Glenn Elliott, Founder and CEO of Reward Gateway

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement means different things to different people, but one definition that I really like is our engagement consultant Rob Marsh’s: “A belief that the work you are doing matters and makes you happy, and that is what drives you to do better.”

Simply put, employee engagement is showing employees that you recognise and value their contribution. When this is successfully communicated, employees feel motivated to come to work each morning and do the best job they can do. In a time when competition and technology is making things quicker and more competitive than ever, valued employees can be the difference between retaining business and ticking along, and surpassing expectations.

Employee engagement is vital for three reasons:

  1. Engaged employees make better decisions, because they care more
  2. Engaged employees are more productive, because they like or love what they are doing
  3. Engaged employees innovate more, because they want their organisation to succeed

Engagement is a choice. Once an organisation has chosen engagement it can inspire and influence its people to choose engagement too.

There are a number of building blocks which make up employee engagement; benefits is just the start. It requires businesses to take a long hard look at their leadership, management, values, the way they’re communicating with their employees, how they’re developing their employees, recognising them and ensuring their wellbeing.

Squashing the misconceptions

Employee engagement seems to be the latest hot topic in the business world. Despite being on the corporate radar, though, there are also a load of misconceptions around the topic: like that employee engagement isn’t really necessary; that it is just a ‘young person thing’, or that it’ll cost companies loads of money.

Let’s take a look at these one by one. First of all, employee engagement does not discriminate and is not just for young people. Each individual takes pride in being appreciated. What’s more, it forms the basis of their career paths and where they choose to spend their time.

Employee engagement doesn’t have to cost more than a thank you or a round of applause. Cold hard cash is the gift which is most quickly forgotten, and often the benefits that ultimately cost nothing are most appreciated. These include existing schemes like cycle to work or free childcare vouchers, interest free season tickets or interest free loans for work-handy items like iPads or subscriptions.

No business is too big or too small to think about how it is connecting with its employees. They are the lifeblood of any company and if you have them, you should be engaging with them!

What your engaged employees can do for you

So why do it? Simply put, happy employees ultimately leads to happy customers. When employees feel engaged, they will go that extra mile for the business they feel so invested in.

That might come in the form of advocacy by spreading the word about how great it is to work for your company. It could mean more positive Glassdoor reviews, because your former employees want prospective employees to know how great the company is and help it continue to thrive. It could be working a few hours late on a Friday night or spending a few hours helping out another department when they’re up against a tight deadline, even though there’s nothing in it for you.

When employees are being listened to and feel happy and valued, they’re more likely to want to help others to feel that same warm fuzzy feeling. This can manifest itself in charity work, or organising out of work events or volunteering/mentoring. It might surprise you how willing your employees are to go that extra mile when management are on board. with employees helping out others, and are willing to make allowances, such as leaving a couple of hours early to go and mentor others outside of work or give a talk to a local school.

So how can I get started with connecting to my employees?

A small step forward is better than no step forward at all, and it’s true what they say: it really is the thought that counts. So start with what you have, don’t wait for perfection to come along.

That first step forward is likely to just be communicating better with your employees, so aim for that first. Make sure that your employees know the company values and how these can be brought to life at work. Recognise embodiment of company values through a weekly company award or a little Friday email.

Once you are in a place where you’d like to bring in employee benefits, look into the platforms on offer and most importantly, ask your employees what benefits they want – that way you’re sure to succeed!