Employee engagement strategies that will boost employee retention

Want to hear something scary? Only 36% of the world’s working population is actively engaged in their jobs

Having employee engagement strategies should be top of mind for business owners. Studies have shown time and time again that engaged employees work harder, stay in their jobs longer, and bring in more money. So why’s there such a disconnect?

In this article, we explore what employee engagement actually is, the link between engagement and retention, statistics every employer should know, the four pillars of engagement, and seven valuable employee engagement strategies. You’re going to want to read this one.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is more than just employee happiness or employee satisfaction. Your team can be happy at work––seeing their friends, bringing joy to customers––but not necessarily engaged. So, what is employee engagement? 

Forbes says, “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”

A happy or satisfied employee will absolutely show up for work and do a good job––maybe even a great job––but they won’t have the same dedication to your company that an engaged employee will.

Here are some common traits of employees who are engaged at work:

  • They take pride in the individual work they do
  • They take pride in the business they work for
  • They’re willing to go above and beyond
  • They’re actively trying to improve the business and help it achieve its goals 
  • They’re entrenched in the company’s culture and values
  • They’re dedicated to bettering their workplace
  • They’re much less likely to leave their job

If you’re looking around and trying to assess whether your employees have these traits and are coming up short, it might be time to focus on employee engagement. Good thing you’re here.

What is employee retention?

The basic definition of employee retention is pretty simple. It’s a business’s ability to keep their employees on the job. 

Employee engagement and employee retention go together like peanut butter and jam. They’re rarely separated and––in our opinion––one makes the other much better. If an employee’s not engaged, you’ll struggle with retention. But, if you implement strong employee engagement strategies, you can retain your best employees.

Why every business should be working on engagement strategies for employees

Here’s why engaging your best employees matters:

Engaged employees offer better customer service

When an employee’s invested in the success of the company and really values the work that they do, they want your customers to be happy. In fact, they think of them as their customers. If you’ve got front-facing employees, you want them to be invested in giving the best customer service experience. How do you do that? Employee engagement strategies.

Losing employees is super expensive for small business

Did you know it costs, on average, $6000 each time an employee walks about the door? Yup. Approximately $4,700 to hire them, and $1,000 to onboard them. Now, imagine needing to do this on the regular. Gets pretty pricey pretty quickly. But time and time again, studies have shown that engaging your employees reduces turnover.

Katie Brennan, an HR knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management says, “When employees are engaged, they are more productive, loyal, and committed, which in turn improves employee retention, customer satisfaction, and an organization’s overall financial health.” 

If employee engagement is high, so is productivity

When measuring employee engagement, there was a direct link to productivity––and profitability. It makes sense, right? If someone enjoys their job and is committed to the company, they want to perform well. And they encourage others to do the same.

Did you know? Companies with highly engaged teams record 21% more profitability.

Engaged employees show up and boost morale

If your workforce is engaged, they’ll show up. That may seem like baby steps to productivity and profitability, but people showing up for work really is important. A Gallup study showed that businesses with higher engagement had 41% lower absenteeism. That’s a pretty big percentage––one you shouldn’t ignore.

Employee engagement and retention strategies are even more important for hourly workers

Hourly workers––in particular those in the restaurant, healthcare, and retail fields––have had some really tough years. With front-facing positions, lower wages, and riskier interactions during the pandemic, this workforce is feeling burnt out.

These industries are notorious for having lower retention. Many workers leave for 3 reasons

  • Higher pay 
  • A better schedule
  • Better opportunities for professional development

Sure, there are students returning to school or engaging in different careers, but a bunch of that loss is due to a lack of engagement in the work they do.

In a 9-5 job, seeing your coworkers every day, having check-ins with managers, and the ability to move up the ladder are all reasons why engagement’s easier.

Let’s say you work in a restaurant. You only see your co-workers 3-4 times a week, at all hours of the day or night, your managers are constantly rotating, and there’s only so much room for growth. It’s much harder to stay engaged in your work.

