As the world recovers from the health crisis, experts are concerned about a significant increase in voluntary employee departures: a phenomenon they call "the Great Resignation". One study estimated that 55% of employees in August 2021 intended to look for a new job within 12 months. To counter the coming wave of resignations, organisations need more than ever to focus on their employees and cultivate their commitment.
It's no longer a given: engaged employees perform better, are less likely to burn out and stay with their company longer. Knowing the importance of employee engagement, we've created a checklist: a research-based, actionable resource for improving your employee experience.
To develop this checklist, we sifted through the literature, compiled a list of the 20 most important engagement levers, collected data about what increases employee engagement in a post-covid context, compared it with what managers predicted and formulated a series of recommendations.
Our findings highlight that the three most effective levers that managers need to activate are (a) helping their employees connect what they do to what is important to them, (b) making work less stressful and more enjoyable, and (c) rewarding their employees with extra time off in addition to financial benefits.
In a follow-up study involving 302 managers, we found that leaders are often unaware of the good practices that are likely to foster employee engagement. The levers that managers think are most effective are not the ones they believe.
In the literature, the concept of employee engagement includes four key elements:
- The sense of belonging to the organisation
- The degree of identification with the organisation
- The degree of satisfaction with the tasks assigned
- The level of motivation at work
These trends are measured through surveys of the employees themselves (e.g. "On a scale of 1 to 10, how motivated do you feel in your daily work?) The research attempts to unravel the problems of employee engagement over the past half century, but above all to identify the levers for improving it. In 2020 alone, more than 1500 articles have been published on the subject.
The study we report brings together a panel of 395 professionals and measured each engagement lever twice (within a week of each other) over the months of April and May 2021. From the list of the 20 most important engagement levers identified by management theorists, our results highlight the 3 most critical.
Employees are more likely to feel committed to and in agreement with an organisation that contributes to social progress. Studies show that the majority of employees are willing to give up some financial benefits to work for a more socially and/or environmentally responsible company.
If your company is "only" dedicated to becoming a leader in its market, it will be difficult for your employees to identify with this single mission. If your company incorporates a social dimension into its mission, it is easier for your employees to identify with and be aligned with its goals.
Show employees how their day-to-day work is connected to the company's purpose. A collective mission that makes sense to your employees will not be enough to fully engage them: your employees need to see on a daily basis that their individual work is directly connected to the goals the company is pursuing.
Encourage and support employee resource groups (ERGs). ERGs are employee-initiated groups that bring employees together around common values and interests. They can focus on diversity and inclusion issues or even on well-being (sports groups, discussion groups, etc.). For example, at KPMG, almost half of the employees belong to an ERG.
Offer flexibility to your employees to allow them to diversify and learn. Consider a 'discovery' programme so that your employees have the opportunity to be immersed for a few days in another team whose work interests them.
For example, Heineken has initiated a rotation programme whereby their trainees can successively discover several departments (packaging, product development, quality, etc.) and at the end of which they can choose the team and the job in which they are most comfortable.
Give your employees more autonomy. Autonomy is a fundamental criterion for keeping the motivation of your employees high.
For example, Netflix offers a "rule-free" work environment in which employees have a very high level of freedom and responsibility. Employees are free to make strategic decisions "in the interest of Netflix" without the scrutiny of their manager, they do not need to get approval for reimbursements and can take as much time off as they want (without it being counted).
Boost their confidence. People tend to avoid the tasks they feel least comfortable with. Making sure your employees feel competent to carry out their tasks is key.
Mentoring programmes are particularly effective in developing your employees and making them feel more confident in carrying out their daily tasks. At Google, managers are routinely asked to assign a buddy to their new recruits to help them grow and acclimatise to their new company. They found that new recruits who received this mentoring programme became operational 25% faster than employees who did not receive it.
Reward your employees with time. Over the last 30 years, working hours have increased significantly among managers, increasing the feeling of time crunch. Offering time to your employees (e.g. RTT, extra holidays, etc.) in addition to remuneration (e.g. Bonus, BSPCE, etc.) is an effective way to make your employees more satisfied by having more time.
Implement tools to filter emails outside of working hours. Employees consistently report that dealing with their emails is a very (too) heavy time burden. Offering a tool to avoid receiving out-of-hours emails will help your employees to really disconnect when they are off-duty and feel they have more "off" time.
Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2021/10/how-companies-can-improve-employee-engagement-right-now