What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is about creating a high performing workforce, where your employees care about your organisation, and strongly believe in your mission, purpose and values.
Engagement isn't just about how happy or satisfied your employees are - just because they're happy at work doesn't always mean that they are working productively. Engaged employees have an emotional commitment to working towards your goals - they aren't just working for a pay check or promotion.
It’s clear that employee engagement goes beyond simple job satisfaction and motivation. Your employees need to engage for success, all working towards something they truly believe in.
Our Human Resources and Wellbeing Manager, Vicky Walker, explains why an employee engagement strategy is important, how to establish a culture of employee engagement within your organisation, and outlines 11 top actionable tips to engage employees.
Why is employee engagement important?
Health and wellbeing plays a vital role in achieving employee engagement, as it helps to create a healthy culture, both physically and mentally. It gives individual employees the opportunity to talk by creating an open and honest atmosphere when it comes to things such as mental health.
A health and wellbeing strategy can help towards keeping your employees happy, healthy, motivated and engaged. It also helps to reduce absenteeism and improve presenteeism.
Our free health and wellbeing toolkit contains all the information you need to start creating your company's strategy, featuring help and advice on everything from building the business case and exploring supplier options, to implementing and evaluating the process.
How can we establish a culture of employee engagement?
Carry out an engagement survey and ask your staff what they want - gather their opinions. Don’t let senior management make all the decisions - ask managers what they think and ask them to gather feedback from their teams. Employee engagement only happens when everybody in the organisation feels that they have a voice.
It’s important to make sure that staff feel connected to the mission and purpose and understand their role and how their contribution fits into the bigger picture.
Employee engagement can’t be forced, by neither the organisation nor its employees. It has to be part of the company culture – ingrained into the business and within each employee.
Our top 11 actionable employee engagement tips
1. It’s not always about money
Employee engagement activities don’t always require a significant financial investment. It’s more about taking the time to listen to your staff so that they feel seen, heard and recognised. By taking the time to talk to your people, you can gain valuable insight into how making simple changes in the office environment can increase engagement and boost morale, and a lot of these ideas require little to no financial investment.
2. Giving staff flexibility
Allowing staff to be flexible about their working hours can often mean that they are less stressed at work because they have a more positive work-life balance, and in return employees are more productive and engaged.
If family life is impacting on employee productivity and performance, then it’s important that you listen to your staff, taking into account the changing demands of modern working life, and then develop your policy on flexible working accordingly. Not offering suitable ways of flexible working can lead to leavism, where employees work outside of hours and during annual leave, and often they can become burnt out with stress as a result.
3. Looking after your employees physical health
The mental health and physical health of your staff are equally important and you need to actively support the overall health and wellbeing of your people. The obvious benefit to this is that healthier employees are absent less often, so by encouraging and promoting a healthy workforce you are reducing sickness absence and making substantial cost savings.
Healthy employees are also more motivated at work, at less risk of long term illness and recover more quickly if they do become sick. Promoting healthy living by providing resources and encouraging healthy eating habits such as encouraging staff to drink water and providing free fruit. In winter months, you could consider providing staff with a flu jab to help prevent winter illness.
You can also provide your staff with a health cash plan to help cover their medical costs, and gain access to treatment and screenings faster should they need it.
4. Supporting mental health
With mental health issues affecting 1 in 4 of us in the UK each year, it’s increasingly important that workplaces are offering the right support and taking a positive approach to mental health awareness. When your employees know that they can comfortably discuss issues relating to their mental health, they are more likely to be engaged.
Line managers are best placed to spot potential signs of employees who are struggling. Offering mental health training, such as Mental Health First Aid, to line managers enables them to spot the early signs and take action. Being able to provide early intervention means that you are able to offer the right support to your staff before things escalate, which can often turn into long term sickness absence.
It’s also important that staff know how to support employees who are suffering with mental ill health, and that HR staff are familiar with best practice when carrying out a mental health related return to work plan.
5. 1:1 meetings with managers
It’s important for staff to feel that they have a voice, and are able to see that their role is making a difference and contributing towards the overall goals of the organisation. This requires effective management and healthy working relationships.