With low retention rates, high costs of acquiring new hires, and low-profit margins for small businesses, disengaged hourly workers becomes a recipe for disaster. 

The top employee engagement statistics you need to know

Let’s back all of this talk up with data. It’s important to see the cold hard stats to really drive home the point that engagement needs to be a focus of every business. Here are the top employee engagement statistics you need to know:

Only 36% of employees consider themselves engaged at work

We know we mentioned this one earlier but, let’s flip that stat around. The numbers on the other side of this equation are that 51% of employees are disengaged––meaning doing the bare minimum. That last 13%? They’re actively disengaged. That means they’re miserable at work and spreading that misery to other employees. Not good for business.

Disengaged employees lose US companies between $450-$550 billion dollars each year

This number is staggering. It’s the grand total of the loss of profitability from low productivity, work errors, bad customer service, and the cost to hire new employees. This also includes the bad word of mouth that actively disengaged employees can spread. The good news is that we’re going to teach you how to improve employee engagement. This stat doesn’t need to be a reality for your business.

A positive company culture can mean 4x the revenue growth

A positive company culture should never be underestimated! A Hays survey found that 47% of people actively looking for a new job were leaving their old job because of bad company culture. But what’s even more interesting? Good company culture drastically increases profits. 

According to HR Cloud, an “11-year-long research project found that companies with performance-enhancing cultures grew their revenues by a whopping 682%. Those with a poor company culture managed to increase their revenues by just 166% over 11 years.”

That’s 4x the growth just by the company culture created at those companies.

Communication is key for the most motivated employees

85% of employees said they’re most motivated when internal communications are easy and clear. Internal communications can be company information, shout outs for jobs well done, shifts up for grabs, changes in policy, any struggles during shifts––basically anything that will make employees’ working lives easier and happier.

With the team communication tool by Homebase, you can boost motivation at work. As a bonus, it really helps with employee engagement! Connect your team members, announce employee wins, and create an ‘open door policy’ with managers through the app. 

Only 16% of companies use technology to measure their employee engagement

How are you going to know whether your employees are engaged if you have no idea how employee engagement is measured? Technology is your friend

You can easily monitor your team’s performance and offer feedback and accolades for a job well done. But more importantly, you can use technology to poll your team and ask them how engaged they feel. Asking your employees where they’re at, what they want to achieve, and how you can help them to get there can be invaluable feedback to increase productivity and profitability. 

Don’t sleep on using technology to measure employee engagement.

The 4 key pillars of employee engagement

Before we delve into actual strategies for engaging your employees, let’s chat about the four pillars of engagement. Statistics help you see why engagement is important for you and your business. The key pillars of engagement show you why it is important to your employees.

The 4 key pillars of employee engagement are:

  • Connection: feeling connected to their work and their co-workers
  • Meaning: wanting their job to have a purpose
  • Impact: knowing that they’re creating an impact on their company––and the world
  • Appreciation: seeing that their hard work is being recognized and appreciated

Ideas for employee engagement for hourly workers

Now that we have drilled it home that employee engagement = super important, let’s teach you the ‘how’. 

All of these ideas are going to focus on increasing employee engagement for hourly workers. Now, let’s talk big vision ideas down to the small stuff.

1. Create a sense of purpose in your company culture

Millennials and Gen Z employees in particular value working for companies with a purpose. Employees are much more likely to be engaged and stick with you if you care about the things they care about. 

Environmental initiatives, diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities, and pay transparency are all bigger purposes that companies can get behind. At a smaller level, caring about your employees, having health and wellness benefits, and encouraging intrapreneurship as company culture can go a long way.

Ask yourself: what part of your company culture is keeping your team engaged?

2. Show your employees appreciation

People just want to be seen. If your team’s working hard and never feeling acknowledged or appreciated, this can be incentive enough to start handing out resumes. This one ties into our first idea for employee engagement. Make it a part of your company culture to outwardly show appreciation for your employees.

