By Asif Upadhye
What is employee engagement? Is it merely some team activities conducted a couple of times a year? Or an annual bonus? Is it a generic motivational speech delivered annually by the senior leadership? Or is it the process of rolling out extensive surveys, having the data documented by human resources and then just moving on with the day to day functioning of the business?
There is no single answer to this question and not even all the answers together can sum up the prospects that employee engagement can have for an organization. Engagement is not simply a policy but is in fact, a process, a culture, a state of being for an organization. Employee engagement in today’s world is the employee experience, and when this is favourable, engagement levels invariably rise. From perks to team building activities, from surveys to developing leadership approachability, from keen observation of employees to delegating responsibility and allowing creative or intellectual freedom – these are all an integral part of keeping employees happy, engaged, and, well – simply keeping them.
When companies constantly focus on hiring, they lose the ultimate long term goal of retaining talented employees. So, what are the various ways of creating a culture that makes employees feel secure and happy?
Perks and other benefits
There is inevitably a high degree of redundancy in perks and benefits when the policies are not constantly reviewed. A periodic review ensures that policies are implemented in a somewhat personalized manner. Benefits such as insurance policies and provident fund deductions, for instance, need to be considered from the perspective of the average employee age group, marital status and health issues individual employees may have.
Company perks like in-house gyms and free food and benefits such as education assistance are very valuable to millennials, even if they may be less useful to senior employees. On the other hand, the allowance for disability insurance and retirement plans can massively increase the engagement and commitment of the senior workforce, giving them a sense of stability and security. With perks and benefits, the cookie cutter approach is counter-productive as one size does not fit all.
Appreciation goes a long way in motivating and encouraging employees to aim higher and better. When employees feel that their efforts are recognized they strive to grow and learn, and contribute even further. Recognition from the leadership on a continuous basis in terms of rewards, employee-of-the-month initiatives, and other appreciation drives, are extremely important.
However, a pat on the back is not always enough, and employees can feel taken for granted if the acknowledgement is not backed up with enhanced remuneration. Bonuses reassure employees that the organization is willing to invest in them. Merit-based incentives, holiday bonuses, and periodic pay hikes in reasonable increments can mean a lot to those who hold up the company. This is what symbolises the significance of individual growth along with organizational growth.
Culture is what culture does
Culture solidifies and amalgamates. Activities for team building, for stress management, celebrations of festivities across race and religion, off-site events, workshops, and group corporate social responsibility initiatives, are all ways to achieve a strong positive work culture. Such programs ensure that employees feel a part of the organisation while having a work-life integration.
With different festivals being given equal importance, employees get an important life lesson in diversity and inclusion. Even CSR initiatives, which companies often conduct without much employee involvement, are a truly beautiful way to let them know that while business is a priority, it is equally important to give back to society. Whether it is a session on mental health, or on teamwork and collaboration, employees hugely benefit from being treated as individuals, rather than a faceless workforce.
Connect the dots
A hugely underestimated aspect of employee engagement is the connection between employer and employee. When the senior leadership of an organization takes the responsibility of reaching out to employees, it instils a sense of belonging and reinforces the approachability of the leadership. Leadership should involve more than just assigning tasks and delegating roles. When leaders learn to be mentors, only then an employee-employer connect is established.
The leadership needs to be open to feedback and constructive criticism. Leaders may have reached top positions, but they can always improve, and who better than their employees to provide productive inputs. This reciprocal system not only increases involvement but also develops a sense of ownership in each member of the company – one of the most important factors in employee retention.
A holistically positive and growth-oriented culture is the gateway to effective employee engagement. Considering all the above-mentioned facets of work life, assessing the levels of current employee retention, and implementing effective processes, are important steps to keeping your employees happy. Involvement, ownership and engagement in general, do seem abstract in nature. However, with emerging tools such as calculators that measure the return on engagement (ROE) after factoring in turnover and average salary, we can now quantify the seemingly unquantifiable.
Asif Upadhye is the Chief Fun Officer of Never Grow Up.
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