Employee engagement has fallen. How do we improve it again?
The jury’s in, employee engagement is falling. But what does this mean for businesses, and what can you do about it? Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts when it comes to building up the level of employee engagement in your company. But we can at least steer you in the right direction, so keep reading to find out how to improve employee engagement in 2021!
Gallup’s report shows we must prioritise engagement
If you’ve been on our blog recently, you’ve probably seen our recent piece covering Gallup’s latest global workplace report. According to the State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report, global employee engagement fell to 20% in 2020, the first time it’s failed to increase since Gallup’s reports began in 2009.
It’s also been accompanied by record-breaking levels of job stress, worry, and lots of other lovely negative emotions, courtesy of the pandemic. But employee engagement is quite a hotly debated concept, so you might be thinking, ‘Hey, my employees work hard. Why do I need to worry about how to improve employee engagement in 2021 when there’s already so much going on?’
But employee engagement is absolutely essential
So, before we get into a ‘how to improve employee engagement 2021’ discussion, let’s get a couple of things straight.
Although people disagree on the exact semantics of employee engagement, there’s a growing body of evidence showing how it can impact employee performance and business success. Compared to companies with low employee engagement, businesses with highly engaged workforces have actually been shown to be more than twice as financially productive.
While engagement isn’t a direct measure of productivity, the fact is that when employees aren’t engaged, they end up lacking the intrinsic motivation to do more than the bare minimum. That means you can say goodbye to any discretionary effort you might have been getting from formerly motivated staff members.
And that’s not even getting into the issue of turnover, which can quickly become a massive expense. It may even be looming closer than you realise, as Microsoft’s recent survey of over 160,000 employees found that 41% of the global workforce are considering leaving their current employer in the next year. Disengagement may even be driving people away from whole sectors, as 46% are planning to make ‘a major pivot or career change.’
It’s difficult to have engagement without supporting wellbeing
As noted in Gallup’s report, the US and Canada (a single region for the purposes of their survey) were something of an outlier due to the fact that employee engagement in these countries increased, despite record-breaking levels of stress and other problems with personal wellbeing.
But globally, engagement fell for the first time in several years. The fact is, wellbeing is usually one of the strongest determining factors when it comes to employee engagement. As much as some managers might insist otherwise, it’s not entirely possible for people to just leave their issues at the door when they come into work.
Physical, mental, social and financial issues can all affect practically anyone. And when we don’t get the support that we need to deal with these things, the idea that we can be expected to continue performing effectively is laughable. Fortunately, the events of the pandemic have dragged employee wellbeing to the forefront, making it one of the key employment issues of this year.
How to improve employee engagement in 2021
Let’s be honest, even before it dropped to a fifth in 2020, the previous year’s 22% global engagement rating is absolutely pitiful. But at least it was actually on the rise before!
Everyone is still adjusting to the post-lockdown life, from the most junior employee to the most experienced CEO. Bearing that in mind, we’ve put together a three-point ‘How to improve employee engagement 2021’ guide to help get you through it:
- Make sure remote/hybrid staff aren’t overlooked: With people back in the office, it’s as easy as ever for remote workers to slip under the radar, whether they mean to or not. When you’re out of sight and out of mind, it’s easy to fall out of the loop. Be sure to liaise with your remote teams on a regular basis to make sure they’re updated on the latest company objectives and policies.
But even when they’re in the loop and working hard, it’s unfortunately still easy for remote workers to be ignored. They’re actually some of your most productive employees, so make sure to highlight their accomplishments and give them opportunities to collaborate with different people in the business.
- Give employees channels to raise feedback: When employees can’t speak up, they’ll either leave or suffer in silence. The latter is a surefire route to burnout. Employees need to be able to raise problems affecting their engagement levels.
That might look like frequent employee check-ins, a manager’s open-door policy, or any other way you feel you can build a dialogue with employees. Just make sure you follow through with the workplace issues that employees raise, or they’ll just become even more disengaged because communication seems pointless.
- Focus on all forms of wellbeing: While mental and physical wellbeing are definitely the most talked about, they’re not the be-all and end-all. Especially in times like these, employees can also struggle with things like social isolation or financial difficulties.
Building social connections with your staff and giving employees access to knowledge resources such as professional financial advice are just two steps that could markedly improve engagement and wellbeing in your business. But you also need to consider whether your employees have a good work/life balance, and if you’re compensating them fairly for their time and effort.