Thank yous for jobs well done, shout outs on team communication channels, or a reward for going above and beyond––don’t overcomplicate your shows of appreciation.

It can be simple, but it needs to be consistent. How do you show your employees you appreciate them?

3. Ask for open and honest feedback. Then listen

Want to know how to improve employee engagement? Ask them. Often. This isn’t a one-and-done task. As demands and roles change, as new staff onboard, and as policies develop, it becomes more and more important to get feedback from your team.

Ask them things like, ‘What’s your favorite part of your role?’, ‘How do you think management could help you feel more engaged?’, ‘What do you need to support you in your role?’, ‘What are three things we’re doing well?’, ‘What are thre things you think we could improve on?’, etc. These are open-ended questions that can give you a ton of insight into where your employees are at.

You can use something as simple as a suggestion box for anonymous feedback, a survey they can fill out during a shift, or an ongoing policy of feedback in a communication thread on a messenger app.

Feedback can be tough––but remember––retention and engagement are the name of the game here.

When was the last time you asked your employees for feedback on how to improve?

4. Ask your most engaged employees to form a committee

If you have star employees that you want other team members to emulate, give them a leadership role. If they’re willing, ask them to form a committee to develop an engagement strategy. They could plan events––more on that next––be a safe go-between for employees and managers, and offer their own ideas for employee engagement. 

They can also be responsible for coming up with solutions to the problems that were outlined in the employee engagement surveys or feedback that was submitted. As employees who are already engaged in their work, they can hear out the employees who aren’t, come up with solutions that work for everyone, and then present those solutions to the management team. They become advocates for their workplace.

Have you asked your most engaged employees to spread their excitement?

5. Engage outside of work

Sometimes we just need a break. A breather. Giving your team a chance to connect outside the grind of the job can do wonders for connection and engagement. 

Team building activities––like a games night or a lunch out––can really bring your team together. That togetherness can foster connection between your employees. That means more happiness at work. 

6. Reward value-based behavior

Every business should have a clear set of core values. If you want a business that walks its talk, reward your employees that demonstrate your core values. 

Let’s say you run a salon. If one of your core values is ‘innovation’ and an employee comes up with a new way to keep track of products so a stylist never runs out, make sure to publicly reward that behavior. It could be a small thank you gift or a small bonus in their next paycheck. 

Whatever you choose, make it known that living the core values of your company is important to you. We can bet that other employees will start to follow suit and become more engaged.

7. Start engagement from day one

It’s easier to get a new hire engaged in their role than it is to re-engage an employee who has lost their spark for their job. You can mitigate this by fostering engagement from day one. 

When you get a new hire, welcome them wholeheartedly and introduce them to the team. Allow them to spend time with your team to create connections. And as a bonus––after their first week––ask them if they have any ideas that may improve the workplace. Really listen. Let them know from the get-go that you value their opinion.

Want to keep your employees engaged?

Homebase offers a team communication tool to keep your employees connected and help management acknowledge a job well done; keys to employee engagement. Get started today.

Employee engagement strategies FAQS

What is employee engagement?

Engaged employees have a positive attitude about their job and the company they work for, Not only that, but they are actively helping the business pursue its goals and live its values. They are hands down more productive than their disengaged co-workers.

When a business works on employee engagement, they’re trying to create an environment where all employees are engaged at their job.

Why is employee engagement important for employee retention?

If an employee is invested––really, truly invested––in the work that they do, they aren’t going anywhere. If they feel appreciated, have room for growth, and are connected to their team, they will want to stay and make their workplace better for everyone.

One of the best ways to retain employees is to have engagement strategies in place. 

What are some employee engagement strategy ideas?

Some simple ways to keep your employees engaged are to:

  • Show appreciation for their work
  • Create opportunities for them to connect with their coworkers outside of work
  • Have an open-door policy for feedback and then implement that feedback
  • Encourage your most engaged employees to become leaders

There are many other ways to build employee engagement, but these can get you started on the right track!

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