Hiring HR managers and dealing with employee engagement is usually not among the top priorities for startups and small companies.
And still, every founder should keep in mind that the mere excitement of being part of the early phases of company formation does not keep everyone engaged on the same level.
Employee engagement is something that is frequently overlooked in favor of other, less abstract and more quantifiable growth metrics, even though it’s the basis of productivity. Engaged employees work hard, have more energy, sharper focus and they are more motivated to produce tangible results. As Quantum Workplace’s Employee Engagement Survey (pdf) states:
“In organizations where profits increased, 69 percent of employees were engaged, compared to 56 percent of employees at organizations where profits decreased. It is our philosophy that engagement and profit have a cyclical cause and effect. As engagement increases, the business becomes more successful, causing employees to become even more engaged, causing more increases in profits, causing higher levels of engagement, and so on.”
So let’s see the simplest and most powerful tactics for founders to boost employee engagement and increase productivity.
#1 Encourage Business Transparency
Share long and short term business plans with employees on a regular basis and show them exactly how is the company doing in terms of achieving specific milestones.
Regularly sharing short and long-term goals with employees helps them identify with company objectives and feel more involved in working for the greater good. If employees trust their managers and believe in the company plan they will feel more engaged and be more motivated to achieve goals.
Always communicate changes in the company plan and make every data accessible to employees.
If possible, involve employees in your planning and ask for their feedback– they will more likely feel involved and later be more motivated to work for those goals.
Recognition programs can have a huge impact on employee engagement.
As Forbes’s HR analyst found: companies that scored in the top 20% for building a recognition-rich culture actually had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates!
But make sure to plan your employee recognition programs carefully. Tenure-based recognition plans are pretty outdated and tend to reinforce the notion that work is something you have to ‘endure’ to get recognized.
This is definitely not something you want. Recognize and celebrate specific results and behaviors: set quantifiable goals and reward employees based on their individual outputs.
#3 Encourage Innovation
Incentives and evaluation-based compensation frequently fail to look at innovation as an evaluation metric.
Employees are usually evaluated based on their performance within a specific period of time or based on whether or not they have achieved some pre-set goals.
If the evaluation process does not take into account the innovation factor, employees might feel that their ideas are not valued. If the employees are not confident enough to explore uncharted territories in their areas of expertise, they won’t be engaged in their work and their productivity will drop.
For example, Google offers innovators a stake in the rewards of the ideas that are converted into products or services, so the individuals see a direct result of their efforts in their paychecks or stock awards.
#4 Let Go Of Control
Constant micromanagement is very time-consuming and might actually be quite counter-productive. Hiring rockstar employees is usually the number one objective of every startup founder, so give some space for those rockstars to shine.
Several studies showed that employees who have higher levels of freedom and autonomy in their roles outperform their over-managed colleagues. This doesn’t mean that you should completely let go of tracking employee productivity. Just make sure to allow your employees to work in their own pace, place and encourage them to have a say in the management of the areas they are responsible for.
#5 Team Building Activities
This is not a new idea, of course, but still, most of the startups get it wrong.
Startups usually try to come up with team building activities related to work, or organize team building events in the office, during work hours. This is the wrong way to approach team building.
Come up with an activity completely unrelated to work. Take the team out somewhere other than the office, let them get to know each other in an entirely new environment. This will boost the team spirit more than anything and everyone will be happier to work in an elevated milieu the next day.
#6 Have Themed Office Days
This can be a fun one! Make everyone wear a mustache for a day. Or a wig. Or a funny hat. It doesn’t have to be a full body costume to make the day memorable.
#7 Encourage Volunteering
This may come as a surprise, but providing an opportunity for your employees to volunteer and engage in altruistic activities might highly boost their engagement with your company.
This is what Deloitte survey found about employee involvement in social impact activities:
“A growing body of evidence points to the power of enabling employees – especially millennials – to give back to the community and support their favorite causes at work. According to The 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey of employed adults ages 21 – 35, millennials who frequently participate in workplace volunteer activities are nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied with the progression of their career.“
Employees are always looking to get involved in causes, and if you provide them an opportunity to do this in-house, the psychological lift they get from altruistic activities will be associated with the work they do – and the company they work for. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Managers are expected to make sure that employees have all the resources they need to efficiently do their jobs. This should come as natural, but it tends to be overlooked occasionally. Make sure your employees get everything before they ask for it and you will be rewarded with more commitment to work on their parts.
#9 Employee Satisfaction Questionnaires
Last but not least, make sure you can actually track employee engagement on some level and see if your efforts make a difference.
Employee engagement may come off as something vague and unquantifiable but if you approach it from the right perspective you might get the metrics you need.
The key is to do a short questionnaire on a regular basis and compare the results to each other, week by week. This way you can see if employee satisfaction changes with time and if your employee engagement tactics have an actual effect.
Some sample questions you might consider asking them to answer on a scale of 1 to 10:
I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things.
My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment.
I have the tools and resources to do my job well.
On my job, I have clearly defined quality goals.
The Company does an excellent job of keeping employees informed about matters affecting us.
I understand why it is so important for (Company name) to value diversity (to recognize and respect the value of differences in race, gender, age, etc.)
My job makes good use of my skills and abilities.
My supervisor’s manager visibly demonstrates a commitment to quality.
Senior managers visibly demonstrate a commitment to quality.
How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what is going on in your division?
How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work?
Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?
How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in the company?
How satisfied are you with your opportunity to get a better job in this company?
Getting your employees invest emotionally in your business is a crucial part in the early stages of company growth. The benefits of employee engagement are countless and working on increasing it must be part of your long-term company plan.