5 Tried and tested ways to keep employees engaged

By Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager – Africa, Zoho Corp.

Employee engagement, when done right, nurtures long term relationships and contributes to an organisation’s sustainability. Engaged employees commit themselves to their employer’s goals, find satisfaction and meaning in the work they do, and have the potential to enhance business profitability. Here are five simple yet effective ways to keep your workforce engaged:

Uphold two-way communication

Two-way communication keeps employees informed about work-related developments and gives them a platform to offer their suggestions and feedback. A lack of communication can lead to information silos and in some cases, may also lead to employees perceiving it as “mushroom management”.

Mushroom management is a theory that has recently been included in management sciences. The name is based on the metaphor of how mushrooms are cultivated, which is: ‘keep them in the dark, feed them dung, watch them grown and then cut off their heads when you are done.’ According to this theory, “mushroom managers” have the tendency to furnish their employees with tasks and the necessary tools to action them, but they do not inform them about the purpose of the assigned tasks.  They are also prone to control all of the decision-making, whilst not sharing strategies or risks etc. with their subordinates.

To break silos and establish two-way communication, a flat organisational structure is a good place to start. Next, consider using different communication channels that allow free flow of information for all parties at various levels, i.e., between peers, managers and the organisation as a whole. Apart from face-to-face and email communication, introduce internal chat mediums, social intranet and frequent business outlook updates. For instance, organisations can make use of virtual town hall meetings to enable their employees to communicate with their top leaders.

Facilitate employee development

For employees to work dedicatedly towards company goals, the first show of commitment has to always be the employer’s. An employer has to be ready to make long term investments in human capital development and provide opportunities for employees to expand their skill sets or be redeployed to new roles that fit their interests.

Moreover, for individuals to learn and perfect their work, it takes time. So there needs to be a culture of acceptance that encourages employees to learn from their mistakes without fear of being criticised. Similarly, experienced employees can be brought on board to mentor new employees. They can help interns understand what it takes to excel in their new roles and overcome work challenges.

Empower employees with trust

A culture built on trust empowers workers to become the best version of their work selves. Trust provides the mental space that every employee needs to hone their capabilities and deliver to their full potential. On the other hand, micromanagement introduces work fatigue and even the most spirited employees can lose interest when constantly monitored and badgered for updates.

Today, we continue to hear about how more and more companies are deploying digital surveillance and key logging software to make sure that their remote workers put in the necessary hours while working from home. These are just different forms of micromanagement and practices like these will not be sustainable in the long run. They can affect workplace dynamics and destroy trust relationships, the effects of which will reflect eventually in the attrition rate.

Put the human back into human resources

Trying times like the present call for employee engagement approaches that prioritise individual wellbeing above all else. During such unprecedented circumstances, it’s critical to allow employees the space to adapt to the new normal and regain balance between their professional and personal lives.

Flexible work arrangements that allow employees to develop their own work schedules will come in useful. Also, acknowledge and act on concerns that hold back employees from doing their work. For instance, poor ergonomics while working from home can increase stress and affect productivity. A one-time allowance towards enabling employees to set-up a dedicated home office can help solve this.

To better help employees who are battling anxiety and mental health issues, consider bringing a psychologist on board to enable them to navigate their overwhelming emotions under guidance. Wellness webinars can be organised to help employees maintain a healthier lifestyle amidst the lockdown and stay-at-home orders.

Align organisational values with workplace practices

Employees respect and gradually become loyal to an employer who stands for what they believe in and integrates the same within workplace practices. An organisation’s key decisions must always be guided by its core values.

Strong employee engagement programs are core to sustainable human capital management. They determine an organisation’s capability to attract the right talent, build loyalty and promote development. Moreover, amid testing times like the ongoing pandemic and more recently the unrest and looting that took place in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, continued employee engagement practices become all the more important for an organisation to assure employees of its investment towards the wellbeing of its workforce.

Image credit: Maxime / Unsplash