Building a High Engagement Culture

Does your workplace encourage employee engagement? If it doesn't, it should. Studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive, profit generating and more likely to be retained.

Gallup polls have proven employee engagement is necessary for business success. However, most Human Resources departments do not make employee engagement an initiative. Without employee engagement, performance and continuous improvement are near impossible. Human Resources departments should create a workplace environment that is conducive to improving employees desire to learn, grow and work within the organization.

Why Engagement is a Big Deal

Employee engagement should be a top priority for businesses. Highly-skilled employees are essential for growth. To retain these employees and continue success, employers need to foster empowerment, motivation and satisfaction among employees. All of these things contribute to an engaged workforce.

Employees want to be fulfilled in their work. This is especially true for the Millennial generation. Fulfillment at work and at home is important to younger generations of workers. They are constantly seeking purpose in what they do for a living and at the same time, they want to know how their job is helping them learn and grow as professionals. Millennials want to feel like an integrated part of the workplace. While 63% of young professionals believe that employers successfully integrate young talent, only 31% of new graduates feel that companies properly assimilate new employees. From day one of hire, Millennials crave workplace involvement. They want to feel like an essential part of the company and to feel like the position they hold is more than just a stepping stone to something better. A work environment that causes employees to question where they are going next is not a workplace that will retain top talent. If organizations cannot tell their employees why their position in the company matters and how their work contributes to the bigger picture, engagement levels drop and employee retention becomes an issue.

When employees are engaged at work, they feel a connection with the company. They believe that the work they're doing is important and therefore work harder. According to Gallup, the lack of employee engagement costs American businesses anywhere from $450 billion to $550 billion a year when workplace accidents, absenteeism, and larger health care costs are factored in. This massive chunk of money could significantly shrink if more companies emphasized employee engagement.

Motivating Employee Engagement

The workplace is changing and engagement strategies are changing along with it. More Human Resources departments are adopting employee engagement programs that promote teamwork, continued education, work-life balance and rewards. Many employers are discovering employee engagement numbers rise when a multi-faceted rewards system is used to recognize employees.

Most rewards programs use extrinsic rewards to recognize employees for their contributions to a job task or project. However, a multi-faceted program incorporates both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. It has been discovered that a balance of both creates a more motivating and engaging workplace.

Extrinsic rewards are the quantifiable rewards given to employees by managers. These rewards can include pay raises, bonuses, and benefits. They may also include gift cards, vacation packages and other prizes. They are called extrinsic because they are external to the work itself and other people control their size and whether or not they are granted. Human Resource departments may find these types of rewards work to motivate employees for short-term gain. Projects that have a specific end date or goal can be recognized with these types of rewards. Examples include rewarding sales professionals with a trophy or plaque showing a sales goal that has been broken, or providing a catered lunch for the department that raises the most money during an office charity event.

Employees want to be happy at home and at work.

In contrast, intrinsic rewards are psychological rewards that employees get from doing meaningful work and performing it well. For younger workers, money and prizes are important and they do enjoy receiving them, however, they long to be part of companies that allow them to contribute to the bigger picture. The workplace doesn't define them to the degree that it did for too many Boomers. Millennials want to lead a balanced life. They want to be happy at home and happy on the job extrinsic rewards are somewhat secondary to these goals. Today's workers seek engagement in the workplace that provides them with feelings of meaningfulness and progress.

Workers are more productive when they know the importance of their job task. The intrinsic reward of meaningfulness makes workers feel they have the opportunity to accomplish something of real value to the larger scheme of things. Workers who are free to choose how to complete their job tasks take ownership in their work and believe they are trusted in the workplace. This intrinsic reward gives employees a sense of competence that allows workers to take pride in their work, knowing they have done a great job. These intrinsic rewards are a healthy and sustainable source of motivation for employees. Workers with high reward levels experience more positive feelings and fewer negative ones on the job.

Fostering Intrinsic Rewards

To create an environment that encourages employee engagement, employers need to incorporate both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. While it may seem very simple to dole out gift cards and other extrinsic rewards to top-achieving employees, developing intrinsic rewards is a bit more challenging. Building a sense of meaningfulness and allowing employees the freedom of choice is not something that happens overnight. Starting within the Human Resources department, employers should create a non-cynical climate. Make the company's purpose, mission and goals well-known and give employees a vivid picture of what can be accomplished. Delegate authority to individuals and trust that their skills are all that's needed to get the job done. Give employees the information they need to work independently, but the security of knowing workplace leaders are there to help if need be. Encourage employees to help each other succeed. And most of all, recognize when employees have done an excellent job through celebration. Announce milestone achievements and share improvements with the entire staff.

Employees in all age categories want to feel appreciated in the workplace. They desire both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards that help them meld into the larger scheme of the workplace. By fostering engagement through rewards, employees become more committed to their jobs and less likely to seek new positions elsewhere.

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