How to Improve Employee Engagement

Take a simpler approach

By Liz Kelly May 2, 2014
According to Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace report, 70 percent of U.S. employees are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work—at a cost of $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

Employee engagement consultancy Brilliant Ink used this point to attract nearly 100 communications and HR professionals to its first employee engagement “hackathon” or brainstorming session in San Francisco recently. The sold-out event split participants into 12 teams for a day of cross-functional sessions that resulted in 12 employee-engagement changes that could be integrated immediately in their organizations.

The path to understanding and assessing employee engagement starts with understanding employee experiences—specifically, the critical touch points in the employee life cycle.

As HR leaders, this is where you’ll have the most impact in shaping and driving employee engagement.

In 2013, Brilliant Ink published The Employee Experience Survey, a national survey of more than 300 Fortune 1,000 employees, to examine the key moments that define the employee experience and correlate them to the most commonly accepted measures of employee engagement: satisfaction, advocacy, retention and company pride.

Here are five steps—supported by data from the survey—that HR professionals can take to transform their employees’ experiences and move the needle on engagement.

Make their job hunt simple, seamless and informative.

Your prospective employees are forming opinions about your organization before interacting with you, which not only affects recruiting efforts but also long-term engagement. According to the Employee Experience Survey, up to 82 percent of your job prospects are still relying on your company website as a primary means for learning about your company, but of those that do, almost 40 percent feel the information isn’t valuable. The lesson? Ensure that your careers page and all public-facing job listings are current, informative and meaningful.

Create accurate first impressions.

Can a simple job interview have an impact on long-term engagement? Yes. Up to a quarter of the study’s respondents felt misled by their interview process and were less likely to be engaged as a result. Make sure that the position you’re “selling” during the hiring process mirrors the role that the candidate will actually fill.

Make the first day count.

Almost half of respondents described the first day on the job as disorganized, dull or confusing, which ultimately led to lower levels of long-term engagement. Create a meaningful first day with an orientation experience that provides new employees with information specific to their job functions and connects them to the company’s mission and values.

Give employees a structured onboarding experience.

Employee excitement dips dramatically over the first three months of employment, and maybe that’s to be expected. But we also know that most employees report not having any kind of structured onboarding approach during their first 90 days on the job, and they’re more likely to report lower engagement scores, too. Coincidence? Unlikely.

Show them a path to success.

Employees want to know where their careers are headed, and having conversations about future options is incredibly important to retaining your most valuable people. Seems like a no-brainer, right? It may be, but most employees aren’t having those conversations during the hiring process, and 40 percent aren’t even having them during annual performance reviews. While many companies have established career-development programs, it’s also your job as an HR leader to promote these programs and monitor them for effectiveness.

While employee engagement can be an elusive and subjective concept, studies show that people who are invested in their jobs are more productive and have longer tenures than those who are not. For example, the most recent research from the Society for Human Resource Management reveals that 81 percent of U.S. employees reported overall satisfaction with their current job, but only 38 percent of employees indicated that they were “very satisfied,” while 43 percent reported that they were “somewhat satisfied.”

HR professionals have a role in increasing overall employee satisfaction, and can do so by turning the key moments in the employee life cycle into a meaningful journey.

Liz Kelly is CEO and founder of Brilliant Ink., an employee engagement consultancy.

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