Harness Complexity: The Complete Guide to Maximizing Employee Engagement

Employee training programs often fail to adequately prepare frontline workers for the challenges and demands they face on the job. Most programs only last a few days or weeks, leaving little time for employees to learn and absorb critical tips and insights.

Employee Engagement
 Min read
March 29, 2024

The U.S. is currently stuck in a lingering employee engagement slump. According to Gallup, U.S. employee engagement dropped from 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021. And so far in 2022, just 32% of part-time and full-time employees are engaged. Making matters worse, 17% of workers are actively disengaged. 

Low engagement is obviously dangerous for employers. For starters, it contributes to lower productivity, reduced profits, and unhappy customers. Further, the highest quit rates correlate with poor engagement — a major problem when considering the widespread worker shortage impacting all industries today. In fact, one recent report found that roughly 4 million workers are quitting their jobs every month while 40% of workers are considering leaving their jobs in the near future. 

In light of this, companies need to prioritize employee engagement in an effort to reduce attrition and increase output. Read on to learn what employee engagement is, why it’s important, and what you can do to maximize engagement and create a culture that develops and nurtures talent.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the level of enthusiasm, commitment, and connection that employees demonstrate towards their work and organization.

The employee engagement spectrum ranges from active or high engagement to active disengagement. Employees with high engagement are typically much happier and more enthusiastic about their work while employees with low engagement usually demonstrate lower levels of satisfaction and effort.

Why employee engagement matters

In a recent poll, 70% of C-level executives said that maintaining culture and engagement is their top priority — even more important than critical objectives like driving new revenue, growth, and reducing costs. With that in mind, let’s examine some of the top reasons why it pays to prioritize employee engagement. 

Develop capable workers

Work can be very difficult at times, especially for employees in high-pressure and high-risk environments like healthcare, utilities, sales, customer service, production, and operations. Workers who feel a strong connection to their organization and role tend to have an easier time responding to challenges and adapting to change. They are more likely to thrive in challenging environments and rise to the occasion instead of seeking alternative work arrangements. 

Keep customers happy

As Jeff Bezos says, customers are like guests at a party. To make sure they have the best time, organizations need to continuously optimize and improve the customer experience.  

When employees are happy and optimistic about their roles, they tend to have an easier time handling customer requests and responding to challenges with a positive attitude. This builds customer loyalty, leading to better reviews and increased profits. 

Improve retention

When employees are disengaged, it costs a lot of money. On top of that, disengagement is also detrimental to a company’s overall mission and culture. According to Gallup, replacing exiting workers costs anywhere between one-half to two times an employee’s annual salary. In addition, turnover slows down projects, harms customer and client relations, and impacts team morale and development. 

Per Gallup, teams with low engagement have turnover rates that are 18% to 34% higher than teams that are highly engaged. So, if you want to keep employees for the long haul, it pays to nurture and develop them.

Boost productivity 

Exceptional productivity doesn’t happen on its own. If you want workers to go above and beyond the call of duty, you need to give them the tools and resources they need to thrive on the job. 

Further insights from Gallup’s study indicate that teams with high engagement levels are 14% to 18% more productive than their lowly engaged counterparts. If your goal is increasing team output, you need to focus on improving engagement. 

Maintain an employee-centric reputation 

Workers today aren’t shy about sharing their experiences on employer review sites like Glassdoor and popular social networks. That being the case, organizations need to do everything they can to support workers and maintain a positive and caring environment. When workers review your company favorably, it becomes that much easier to attract and retain talent.

By forming a comprehensive engagement strategy, you can lay the groundwork for building an employee-centric company. This is a great way to communicate with team members and find out what they need to execute and develop their skills and knowledge. 

The big picture: How to maximize employee engagement

Business leaders tend to miss the big picture with employee engagement. While they may try to upgrade employee perks or benefits, plan fun team-building exercises, collect feedback to improve job performance, and get people to work harder, they sometimes overlook critical factors that contribute to overall employee well-being. 

The truth of the matter is that employee engagement is complex and there are many influencing factors at play. Each part ultimately contributes to the larger whole. 

To illustrate, think of how a child needs a variety of things to remain happy and healthy — like food, sleep, exercise, play, support, and education. HR and executive teams need to act like parents in a sense and keep tabs on how workers and teams are functioning. If you only focus on one area of need, your team members may fall out of balance. Even worse, they may not communicate their needs appropriately, which typically leads to low engagement. 

