4 things you can do to fix your employee engagement in 2023
It's clear that the one-size-fits-all approach to people management won't cut it. But, along with those lessons to learn, a new year brings new opportunities. There is no quick fix to improving employee engagement, but there are things you can implement quickly to start on the journey.
- Feedback is quickest way to improve employee engagement
- Recognition will fix declining employee engagement fast
- Focus on employee growth and development to fix engagement
- Make goal-setting a priority to fix employee engagement
Why employee engagement is more important than ever
Barely one-fifth of employees are engaged at work across the world. And only a third rate themselves as "thriving" in their overall wellbeing. We could talk about the benefits of employee engagement for days! We could write paragraphs about its effects on productivity. Or how it lowers turnover and enables discretionary effort. But that stuff's as true now as it would be on any given year. Employee engagement, simply put, is the extent of a person's attachment and sense of commitment to their role, employer, and the colleagues around them. Good stuff. But why does engagement matter so much now?
Before COVID-19, global engagement was growing, slowly but surely. If we want to get back to that point and beyond, HR leaders need to take a more pro-active approach. So, let's look at how to improve employee engagement fast. Now.
1. Feedback is quickest way to improve employee engagement
Regular, ongoing feedback is the best way to both guide performance and stay in tune with your people. If you want two-way feedback to mean anything to your employees, then you need to create an open dialogue. But people can be understandably guarded about speaking their mind at work. If people don't feel they can be honest without backlash, you'll never know what they really think.
Checking in with your people regularly and acting on their insights is the best way to give them faith in the feedback process. But it also helps to model the behaviour you want to see by being transparent. Trust between managers and their teams isn't always a given. And, as a HR leader, you may be battling against the negative perception of your department, too.
First you need to pin down the whole "ongoing" part. We don't mean you should follow your people around all day, criticising their work. It's about finding a regular interval that both managers and employees can plan around. As any user of our services knows, we'd argue for a weekly or every other week. But your own milage may vary.
That aside, it's one thing to give continuous feedback. It's another entirely to do it well. Give meaningless or outright incorrect feedback, and your people will learn to tune you out.
In traditional annual reviews, managers and employees have to block out big chunks of time for sit-down meetings. And, while it's good to be able to talk in person, it's a huge encumbrance if you want light, ongoing feedback. That's where asynchronous tools like our employee check-in can make a lot of difference.
When we call something asynchronous, we mean it's a way of communicating that doesn't need immediate interaction. Send a message, and come back later to see if it got a reply. Lots of things are asynchronous, from email and texting, to SnapChat and Facebook. Our check-in system only takes minutes on either end, so it's ideal for fitting into a busy schedule.
If you want to know how to improve employee engagement fast, then two-way feedback is unavoidable. It's the mechanism by which your employees have a voice in the work culture. Enabling a system for two-way feedback like an employee check-in is one of the best ways for HR to support managers in your business.
However, the most important part of handling two-way feedback is arguably follow-through. Listening to employee feedback is about much more than giving them space to vent. If you don't act on the insights employees give you, they've no incentive to commit to the feedback process.
360 feedback is the practice of having people on various levels of the organisation provide feedback for an employee. That generally includes people they work with directly. But also any of the organisational leaders they've interacted with beyond their immediate manager.
This gives employees insights from multiple perspectives. It can help them achieve a deeper understanding of their own performance, ironically by taking a broader view. That said, some criticise 360 feedback as potentially confusing.
Different people offering critiques can offer conflicting insights, making it difficult for employees to know which lessons to internalise. But it's useful as a supplementary process when someone needs insight beyond what their manager can offer.
2. Recognition will fix declining employee engagement fast
It's no exaggeration that recognition is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Often, it can be a better motivator than waving money at people. That's not to say pay isn't important, or that you can thank people into working for free. But fair pay for valuable effort is arguably just one (important) facet of a broader employee recognition strategy.
Recognise effort and teamwork often
If you just send out a few generic thank-you emails at the end of each quarter, you may as well not have done anything. Recognition is about acknowledgement, both direct and indirect. It's about both personal connection and broader perception. Good managerial praise is personal, whether it's in-person or not. It's about managers showing genuine understanding and appreciation for their employee's efforts and achievements.
Peer-to-peer recognition is a power tool to improve employee engagement
But even the best managerial feedback can pale in comparison to the impact of peer recognition. A manager's relationship with their team is vitally important. But people are surrounded by their colleagues. So, the best thing HR can do is enable peers to hype up their team mates' achievements. Employee visibility doesn't just help their social standing in a casual sense. It empowers their networking and career development.
