaged.

employees filling up with coffee with other lists of benefits behind them

5. Ensure Your Employee Value Prop Is Up to Snuff

Almost everything we’ve mentioned so far is a part of the employee value proposition. So in addition to professional development, flexibility, recognition, and the like, you have to make sure the benefits and compensation you offer are sufficient.

Research shows that employees who see their compensation as fair tend to have higher levels of engagement, motivation, and satisfaction. This plays into the fact that employees feel like they’re valued members of the organization. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that with enough money, employees won’t be stressed about finances as much, which also helps engagement.

Benefits are similar—employees who are happy with their benefits are 25% more engaged than those who aren’t. Employees want more than a standard health insurance package. They want things like:

  • Subsidized lunches
  • Free snacks
  • Wellness cost subsidization
  • Lifestyle Spending Accounts
  • Retirement plans
  • Mental health assistance
  • Pet insurance
  • Home office stipends

As you can see, employees aren’t satisfied with workplace-exclusive benefits anymore. They want benefits that will help them strike a healthy work-life balance.

6. Promote Transparency Across the Board

Employee engagement levels go up by 300% when they feel like they can trust company leaders. And transparent communication is one of the best ways to build trust.

Share updates about board meetings, finances, strategy, and everything in between, both good and bad. This open communication shows that the company trusts its people and isn’t hiding anything.

7. Foster Friendships

Planning company social outings—and allowing teams to do smaller, more personalized activities—is a great way to help employees destress, strengthen relationships, and just take a break from work.

Having a friend at work significantly boosts employee engagement, productivity, innovation, and enjoyment. Allow employees to build these personal bonds and reap the rewards of a workforce that’s more engaged and focused.

8. Focus on Engaging Management

Management has the biggest impact on employee engagement of anything—they account for a 70% of variance in engagement scores. So if your managers aren’t engaged, your employees most likely won’t be engaged, either.

How do you engage your managers? That’s easy—just use the tips in this blog! 

Recognizing their work, providing helpful feedback, giving them growth opportunities, and giving them the resources they need are the best ways to engage your leaders.

How to Measure Employee Engagement

If you feel employees are stumbling in their engagement stage, before you implement any of the above solutions, it’s best to get a feel for where the gap is and what’s causing it. Here are some strategies for measuring employee engagement:

  • Surveys. Both long surveys and pulse surveys are helpful for gauging the engagement of your people. Use open-ended questions to get an idea of how your people feel about their work, their teams, the company, benefits, and anything else.
  • Exit & stay interviews. Exit interviews are great to see why employees are leaving, but stay interviews are just as important. They help you learn what you’re doing well and how you can better engage your existing talent.
  • Manager 1:1s. We already talked about how important managers are for engagement. Help them take an active role in measuring the engagement of their people through 1:1s.

Once you have a good idea of how engaged your people are, and once you get feedback on where you can improve, you can make targeted enhancements to your culture and offerings to improve employee engagement.

Engaging Employees Throughout Their Journey

The employee journey is a long process that’s different for everyone. It’s impossible to build a set-in-stone engagement strategy that will fit everyone perfectly straight out of the box. Instead, build in as much customization as possible so that each employee will be engaged in their specific work. 

Through things like professional development, personalized recognition and rewards, meaningful work, flexibility, and fun, employees will stay invested and excited about their work and the company, whether they’ve been there for a year or 10.

Jefferson Hansen
More from Author

An avid lover of fantasy books, a proud Hufflepuff, and a strong proponent of escapism, Jeff has a love of good storytelling. He relies on that for both his professional work and his writing hobby (don’t ask about the 10+ novel ideas collecting virtual dust on his computer).