To learn more about how to help your team reach its full potential, let’s examine the core pillars of employee engagement.

Growth conversations 

Employees need to feel like they have growth opportunities within the organization. In  fact, one recent report found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer just because it helped them learn new skills. When organizations don’t invest in learning and development, workers may choose to look for employment elsewhere.

With this in mind, it helps to have ongoing growth conversations and provide opportunities for employees to upskill and climb the corporate ladder. Growth conversations can center around multiple areas including career advancement, training, strategic goal setting, performance, and financial needs, among other things. 

As a best practice, managers should take the time to document growth conversations and follow up with actionable tips to help employees set and achieve their goals.

Clear communication 

Poor communication is one of the biggest barriers to employee engagement. Needs and expectations need to flow clearly from executives to managers and rank-and-file employees — and in the other direction, too. When this fails to occur, it creates a chaotic and stressful environment with high turnover.

When forming a communication strategy, make sure to implement a system that works for all team members. For example, investing in a real-time communication platform can encourage teamwork and collaboration — especially for remote workers. But in some cases, it can do more harm than good by slowing down workflows, distracting teammates, and pulling workers from other tasks. 

As such, it pays to ask employees about their communications and preferences. For example, the go-to platform for many companies is Microsoft Teams. But certain groups — like developers and IT workers — may prefer other platforms like Slack, Discord, or Mattermost that have advanced tools and features.

It’s also a good idea to set boundaries for after-hours communications. Staying on-call after-hours may be necessary for some highly motivated or integral team members. But certain employees may also view around-the-clock messaging as invasive and detrimental to their health and well-being. 

Trust and autonomy

One of the best ways to improve engagement is to simply let workers do their jobs.

Companies often spend considerable time and effort attracting top talent only to subject them to endless meetings, reviews, management, and cumbersome HR policies. This type of management style is unattractive from an employee’s standpoint and creates friction in the workplace.

The trick is to hire talented employees and trust them to do a good job and hold themselves accountable for their actions and performance. Employees who can operate autonomously are much more likely to stay and work hard when they feel the company respects their talent, needs, and decision-making abilities. 

Mental and physical well-being 

The pandemic forever changed the way organizations approach employee health and well-being. Droves of workers are quitting today due to job-related burnout, anxiety, depression, and stress — a trend that is only accelerating in the post-pandemic economy. 

To buck the trend, many companies are offering wellness, exercise, and health perks and policies for employees. But health and wellness benefits only go so far. Managers and decision makers also need to play an active role by finding ways to reduce stress and balance workloads. 

It’s important to keep in mind that highly engaged and productive workers are sometimes the most vulnerable to burnout and stress. By encouraging proactive mental health days from time to time and hiring supporting staff, managers can ensure high-performing team members feel happy, healthy, and appreciated.

Knowledge and tools 

Employee training programs often fail to adequately prepare frontline workers for the challenges and demands they face on the job. Most programs only last a few days or weeks, leaving little time for employees to learn and absorb critical tips and insights.

These days, businesses, industries, and customers are constantly changing. Workers today need to remain up to speed with evolving regulatory frameworks (e.g., GDPR and HIPAA), shifting customer expectations, and changing internal policies. Organizations can’t expect employees to do this on their own; it’s the company’s job to keep workers up to date with accurate and timely information. 

What to look for in an employee engagement system

Implementing an employee engagement system is a big decision — one that will have a major impact on the direction of your workforce and organization. As such, it’s important to be discerning when searching for a solution and choose a platform that closely aligns with your organization’s needs.

With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when shopping for an employee engagement system. 

Customizable knowledge bases

Self-service knowledge bases enable employees to find answers to problems quickly, and at their own leisure. Look for a system that’s fast and easy to customize and update. The right solution should make it easy for managers to create and deploy knowledge tools, and it should make it easier still for end users to search for and discover information.

User-friendly system

Companies often burn money on complicated, buggy engagement tools that waste time and are difficult to navigate. Make sure the system you ultimately implement is user-friendly, fully mobile, and enjoyable for team members. It should also be easy to deploy.

On-demand training

Most workers today are extremely busy trying to balance work and personal needs. It helps to have on-demand multimedia training assets that workers can consume at their leisure, when their schedule allows.

To learn more about how FLX Systems can modernize your company’s employee engagement strategy, speak to an expert today.