Last year, we talked about the enormous cost of unhappy employees. At that time, Gallup reported that disengaged employees were costing the United States roughly $450 billion to $550 billion every year. In its most recent poll, Gallup found that the numbers for 2014 aren't much better; only 31.5% of the U.S. workforce is actively engaged on the job. Roughly 17.5% are "actively disengaged" and 51% are "not engaged."

On a positive note, however, management has moved into the top spot for employee engagement, ousting workers in the farming, fishing, or forestry areas for 2014. This 31.5% engagement level is also the highest that Gallup has seen since it began tracking employee engagement in 2000. Nonetheless, employee engagement is still an area that is lagging, and, if it is addressed properly, it could increase productivity and profitability.

Studies have shown time and time again that happy employees will contribute more to their business and increase profitability. In fact, we have discussed the strong evidence of this correlation for some time. Happy workers are more productive, less likely to change jobs, have more energy, and take ten times less sick leave than other employees. They will also achieve goals 31% more often than their unhappy peers. (Also note: a recent Gallup poll found that actively disengaged teachers are twice as likely to miss work).

But there is a difference between happiness and engagement at work. It is very possible to have employees who are happy at work, but are not actively engaged. They may enjoy chatting with their co-workers or randomly surfing the web, but neither of these activities equates to engagement. The trick is getting employees that are both happy AND engaged. Here are a few suggestions you can try today to help achieve this balance (and increase profitability!).

  1. Engage your workers by committing to them. You should take the time to get to know your employees as individuals. Do they have families? What are their hobbies? Building a relationship with your people will help you connect with them so you can find out what will motivate them. Remembering the little things will show your employees that you genuinely care about them as people, and not just as workers.
  2. Offer the proper training and resources to encourage personal growth. To increase employee engagement, loyalty is key. Employees will know that you are invested in them and care about them if you take the time to develop their skill sets. Offer career development programs and learning opportunities. The inability to move forward within the company is the number one reason that employees switch jobs. You should have the day-to-day resources to challenge your employees to learn more, do more, and produce better results.
  3. Take your employees' comments to heart. Most businesses recognize that employee reviews are an important part of employee development. What some employers do not realize is that this interaction is a perfect opportunity to talk to your employee about what you can do for them so that they are more engaged and more productive. Keep in mind that every employee is motivated differently, so directly asking an individual employee will help find the perfect combination of programs for that person. But it doesn't stop there. Once you have this feedback, do something with it.
  4. Encourage teamwork and provide team building activities. Roughly 2/3 of employees say that they will stay at a job because they have a good relationship with their co-workers. Encourage this type of friendship among your employees by providing team-based projects or, if that isn't possible, team-building activities. If employers make an effort to create a team-based environment, then workers may be more engaged because they do not want to let their "team members" down.
  5. Offer rewards and incentives. Roughly 60% of employees stay with a company because of the benefits that the company offers. Bonuses for performance, competitive salaries, and other non-cash related awards are huge motivators for most workers. Employee recognition programs are also a great way to encourage employee engagement. Try an "employee of the month" type program or offer employees the means to recognize one another for a job well done. (Just be sure you have a copy of this recognition so you also know about day-to-day successes).

An engaged workforce is a more productive workforce, and that is good for business. Work toward developing employees as individuals, and you will be well on your way to happy and engaged personnel.

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Published on: Feb 17, 2015
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