Regular meetings with line managers are a great way to support employees. At Westfield Health, we have adopted a regular 1:1 meeting approach to the appraisal process. Employees meet regularly on a monthly basis with their line managers to discuss progress, personal development and celebrate success.
By adopting an adult to adult culture, the stress that can often occur around the yearly appraisal approach is taken away. It is the employee who leads the conversation, and the time is theirs to discuss any aspect of their work. The sessions allow the employee to identify areas for development so that they can continually develop their skills – in return creating a highly engaged workforce.
6. Setting the tone from the start
To create a culture of employee engagement it’s important to set the tone right from the start of the induction process for new employees. This could be an email from their line manager to welcome them to the organisation, or even a physical postcard. It’s about ensuring employees feel valued right from the start, so that they arrive feeling motivated and engaged.
7. Mindfulness and exercise classes
Stress can affect us all and it’s important that employees know how to deal with stress, and that they feel they can reach out for support if things do get too much. Being stressed at work can have an extremely negative effect on engagement, so offering stress-busting resources and workshops is a great way to help your staff deal with and prevent stress.
At Westfield Health, employees can take part in yoga sessions twice a week, plus a weekly exercise class with a personal trainer. We also offer on-site massages and provide a series of expert-led workshops each month, covering specific topics from managing stress to developing motivation and confidence.
Amongst other benefits, these workshops and sessions help staff to relax and overcome stress which can be detrimental to not just engagement, but also to productivity and performance and most importantly their health.
It’s also important for employees to stay active at work to combat the sedentary office lifestyle, which has been proven to have detrimental effects on our health regardless of how much we exercise outside of work.
8. Giving back and volunteering
It’s a widely known fact that it feels good to give back. Volunteering can boost morale and positivity in the workplace, strengthening peer relationships which can in turn increase team productivity.
Volunteering is also a great way to demonstrate the values of an organisation, especially if this involves giving back or making a positive difference to people and their communities. By offering your employees the opportunity to volunteer for a cause that they’re passionate about, you are deepening their connection to your organisation’s mission and purpose and increasing their engagement.
9. Use recognition
There’s a definitive link between recognition and engagement. Acknowledging employees for their work makes them feel valued and in turn develop a stronger commitment to their organisation.
There are different ways to practice reward and recognition, including instant feedback from line managers, as often waiting for mid-year and yearly reviews is too late. This also reinforces the importance of regular 1:1 with line managers to celebrate success and support ongoing development.
You should also make sure that you are rewarding employees with relevance – it differs from individual to individual, but some may respond well to a shout-out in front of the team, and others may prefer more private 1:1 praise.
10. Practice what you preach
You may state in policies that you have a positive approach to employee health and wellbeing, mental health, and other areas which make a positive contribution towards employee engagement, but your staff need to see this in practice to really experience the benefits.
The way you promote your brand values internally should also reflect the promises made externally. Your claim to be a thought-leading, innovative provider of products or services won’t carry credibility if your employees don’t live and believe in the brand values and promises themselves.
11. Start a Christmas choir
This year in the run up to Christmas, we’ve formed a choir here at Westfield Health. Employees from across all departments meet on a weekly basis to sing carols in preparation for a Christmas fundraiser where we will sing to the public in Sheffield City Centre.
Not just for Christmas, a choir is a fantastic way to boost morale all year round. It allows employees to engage with members of other departments who they may not usually communicate with. Singing in a choir has been shown to improve our mood, decreasing stress, depression and anxiety. These beneficial effects may be attributed to breathing techniques associated with singing that are also used for meditation. The benefits of singing are enhanced when in a group setting, compared to when singing alone.
Creating a culture of employee engagement inevitably means happy customers. By listening to your staff and investing time and effort into employee engagement, you are creating a higher level of service and higher customer satisfaction, which leads to increased sales and higher levels of profit. However, more importantly this leads to a happy and loyal workforce full of employees who share the organisation’s mission, purpose and goals.
Your organisation's success depends on your people. It’s about taking your people with you on your journey and in return they will be more productive, loyal and engaged.
If you want to find out more on supporting your staff through health and wellbeing, download our free health and wellbeing toolkit, or alternatively get in touch with a member of our team who can offer expert advice on health and wellbeing solutions tailored to your organisation.