And, much like with feedback, remember that once a year isn't good enough. Recognition needs to be continuous and habitual, but not so constant that it becomes meaningless. Give them fun rewards from time to time. But don't forget that acknowledgement and genuine gratitude are just as effective.
3. Focus on employee growth and development to fix engagement
2021's Great Resignation showed that employees aren't satisfied with the status quo. Organisational loyalty is a huge part of engagement. If you want to build that up, HR must work to support the professional development of employees.
Annual performance reviews aren't an effective way to help people succeed
First off, controversial but HR needs to ditch the traditional annual performance review structure. That doesn't have to mean doing away with in-person review meetings altogether. But, however often you have them, they need to be supported by a solid ongoing feedback system using tools such as weekly employee check-ins and monthly 1:1s.
There are lots of ways to help employees improve, from other forms of feedback to training and mentorships. Performance management can't just be a box-ticking exercise that happens once or twice a year. It's something both management and HR need to seriously invest in all-year round.
Check-in with your people more
With a Weekly10 employee check-in, customers have control over the frequency. But, even though you're free to make them as infrequent as you like, we're called Weekly10 for a reason. A lot can happen in a week. If you're running an employee check-in less frequently, the likelihood is you're missing out on a real-time view of employee engagement and sentiment and issues are being given too much time to fester and grow.
But don't just rely on your asynchronous tools. The human element is a huge part of effective communication and performance management. Enabling managers to have frequent one-to-ones with team members can be a great way of improving rapport.
Replacing annual reviews with quarterly conversations can alleviate the pressure on that one event. But, when we say more 1:1s, we aren't talking about full-blown reviews exclusively. An informal chat to discuss recent experiences and upcoming expectations can go a long way.
Provide people with opportunities to grow
Knowing how to improve employee engagement fast means knowing how to create opportunities for your people. Sure, some people are in love with a specific role. Think nurses committed to patient care, a lawyer who loves representing clients, or someone who just enjoys working behind a bar. But, for most people, the idea of a job with zero progression is as far from engaging as you could get.
Promoting from within when you can is great, but it's far from the only kind of opportunity to offer. Investing in employee education is one of the smartest moves you can make as a HR leader. Provide training courses and employee up-skilling. Fill mentorship roles, and have them coach new waves of talent. You can even put people on secondments in different parts of the business if they aren't sure they're where they want to be. Whether it’s career advancement or personal development, the opportunities you create for employees determine whether they'll stick around.
4. Make goal-setting a priority to fix employee engagement
Objectives and Key Results aren't new, by any means. But, with businesses going virtual, work going flexible, and hierarchies becoming non-linear, you need something to focus everyone's efforts. OKRs are basically the umbrella that all the projects on your various levels will fall under. So, if a project doesn't support any of your overarching objectives, you know it's probably worth scrapping. Here’s why you should think about switching to OKRs:
OKRs create visibility and alignment
With regular updates, it’s easy to tell at a glance what’s progressing quickly, what’s working, and which Key Results aren’t serving your Objectives. This is really useful for large businesses, where different departments might end up running conflicting or counter-intuitive projects. And, when things do run smoothly, it’s easy to see whose Key Results are driving Objective progression.
Less micromanagement, more motivation
Have you ever had a job you felt was pointless? When you can’t see your work’s impact, it’s easy to think there’s no point. At that point, why not disengage and switch off?
OKRs help to prevent this mentality via transparency. Any project you’re given feeds into a larger company objective. When employees update their goal-tracking, they see a quantified representation of how their update impacted the objective. This means everyone understands the nature of their contributions.
Not only does this keep people from tailing off, it also helps managers to stay up-to-date. Regular OKR updates are easy to submit, especially as part of a weekly check-in. So, making OKRS a habit for employees means managers get a steady stream of progress reports without having to micromanage employees.
Working towards common goals keeps people passionate
OKRs are great for collaboration and a strong work culture, because they show employees that they’re all working for a common cause. This is great for keeping people engaged and motivating discretionary effort. Seeing your top performers fly ahead on shared objectives can light a fire under your more competitive employees.
When you use OKRs effectively, they help your whole business to become a well-oiled machine. That kind of forward progression is exciting, and can push your most ambitious employees to new heights.
So, those are the four things we’d recommend doing if you’re not sure how to improve employee engagement fast. But, at the end of the day, remember everyone’s a person with their own baggage. Engagement isn’t a switch people can flick on because you asked. Good engagement policy is always about strong communication and employee support.
Learn how a weekly employee check-in is the foundation of better employee engagement. Download our latest guide: Embracing continuous performance management